Money Talks: About The Production

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Written by Academy Award nominees Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen (Toy Story), Money Talks is a non-stop, action-adventure film fueled by comedy. "We started writing with the premise of what would happen if Americaís most wanted criminal was harbored by a Geraldo Rivera-type reporter on the weekend of the reporterís wedding," explains Sokolow.

When they were finished, they knew they had created a break-out role for a young comedian. "At that time, we didnít know who it would be. Now, I can't imagine anyone else playing the lead role of Franklin Hatchett. It seems as though we wrote this exclusively for Chris Tucker's talents."

Tucker first garnered critical attention with his scene-stealing performance as Smokey in the urban comedy Friday. Then, without missing a beat, he showed his range of talent when he turned to drama for his role as a heroin-addicted Vietnam War veteran in Dead Presidents.

The 24-year-old actor was most recently seen starring opposite Bruce Willis in director Luc Bessonís The Fifth Element, which headlined the opening night festivities at the 50th Annual Cannes Film Festival in May. With two high-profile summer films, Tucker is truly a star on the rise.

In Money Talks, Tucker plays Franklin Hatchett, a two-bit hustler who has spent his entire life surviving on street smarts, wit and gut instinct. Chameleon-like in his ability to adapt to any situation, Franklin is smoothly comfortable and confident -- whether he is conning high society while quoting Barry White, pawning "Phantom of the Opera" tickets to an unsuspecting sports fan, or making a deadly enemy by mimicking a scene from Scarface. Ultimately, his unscrupulous business practices attract the attention of James Russell (Sheen), an image-conscious television reporter who has targeted Franklin for a less-than-hard-hitting exposÈ on ticket scalping. After setting up Franklin for arrest, James thinks he is honeymoon-bound with his fiancÈe; however, he soon finds himself blowing the lid off of an international diamond smuggling scheme involving high finance and murder.

"In the `70s, we had Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. In the `80s, it was Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. For the `90s, itís going to be Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker," says director Brett Ratner, who makes his feature debut with Money Talks. "This is not just lucky casting, it takes talent, comic timing, chemistry and top-notch material to launch an on-screen duo that audiences will remember. I think moviegoers will identify with these guys and want to see more of them.

"James and Franklin are classic fish out of water," Ratner explains. "Neither is in his own environment, and each needs the other to survive."

Following a highly successful career directing music videos, Ratner knew Money Talks was the perfect project to help him make the transition to film. "The excitement and pace of the project hooked me. We played up the comedic elements of the script," says Ratner. "And we have a one-two punch because we also deliver in the action department. But the special effects are not over the top. We took our cue from movies of the `80s and early `90s, where the action stunts were done by real stuntmen, not computers. There are no blue screens here. The audience will see professionals doing what they do best -- crashing cards and blowing up buildings.

"Brett understood the script and the genre. He has a knowledge of film equal to that of far more experienced directors," says producer Walter Coblenz. A Hollywood veteran, Coblenz has been responsible for such films as All The Presidentís Men and The Candidate. "Brett really knows his stuff. He delivered a fast-paced film with a lot of action. This film also shows his intuitive feel for comedic timing -- it will shoot him and Chris straight to the top."

Itís no secret that Hollywood showers its greatest rewards on those who succeed in the action genre -- where the name of the director is sometimes just as important as the name of the star on the marquis. For Ratner and Tucker, Money Talks represented a vote of faith that each was capable of breaking into this exclusive territory previously dominated by names like Willis, McTiernan, Harlan, Stallone, DeBont and Schwarzenegger.

"Iíve always been a big fan of action-comedy," says Tucker. "I was inspired by buddy movies like Midnight Run and 48 Hrs. Eddie Murphy is my idol. He took action-comedy to another level and thatís what I want to do for my generation.

According to co-star Charlie Sheen, Tucker is more than capable of leading the action-comedy genre to a new level. "The quickest way to watch the most confident people crumble is to put a camera in front of them. But Chris is free of inhibitions. He loves what heís doing, and he is absolutely fearless in front of the camera. Iíve been acting for a long time, and I can say unequivocally that Chris Tucker has been a great teacher for me.

Responds Tucker, "Charlie and I have learned from each other, and I think we have a great on-screen chemistry." Their camaraderie is most apparent during a scene when James brings Franklin to a stuffy pre-wedding soiree at the home of his future father-in-law. To "blend in," Franklin spins a new identity for himself as Vic Damone, Jr., and James is forced to join the charade and perpetuate the deceit.

The cast and crew zigzagged across the Los Angeles area shooting 18 different locations as visual backdrop for Money Talks. To capture the contrast between James and Franklinís worlds, the filmmakers used a wide variety of Los Angeles icons, such as a palatial mansion in Beverly Hills; a Silverlake car wash where Franklin conducts "business; the Los Angeles Coliseum, which serves as the flash point for the explosive finale; and the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, which was converted into a swank art deco auction hall where Tucker plays a hilarious scene with Sorvinoís character, who is in search of the perfect wedding gift for his beloved daughter.

Other notable locales include Terminal Island, the KCAL Newsroom, Lincoln Heights Jail and The Frontier Hotel on 5th Street, where the lead characters hop-scotch across rooftops as they leap from one building to the next.

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