Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, <EM>Rush Hour 3</EM> Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, Rush Hour 3

Things happening by "accident" is a Hollywood cliché, but this time there's actually some truth to it in terms of how stars Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan and director Brett Ratner reunited to bring Rush Hour 3 to life. The latest entry (set in Los Angeles and Paris) in the highly successful buddy/action franchise opens today, Aug. 10.

"I said in [the last movie] when a guy fell out of a hotel in Vegas, ‘That guy is not going to be in Rush Hour 3,'" Tucker recently recalled to TVGuide.com at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. "The studio heard it. The fans heard it. Everyone thought we were going to make it, but it was never planned."

That was just one reason why six years passed between the second and third Rush Hour films. Additional factors include other movie projects for Chan and Ratner, as well as Tucker's self-imposed hiatus during which he became immersed in social issues and international travel in his continuing fight against the AIDS crisis in Africa.

"[Chris] wants to work," Ratner says. "He works at being a humanitarian, traveling the world and expanding his horizons. If you watch his old stand-up, he talks about growing up poor. Now his comedy is about traveling the world with Bill Clinton and going to South Africa with Oprah. I have a lot of respect for him."

"A lot of films came my way that didn't spark my interest," says Tucker, modestly adding, "I decided to step back and see the world. Two nuns told me that Mother Teresa once said, ‘Every raindrop creates an ocean.' I interpreted that to mean that if everyone does his or her part, problems wouldn't be so big."

The actor/activist wouldn't have traded his time off for all the movie roles in the world. "Now I have friends like Clinton and the king of Jordan," Tucker marvels. "If I can make somebody laugh because of what I do... maybe [I can help people] forget about their problems."

Since the Rush Hour series began, Ratner has embarked on a successful producing and directing career on screens both small (Prison Break) and big (X-Men: The Last Stand). Chan has also stayed busy in films such as Shanghai Knights. Fortunately, the Rush Hour trio managed to clear their schedules in order to make this latest movie.

When your film has high-speed car chases, climactic fight scenes shot on location at the Eiffel Tower, and a nun reciting dirty words during a police interrogation, you really don't need to spend much time on character growth. Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, however, wanted some heartbeats to be played with Carter and Lee, in between the heart-stopping action. "It's not just a cop/buddy film," Ratner insists. "It's really a love story between these two men. In the first film, they became partners. In the second, they became friends. In this one, they become brothers."

Where would Ratner take them in a fourth flick? "Brothers to lovers," deadpans the director.

Chan says he had to reacclimate himself with the Western way of making movies. "I hate the American system," Chan playfully frustrates. "I cannot move [anything]. I am a stunt coordinator, but there's a [director of photography doing everything] — he's not the action director!"

Chan also gripes that there's an imbalance between the time spent on filming fight scenes and recording dialogue. "I want more days [for action]," he demands. "Dialogue, five days! Action, one day! When I do my own movie, [we spend] three months for a five-minute fight. Dialogue is done in one day!"

Still, Chan was determined to make Rush Hour 3. "It's not for the money," he says. "It's for the audience."

Ratner was thrilled to have Max von Sydow in the cast (The Exorcist, Minority Report), playing Reynard, a French foreign minister and World Criminal Court leader — a key player in the flick's spy plot. "I created the part with [Max] in mind," the director shares.

Rush Hour 3 is jam-packed with action, but one stunt that Chan performed in the second film will be a tough act to follow. "The most amazing thing I've ever seen Jackie do was in Rush Hour 2," recalls Ratner. "He jumped through that little hole in the cage at the casino... full speed and feet first!"

Which stunt was the hardest to execute this time? "You can say all or none," Chan responds. "We're not doing a lot of computer-generated stuff. Before, it was, ‘Wow! Look at what Jackie does!' Now I think the audience is saying, ‘Wow! Jackie can still do something!'"

As for the future, Ratner is helming a biopic about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, whom he deems "a big part of the sexual revolution." "I don't think people are familiar with what he created in this country and the taboos he broke. He put [comic] Lenny Bruce and black people performing on national television [on Playboy's Penthouse in 1959] before anyone else did."

Ratner also has been playing himself on Entourage. "It's been fun," he says, wryly adding, "[But] I don't have 20 girls in bikinis in my pool all day long. It's actually 50."

Chan, meanwhile, has a few films lined up, including The Forbidden Kingdom and Kung Fu Panda.

And don't expect Tucker to disappear — if, that is, we are to understand the words coming out of his mouth. "There are a lot of things I want to do," he insists. Among them: a movie based on his stand-up comedy (which Ratner may direct), and Mr. President, in which Tucker plays "the first black president [of the United States]. Since the election is coming up, I thought it'd be fun."

And there's always the possibility of a fourth Rush Hour. "If the fans want to see another one, we always have to think about it," says Tucker. "[Although] Jackie told me, ‘I chase you for five years — this time you call me!'"

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