Chris Tucker: Quietly Comic For "Silver Linings Playbook"

The comedy star redefines his acting skill set after a five-year hiatus

By Scott Huver
|  Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012  |  Updated 11:48 AM PDT
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Actor/comedian Chris Tucker returns to the big screen in "Silver Linings Playbook"

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Chris Tucker’s poised to be Hollywood’s comeback kid of 2012, without shooting any guns and with very little shooting off at the mouth.

At one point the highest-paid actor in films off the success of his “Rush Hour” comedies, the fast-talking, high-energy comedian chose to take a step back from his career fast lane – an off-screen sabbatical that lasted five years. And now Tucker returns in a seemingly unlikely new project: acclaimed writer-director David O. Russell’s poignant and romantic comedy-drama “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Although he plays a mental patient pal of lead Bradley Cooper’s character who is determined to free himself from hospitalization, Tucker leaves his signature shrill, manic antics behind and instead steals his scenes with an upbeat, Zen-like commitment to positivity with just a dash of his usual wry wit. The comic reveals the method behind his restrained, endearing madness.

You’ve been able to enjoy some considerable time off since your last film, and when you go back to work you’re directed by David O. Russell and share scenes with Robert De Niro. Did you feel nervous on your first day back to work?

You know what? Yeah! You always do. Because you want to be ready – and as soon as you get on the set it all goes away, and you're just ready to follow what the director wants you to do and also put your things into it, too. So it was great.

What was your first attraction to the role of Danny, who gets to steal a lot of scenes?

The first attraction was that he was surprising. He would come out of nowhere, and it was one of those great characters that make an imprint, but would not be all the way throughout the movie. And then also David O. Russell: we knew that he would probably do something, make it even a little bit more special because that's how he works, because he's creative – he's so creative. David is such a great writer, and the rhythm and the way that he writes, it's just really helpful. Then he's like that with creating and changing stuff, and so I like that it frees you up to not worry about knowing your lines exactly. He just make sure you feel like you can just be good, get into character.

Your chemistry with Bradley Cooper is special. Did you guys hang out together off sett?

No, only in the car [scenes]! When they stopped filming we talked a little bit, and I think that went right over into the film so naturally. But that's how David directs, he just makes it so naturally and you capture it on film, no pressure.

What about working opposite De Niro?

To be on the set with him – he's just a professional. Even though he is who he is, he waits around like everybody else and he's not complaining at all and not doing any kind of star-tripping. He's just a great person and a great actor. So I learned a lot from him.

Is this film the kind of territory that you want to stay in – not so much straight-up comedy, but material with other shades and nuances?

I want to be open to it all – if it's drama, comedy, whatever, just be open. I don't want to be in any box. When I find fun movies like this, if it's a small or large roles, I'm going to be open to it if it's a fun part or a good enough part that I can make an imprint in the movie.

In real life who has better dance moves, you or Bradley Cooper?

Me! I'm going to be honest. I'm going to be honest, it's just me. I shouldn't lie.

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