Rush Hour 2 helmer Brett Ratner sums up the appeal of star Chris Tucker pretty simply. "He's funny as hell," the director grins. "He's funny if he just says, 'Hey, maaan.'"

Taking his comedy a bit more seriously, Tucker boasts that his work has "evolved tremendously" since his early days. "I always knew I wanted to keep going to another level," says August's GQ cover boy, who's cleaned up his dialogue plenty since his last collaboration with Ratner, Money Talks.

Rush — hitting theaters Friday — found Tucker a fish out of water, both on and off the set. While the citizens of Hong Kong were already familiar with prominent native Jackie Chan, they didn't know what to make of frenetic Tucker. "It was a big reaction 'cause I'm taller than everybody there," the jokester cracks. "They thought I was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I felt like I was Michael Jackson."

Still, since they began tasting success in their careers, Ratner insists he and Tucker haven't changed much — save for a few extravagant purchases here and there. "Chris is the same exact guy, just like I am," he chuckles. "The only difference is we have a bunch of silly cars."

As for Tucker, he gives the wisecracks a rest long enough to wax philosophical about his career aspirations and newfound fame. "I think success is being successful in life," he says. "The reason why I haven't been doing a lot of movies... I really have been concentrating on myself. If you are successful in life, it'll show in whatever you do."