Richard Pryor becomes a movie star, falls deeper into drug addiction: Part 8

Fame became a burden and he "lost his way," wife Jennifer Pryor said. When his drug dealer introduced him to freebase, she said, "that's...when all hell broke loose."
7:03 | 01/17/20

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Transcript for Richard Pryor becomes a movie star, falls deeper into drug addiction: Part 8
I want to spread the news Hollywood is number one. That's where Pryor wants to go and where people want to put Pryor. The apex of show business is being a movie star, which is on the other end of show business where he's a comedian. You know, movie star, comedian. His greatest fame peaks in the 1970s. He becomes huge. Being successful as a black person in the early '70s in Hollywood, there were very few. You had Sidney Poitier and you had, um -- Sidney Poitier. The studios are crumbling and the entertainment hierarchy is trying to figure out what to do. I started at universal. I'd just turned 23. They were making six movies a year and you wouldn't go see any of them. They had movie stars that I thought were dead. I think they were beginning to see that there was a young audience out there, and they wanted that young audience. Comedy is a staple and Richard was the funnest guy at that time. I'm crazy about you baby, I'm-a make love to you tonight, baby. You better believe it. He was deep into the mainstream. He was known to everybody. He wanted to be a star. He wanted to be big. He thought that "Lady sings the blues" would be the beginning of a new Richard. This is a friend of mine. You're going to love it. He's asked to play piano man. It's not even a role with a name. He was hired for only $500 for the first day. And that was it. It was supposed to be a one-off. And every day they hired him back and they rewrote stuff. It was a tiny little role and he expanded it to what it was. Richard loved his role as the piano man, but when it wasn't received well, that bothered Richard a lot. What I want to do is, uh, do a movie that's so terrific that I win 13 academy awards for And what would that say to you, if you won all those academy awards? Richard Pryor's good? That not only did I win in my space, but I won in your space. You mean, white person's space? Yeah. I was excellent enough that you had to accept me. I'm here tonight to explain why no black people will ever be nominated for anything. Richard Pryor, for better or worse, was a movie star. Richard was always my ace card. If Richard would do it, it was automatically hip, desirable, cool. If Richard Pryor was in a movie, it was a hit. We did "Car wash." Because money walks and Talks. "Which way is up." That movie was drop dead, fall on the floor, die laughing. Richard did all three characters. You know that chicken I put in the refrigerator last night? Well, I expect to find it when I get home. He's in the wiz. He's in silver streak, which is his buddy movie with Gene Wilder. The combination of them bumbling around and riffing off each other was really, really funny. How are we going to get on the train? That's a good question. I still got the gun. Maybe I could start a diversion. Yeah, blow your brains out. When he started to do movies and make these big paychecks, I think he did feel as if he were compromising. They're paying me $2 million to do this movie. Do you believe it? My grandmother didn't make that all her life, and she's a better woman than you are a man. You want to talk about this movie is this. Yeah, sure, what do you want me -- "Stir crazy." It sucks. He wanted many things. Like all of us, he wanted to be loved. He also wanted to be famous. So was it a compromise? Okay. But the checks cleared, and as best I can tell, he cashed every one of them. I think he wants to do his type of film, but the problem is we never knew what his type of film was. Sometimes I feel like there's a person Richard Pryor, and he does all this comedy and stuff, and then there's me, and I wonder what I have to do with Richard. I feel like I live his house, and I dry his car andpend his money, but it ain't me, you know? It's not me. He started feeling guilty about his big success. It made him feel like he was being accepted by white society, which confused him, irritated him, angered him. I don't think it's easy to be a celebrity. That kind of fame, it's huge. It's a burden. And I think at some point he lost his way. And then his drug dealer introduced him to freebase, which was the pipe. Freebasing was a way to concentrate coke. Oh, my god. That's when basically all hell break loose. You hit that pipe, you go, oh, many I god. This is -- oh. Wonderful. Let me have another hit of that. The pipe had ahold of him. Couldn't let go. This pipe is to tell me when to go to bed. The pipe would say, time to get up. Time for some smoke, rich. Come on, now. We are not going to do anything today. All your appointments. Me and you we're just gonna hang out in this room together. He starts missing shows missing dates, missing work. They bought him drugs to get him in films, they bought drugs to keep him on a film. I'm talking two pounds of stuff. I don't know nothing. Do you understand me? I don't know. . I'm lucky. He disappeared. Richard wasn't home anymore. He talked about having out of body experiences, seeing aliens looking in the window. That was the drug. Had ahold of him. We could have had it all, like that song says. And because of the drugs, we didn't. We lost it. We lost it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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