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Chris Tucker: A real stand-up guy!

FUNNYMAN: Chris Tucker

THINK CHRIS Tucker and chances are, mental illness won’t come to mind. Granted, the hilarious US comedian is famed for the crazy film characters he’s played, and some might say his unmistakable high-pitched voice is somewhat insane. 

Add to that the fantastic show he delivered at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo this past weekend where his energy and wit were in full flow as he mimicked the likes of Michael Jackson, Ice Cube and Bee Gees star Barry Gibb, and audiences may well deem the famous funnyman a bit of a mad man.

But while his comedy capers on screen and indeed on stage may be deemed ‘crazy’ in an entertaining way, it’s not likely that many would genuinely associate the Rush Hour star with a film about the day-to-day effects of mental illness. Yet, this is exactly the issue that is explored in Tucker’s latest film outing Silver Linings Playbook.

`DYNAMIC DUO: Tucker and Jackie Chan team up again fo Rush Hour

“The reason I took this role is because it was different and it shows a different side of me,” explains the surprisingly softly-spoken star. “This film makes people think and makes you realise that very often, you don’t know what people are going through and what they’re dealing with. It educates you too on bi-polar disorder and mental illness, and the fact that people can be dealing with those issues while getting on with regular lives.”

Described as a comedy and love story, Silver Linings Playbook from director David O Russell isn’t your conventional exploration of mental illness. Far from delivering the typical images that may spring to mind when one thinks of such illnesses, the film’s strong point is perhaps the way it shows how such conditions can be brought about by circumstances and can, therefore, affect anybody.

After spending eight months in a mental institution with bipolar disorder, following a violent attack on a man his wife was having an affair with, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released and goes to live with his parents Delores and Pat Sr. (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). 

Now a positive thinker, Pat seeks to find the ‘silver linings’ in his everyday life, and embarks on a relentless mission to win back his wife – who has taken out a restraining order against him. However, things become complicated when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence); a young widow suffering with her own emotional issues, following the death of her husband.

BACK ON SCREEN: Tucker features alongside Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook

The film marks Tucker’s return to the big screen after a five-year hiatus and sees him play Danny - a sweet-natured man who became friends with Pat when the pair met in the mental institution. Tucker doesn’t feature heavily in the film, (during his London show he even joked of his role, “don’t blink your eyes, you might miss my parts!”), but when he does, he’s naturally comedic.

“Comedy comes out of real situations and this film dealt with real life situations; family issues and the way you deal with those issues,” Tucker reasons. “So for me, the comedy just came out naturally.”

Well, that’s not really surprising as his roots are in comedy. Though he is, of course, best known for starring alongside Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour film series (in which his role as police detective James Carter was seriously comedic), and he remains heralded for his portrayal of serial weed-smoker Smokey in the 1995 comedy film, Friday (another funny role), Tucker began his career as a stand up performer in the hit show Def Comedy Jam. 

He recently went back to his stand-up roots, not only delivering his UK tour, but also filming a live performance in the States, which is set for release next year.

“I filmed a stand up comedy movie in my home town of Atlanta a few weeks ago,” he confirms. “People remember Richard Pryor’s live stand-up movie Long Beach and Eddie Murphy’s Raw, and I always wanted to do one too – it’s been a life-long dream of mine to do what those guys did.”

And for those who were wondering if Tucker would consider reuniting with Chan for a fourth installment of Rush Hour...

“I love working with Jackie and we are talking about doing another one. We’re trying to get that up and I think it would be the funniest one ever. When we get together everything just comes together.”

One thing audiences are bound to be assured of is if there is a Rush Hour 4; expect plenty of quick wit from Tucker – delivered in that unmistakable voice. Though during our interview Tucker was polite and a little subdued, in full comedy effect the star is rowdy and raucous, and famed for his voice, which becomes hilariously high pitched as he becomes more and more ‘excited’.

“A lot of people comment on my voice and it’s something I’m definitely exploring,” he laughs. “It’s funny because at first, I didn’t really know how my voice was or how high pitched it could get when I get a little excited! But I’m glad people find it unique.”

Silver Linings Playbook (certificate 15) is in cinemas now through Entertainment Film Distributors

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