Chris Tucker Nearly Made The Fifth Element Worse With His Bad Ideas

Chris Tucker had a lot of ideas on how to play his iconic The Fifth Element character, Ruby Rhod, but the director turned almost all of them down.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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While we love Star Trek and Star Wars around here, there is a special place in our hearts for The Fifth Element, the Luc Besson science fiction film that memorably starred Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. It also starred Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a fast-talking talk show host whose outsize personality and grating voice provide much of the humor of the film. And in a recent interview with GQ, Tucker admitted that Besson and the rest of the crew largely ignored his suggestions for the Ruby Rhod character, saying that, “they did what they wanted to do.”

Fortunately, Chris Tucker has no anger towards Besson and the rest for essentially overriding his creative input on the character he was bringing to life. For one thing, he understands there was a major language barrier at work: he points out the crew “were speaking French” throughout the production, making it hard for him to speak to them. However, Tucker is also very honest about how Besson’s decisions for the character got him out of his Hollywood comfort zone.

During the interview, Chris Tucker first joked about the fact that he might have turned down the role if he knew what kind of flamboyant outfit Ruby Rhod would be wearing during the movie. But he soon admits he’s glad he embraced the opportunity “because it’s one of my favorite roles.” Furthermore, Tucker is very frank about the fact that “it made me go into the character more…so I’m glad they didn’t listen to me.”

Part of the fun of The Fifth Element as a movie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Certainly, the presence of Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod shows that the film isn’t afraid to embrace some broad comedy. But Tucker points out that veteran director Luc Besson clearly had a specific creative vision in mind for his now-iconic characters and that both the performances and the overall film are much stronger because everyone stuck to that particular vision.

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Interestingly, though, that vision didn’t always include having Chris Tucker play the part of Ruby Rhod. The role was originally going to be played by the musical legend Prince, and the design of Ruby Rhod’s costumes clearly point to the influence of Prince’s wardrobe as a performer. And we can’t help but wonder if having a sexual icon like Prince play Ruby Rhod would have changed some of the discourse surrounding a character that some view as a painful gay stereotype and others view as an inspirational gay icon.

As fascinating as it would have been to have Prince play this part, we have to admit that it’s nearly impossible to imagine The Fifth Element without Chris Tucker playing Ruby Rhod. His screeching voice and frightened persona were the perfect counterpoints to Bruce Willis’s aging badass character, and he helped to keep audiences laughing once they realized Jovovich saying “multipass” in a quirky voice could only be entertaining for so long. And if you like Tucker’s comedy, you don’t have to settle for rewatching The Fifth Element: the actor will reprise his role of Carter in the long-awaited Rush Hour 4, which will reunite him with onscreen partner Jackie Chan.