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Seeking another 'Friday' payday

Ice Cube works the holidays into the latest effort in the lucrative comedy series.

November 17, 2002|Andre Chautard | Special to The Times

When New Line Cinema told Ice Cube it would like to have a third installment in the highly profitable "Friday" comedy franchise to release around the holidays, the rapper, actor, screenwriter, di-rector and producer decided to write the holidays into the script. "I just realized that there was no Christmas movie about the neighborhood," he says.

But this isn't your typical heartwarming Christmas fare. In keeping with the madcap ghetto humor of the first two films, "Friday After Next" opens with a Santa suit-clad thief making off with the presents -- and the rent money -- forcing Ice Cube's character, Craig, to do the unthinkable: Get a job.

It's no surprise the studio was looking for another "Friday" payday. The original "Friday" in 1995 grossed $27 million at the box office on a $4-million budget and became a huge bestseller on video, prompting the $10-million-budgeted sequel, "Next Friday," which grossed $57 million and opened at No. 1. The latest film in the series opens Friday.

As with the other "Friday" films and this year's hits "Barbershop" and "All About the Benjamins," Ice Cube -- who wrote "Friday After Next" and co-produced it -- recruited a music video director to make his feature directing debut. This time it was Marcus Raboy, who has worked with Mary J. Blige, Staind, Sting and Lil' Kim and directed the much-played videos for Santana's "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," as well as three of Ice Cube's own videos.

Raboy's enthusiasm for the "Friday" films won over the studio executives. Says Raboy, "I gave my take on the movie and they asked me, 'Is this a movie you want to make or a movie you want to pay to see?' And I told them, 'Both! I want to make this movie and then when it comes out I want to go opening weekend and pay to see it.' "

With a $20-million budget, "Friday After Next" was shot last winter in San Pedro and Torrance, where the production bought out a strip mall for six weeks to refashion as the domain of Craig and his cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps), who land jobs as security guards armed only with police whistles. Among the movie strip mall's shops: Bros. Bar-B-Q and the Pimps 'N Ho's clothing store owned by new character Money Mike.

Again, Ice Cube was on the lookout for fresh talent and auditioned scores of actors, the way he first found his "Next Friday" co-star Epps. This time the newcomers include stand-up comedians Katt Williams, who plays Money Mike, and Sommore, one of the Queens of Comedy, as well as Terry Crews, who actually worked as a security guard on the set of "Next Friday" before pursuing acting.

Also in keeping with the franchise, about a third of the jokes in "Friday After Next" were improvised, Ice Cube says. "If you're doing a comedy you have to let comedians do what they do, which is be spontaneous. Sometimes I'll tell them, give me two scripted [takes] and then give me two takes where you just do what you want to do within the realm of the scene."

Conspicuously absent is Chris Tucker, who also didn't appear in "Next Friday" and has declined to reprise his star-making role from the original "Friday." "Every time I go do another ['Friday' film], I'm gonna ask him to come back," Ice Cube says. "One day he might change his mind. I think the fans will want to see him do it, and we can pay him, so it's really on him."

Ice Cube, who will record a new CD with Dr. Dre producing, says he's not thinking about a fourth "Friday" film yet, but he does have a title. He laughs, "definitely 'Last Friday.' "

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