The cult classic Friday would have been a completely different movie if studio executives overexercised their authority and forced Ice Cube to hire a different comedian for the role of Smokey.
The F. Gary Gray-directed film debuted in theaters in 1995 and has since spawned two sequels, Next Friday and Friday After Next. A fourth installment, tentatively titled Last Friday, was written but has been stuck in limbo amid the rapper’s efforts to gain rights over the project from Warner Bros.
Cube wrote the first screenplay with his longtime collaborator DJ Pooh and initially saw his friend as the perfect casting for his on-screen homeboy with an affinity for marijuana. “I like working with people that people don’t know. Unknown talents. I think it makes it more realistic when you watching a movie,” explained the iconic West Coast emcee in a recent “Big Boy Off Air” interview.
However, he recalled Tommy Davidson and the names of other notable comedians at the time being thrown around for consideration after distributor New Line Cinema said that Pooh lacked the experience to pull off the numerous pages of dialogue. “I was like, ‘No, no.’ It’s a movie about the neighborhood. I want when you see it, you feel like you in the neighborhood, not that you watching an actor get down… The reason Pooh worked as Smokey is ‘cause he’s never been on screen before, so people gon’ trip out on the s**t he doing,” said Cube.
The Players Club actor would go on to suggest that Chris Tucker, who had made appearances on “Def Comedy Jam” and House Party 3, do a screen test. The rest is history. The franchise not only helped Tucker take his career to the next level but was also responsible for introducing Katt Williams and Mike Epps to larger audiences.
“I always felt like I’m picking these people for a reason. They make me laugh. They talented, I can see it,” Cube said. He added, “And if I just set it up where they can go and do they thang, then they could, you know, produce magic.” While he and Tucker have not shared the screen since filming Friday, he has gone on to co-star in other projects with Epps and Williams.