The Disappearance of Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest stars on the planet in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s but where has he been since then? I wanted to take a look at his fantastic career and try to find out where he went.
Eddie Murphy was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1961 to his parents Charles and Lillian. His father was a New York City police officer and amateur comedian, and his mother was a telephone operator. He also had an older brother, Charlie (who was hilarious and just recently passed away, R.I.P Charlie Murphy). When Murphy was young he watched a lot of TV and grew the knack of impersonations, doing some of his favorite childhood characters like Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, and Bullwinkle. At age 15 he entered the talent show at his school and wowed the crowd with his impression of Al Green. With the success of his impersonations he began working on stand up routines after school and started doing stand up at local bars and comedy clubs. When he graduated high school he was named the most popular kid and chose his profession: comedian.
He continued working on his stand up routines and started making his way into some of the top New York comedy clubs. Some of his early influences were Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Red Foxx, and Robin Williams. In 1980, Murphy learned that Saturday Night Live was holding auditions; he auditioned six times and eventually got a job as an extra. One night SNL realized they had four minutes of airtime with no material so they had Murphy do his stand up routine and his life was never the same after. He worked on SNL from 1980-1984 and has some of the most memorable characters of all time that include some great impersonations like Buckwheat, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder and some original characters including Gumby and Mister Robinson. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked all 145 SNL cast members and they ranked Murphy second behind the great John Belushi.
While Murphy was on SNL he released three stand up comedy specials, Eddie Murphy: Comedian which won the 1984 Grammy for Best Comedy, Eddie Murphy Delirious in 1983 filmed in Washington D.C., and Eddie Murphy Raw in 1987. Delirious is probably one of the raunchiest and most un-politically correct things you can watch, but it is absolutely hilarious. My Dad showed me this for the first time and I will never forget both of us laughing our asses off and crying from laughing so hard. Because Delirious was so popular, Raw got a wide theatrical release and grossed over $50 million. It is still the #1 stand up film of all time at the box office and at the time it set the record for highest "fuck count", passing Scarface (which was later passed by Goodfellas). Russell Brand, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock has named Murphy as a big influence for their material.
Starting in 1982, Murphy's IMDB list is awesome with him starring alongside Nick Nolte in 48 Hours, which is a great movie and still one of my favorites. He followed that up with Trading Places in 1983 opposite another great SNL alum, Dan Akroyd, which led to a $25 million contract for six movies for Murphy. In '84 he starred in arguably his biggest and best film, Beverly Hills Cop that hit #9 on the all-time box office list and earned Murphy a Golden Globe nomination. (apparently Sylvester Stallone was the first choice for this movie.....wow what a different movie that would have been) Murphy worked with Rick James to produce his first album, "How Could it Be?", with the classic Party All the Time that hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. '86-89 saw Golden Child, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Coming to America, and Harlem Nights come to theaters starring Murphy. Outside of Coming to America, which grossed more then $128 million, the other three movies were not some of his best work. From 1990-96 saw another lull in box office hits but he broke back on the scene in a big way with Nutty Professor. This is one of his biggest roles and earned him another Golden Globe nomination. Crazy to think that this movie came out 20 years ago... we were just quoting it on Christmas this year.
The late 90s and early 2000s saw Murphy do some roles he had never done before; he did a few kids and animated movies. He did Mulan and Dr. Doolittle in '98 followed by Dr. Doolittle 2 and Shrek in 2001. Donkey from Shrek might be Murphy's most notable role, everyone knows he plays that part and he plays it well. In between those kid-type movies he did Nutty Professor 2 where he played all six leading roles, which was hilarious to see him play an old man and two women. Another movie I love is Daddy Day Care which came out in 2001 followed by Shrek 2 in 2004. Murphy won his only Golden Globe for his role in Dreamgirls and he also earned an Oscar nomination. Dreamgirls is a really fantastic movie and I think it is extremely underrated now. Since 2006, Murphy has been in a few movies here and there but nothing of notable success. (One point about his awards and nominations, he won the 1988 Kids' Choice Award for his role in......Beverly Hills Cop 2........I had no idea this was a kids' movie but, hey, good for you, Eddie.) So where is Murphy and what has he been doing?
Unfortunately, I am not good friends with Eddie Murphy and don't have any access to his life. But he was such a huge star starting with his stand up in high school and running through his movie career into the 2000s. Normally major stars fade away because of some off-screen incident or a run of horrible movies, which Murphy really has not had. Sure he has had a few bad movies but most actors and actresses do, it's just something that happens over a career. The way I see it, there are two options to what Murphy wanted to do: he may have just decided to retire and spend time with his family which is absolutely possible, but you don't see many high profile actors go that route, or did he begin to realize that the acting and comedy world was changing and his material was not as funny as it used to be? I have not seen Dave Chappelle's latest Netflix specials, but from what I have heard is that they just are not as funny as they used to be. I heard it is pretty vulgar (which is cool) but a lot of the material is simply not funny and extremely controversial. Whatever route Murphy took I am glad we didn't have to witness 5 or 6 really bad movies and watch him fade away. For me, he will go down as one of the funniest and biggest movie actors of all time.