That Time Vacation Friends Was Going To Get Made With Ice Cube And Mark Wahlberg And Why It Changed, Per The Director

From conception to opening weekend, a movie can go through a lot of changes behind the scenes. Funny enough, comedies like Vacation Friends are no exception. We first heard the title back in 2014, with then Hollywood couple Chris Pratt and Anna Faris set to star in the movie directed by Hot Tub Time Machine’s Steve Pink. Seven years later, the movie is out on Hulu starring John Cena and Lil Rel, and writer/director Clay Tarver went down memory lane with us on how they landed on the final version.

Clay Tarver’s movie features some hilarious chemistry between The Suicide Squad’s John Cena and Free Guy’s Lil Rel Howery as they play opposites who become friends while off the grid along with their significant others. That is, until Howery’s Marcus and Yvonne Orji’s Emily decide to ghost Cena’s Ron and Meredith Hagner’s Kyla when they return to normal life. Then it backfires.

When CinemaBlend spoke to writer/director Clay Tarver about the long history of the movie, he shared what changed and the other actors previously involved. In his words:

I was first asked to rewrite it in 2016 when it was Ice Cube and I think Mark Wahlberg. Chris Pratt and Anna [Faris] were before that and that version of the movie didn’t get made, but I did get to meet Ice Cube which was kind of a thrill. But I thought that version of the movie was going to get made but it fell apart. So they came to me and said let’s do it with newer names we haven’t seen before and so that’s how we started on this journey.

Now we don’t know who played who, but perhaps Ice Cube was set to play Lil Rel Howery’s chilled and composed role, while Mark Wahlberg might have taken on the wild and wacky character of Ron. Tarver got to meet with Ice Cube when he jumped onto the project five years ago, but when he was finishing up his rewrite, the studio (20th Century Fox prior to the Disney merger) decided it wanted new names altogether.

Prior to Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg being on the list of Vacation Friends, the project was initially set to star Chris Pratt and Anna Faris back when they were married. According to the 2014 report, the premise was about the same as what we see in the Hulu version: a mild-mannered couple have a crazy Mexican vacation thanks to another couple. The exes were expected to play the roles that ultimately went to John Cena and Meredith Hagner.

It's pretty interesting how projects change over the years, but Vacation Friends certainly turned out to be a funny one. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu alongside a number of other fresh August releases.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.