A full 20 years have puff-puff passed since the stoner comedy Friday lit up movie theaters and became not just a cult sensation but a bona-fide classic. The hilarious film – about potheads Craig (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker) trying to enjoy a day off while avoiding both the neighborhood bully and a local drug dealer – launched the careers of helium-voiced motormouth Tucker and director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Straight Outta Compton), and helped the rapper-turned-actor add screenwriter and movie producer to his resumé. It also provided America with memes like "You got knocked the fuck out!" and – just in the past year – "Bye Felicia!" (The character's name is actually spelled Felisha in the film.) The movie, which was made for an estimated $3.5 million and went on to gross $28 million, became such a left-field hit that it spawned two sequels.
Looking back on its success, Ice Cube is still surprised by the ways in which people have embraced it. "To me, it's one of the Number One movies you check out when you're baked, or you're getting down," he says. "There's people that have Friday parties, where they rent all three movies and just kind of enjoy 'em. It's morphed into this big thing, and it started off as this little, cool idea. To me, that's what I'm most proud about: It's become part of not only just American culture, but there's people all over the world that really love it. That's how movies should be."
To celebrate the way the comedy has become such an enduring hit (no pun intended), its producers are releasing a director's cut of the film back into U.S. theaters for one day only – 4/20, of course – via Fathom Events. Additionally, its double-platinum soundtrack, which went to Number One and contained Dr. Dre's hit "Keep Their Heads Ringin'," was recently reissued on vinyl with 3-D "smoking" art. Rolling Stone recently caught up with Ice Cube to find out what he thinks of Friday's success.
When you began work on Friday, what kind of movie were you hoping to make?
We wanted to make what we called a "hood classic." I grew up on the Cheech and Chong and Sidney Poitier–Bill Cosby movies; I loved Carwash and Uptown Saturday Night and Hollywood Shuffle, with Robert Townsend. Whether they're American classics or not, that's another story. But they are neighborhood classics, and we were aiming to do a movie that the neighborhood would want to watch over and over and over again, and that's what we achieved.
Does Friday reflect where you grew up?
Yup. Everything that happened in Friday has happened on my block, at one time or another. It's really a lot of different Fridays wrapped up into one day, so that's why it's so authentic – because it's all real to an extent.
What did you want to say about your neighborhood with this movie?
At the time, people had looked at South Central like it was hell on earth. You had movies like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, shit coming out like this movie called South Central, and all of them show the horrors of living where we lived. But growing up in South Central, we feel like, damn, we was having fun. Wait, what did we miss? We know it had its bad moments, but for the most part, there's no place I would rather grow up.
It was like some shit you just roll with, and you knew how to adapt. You knew how to laugh instead of cry. We wanted to put it in a movie and show that the neighborhood we grew up in wasn't this terror zone, it was just this place that had good days, and it had bad days. It was very unpredictable, which made it dangerous – but for the most part, we had fun growing up. So I was like,"Yo, we need to show how we do on our street," and not make it a horror story.
Right now you're working with F. Gary Gray again on Straight Outta Compton, about your days in N.W.A, which made South Central look pretty scary.
Well, you know, it is extreme. But it's not extreme every minute of the day.
How much of the Friday script is autobiography?
Damn near all of it, man. You just think of Lil Chris (Jason Bose Smith) knocking down the trashcan, and me chasing him down the street and wanting to whoop his ass. That's definitely real. And my brother is the one who got fired on his day off; he was working for UPS. So it's like the little tidbits out of life. I just put them all in a movie.
The bully in the movie, Deebo, was pretty scary. What was your neighborhood Deebo like?
Just like the Deebo in the movie. Cool sometimes, but it depends on what he was on and what he was after, or who he knew or didn't know, or how well he knew you. Things like that. Everybody I think, in some way, had some kind of Deebo in they life. That, to me, is why the movie is so special.
The other reason its special is that it's not just a stoner movie.
It's cool – get high and all that – but the movie is memorable because it's the day that the bully got his ass whooped, and everybody loves that day, you know what I mean? That, to me, is the reason this movie has such big appeal. It's something so relatable, and then everybody can have a Friday. Everybody can kick it on they porch with they crazy friend, and trip off the neighborhood, so to me, it has so many different things that makes it appealing.
Did you begin the script with the idea of the bully getting his ass whooped?
Well, to me, it was really about two guys with nothing to do, and getting into damn near everything. It was what we did on a daily basis sometimes. To make something like that into a movie, you have to figure out how to give it a plot. Like, what is the simple song that we're trying to sing? We had to find that, and to me it was like, OK, the crescendo is Deebo getting what he deserves. That has to be the peak of the day. It all worked out.
"Back then, we got down a little bit, but the weed wasn't as good as it is now."
You wrote the movie with rap producer DJ Pooh. Were you and he like Craig and Smokey?
In a way, totally. Pooh was a big-time producer with a rapper by the name of King Tee, and they were kind of a dynamic duo in early LA hip-hop. I started working with Pooh on my second album. He helped produce a lot of the tracks with a group called the Boogiemen, so I would go and hang with him – and if anybody knows Pooh, he's one of the most creative people I've ever met. He's, like, 1,000 ideas coming out at once, so what I would do was try to harness those ideas so they could be potent. Because when you've got 1,000 ideas, 500 of them are crazy, and 500 of them are great, so I wanted to hone in on the great ones.
He was always cracking jokes and always smoking weed, and we're in the studio making music, but we're laughing the whole time. He's a jokester. We were fans of movies like Hollywood Shuffle, fans of In Living Color, and Robert Townsend had a lot of specials on HBO back then, which were funny. A few characters like John Witherspoon's [Craig's dad], I got them from watching those comedies. So we just started talking about how we needed to do a movie that shows the neighborhood that we grew up in, and how it is for real. So we started to think, well, what could that movie look like? To me, it felt like a Cheech and Chong movie. It felt like, yo, this is some shit Cheech and Chong would do.
How much weed were you smoking back then?
Not as much as I'm smoking now [laughs]. Back then it was like, we got down a little bit, but the weed wasn't as good as it is now [laughs].
California changed that.
Yeah. California chronic ain't nothing nice [laughs].
This movie was Chris Tucker's big breakout. What made you want to cast him?
In the movies he had done before – he did a small part in House Party 3 – he was underused. This dude was a lot funnier than he was given screen time, so I was like, I'll do a movie with this cat. I'm gonna let him go. He ran with it. I can't really picture nobody else doing it. Pooh was originally supposed to be Smokey, but New Line got word of Chris Tucker, then it was a wrap.
He recently posted a picture of the two of you together. Are you working on something new?
No, we've met a few times. We're still trying to work together. We meet every now and then, have lunch, and try to figure it out, but it's not easy because we've got to find the perfect movie, and we're trying to follow up a classic. We were trying to do a fourth Friday movie, but New Line Cinema don't wanna come up with enough money to do it. Until they figure out that they're sitting on a $100 million movie, it's like they won't budge.
"Somebody tells you, 'Bye Felicia,' and you know that they're fed up with your ass."
The original Friday has so many quotable lines. What do fans recite to you most?
I hear "You got knocked the fuck out" a lot. I hear "Bye Felicia" now is the new fucking term from the movie.
What's your take on the way "Bye Felicia" has taken off? There's a TV show called that now.
It's crazy. To me, it's like such a throwaway line in the movie. It's a line where Craig is just so fed up with Felisha for coming over to ask the most stupid, unusual stuff. It's, like, the most fed-up, dismissive line now. Somebody tells you, "Bye Felicia," and you know that they're fed up with your ass. You done got on they last nerve. So it's kind of cool that [this line] from 20 years ago is part of pop-culture right now.
It's funny how it has just become a thing now.
Yeah, it's like the movie came out yesterday.