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Profile of Eddie Murphy
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||3rd April 1961
|Place of Birth:
||Brooklyn, New York, USA
Edward Regan "Eddie" Murphy (born April 3, 1961, Brooklyn, New York) is an American comedian and actor.
Murphy began his comedy career at the young age of 19, as a performer on NBC's Saturday Night Live television show after graduating from Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School. His characters include a parody of Buckwheat from the Little Rascals and of Fred Rogers. Former SNL writer Margaret Oberman has said Murphy and Bill Murray are the two most talented people in the history of the show. Murphy left the show midway through the 1983-1984 season, appearing in filmed sketches for the remainder of that season.
Murphy later starred in many comedies including the Beverly Hills Cop series, for which he was recognised by receiving a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a comedy for his performance in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, and Coming to America.
He is a well-known voice actor and voiced the donkey in the Shrek series and the dragon in Disney's Mulan. Eddie Murphy also has starred in a vast number of sequels including: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Another 48 Hrs. (1990), Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), Shrek 2 (2004), and the upcoming Shrek 3 (2007).
In many of his films, he plays multiple roles in addition to his main character. A perfect example of this is The Nutty Professor, a remake of the Jerry Lewis classic in which Murphy plays several members of the Klump family as well as Sherman Klump's arrogant alter ego, Buddy Love. Another trademark of Eddie Murphy's is his deep, infectious, albeit considerably goofy laugh.
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. Eddie Murphy's older brother, Charlie Murphy, is also an actor, best known recently for his appearances on Chappelle's Show.
Eddie's biological father died when he was quite young, and he, his brother Charlie, and step-brother Vernon Jr. were raised by his mother Lillian Murphy, a telephone-company employee, and his stepfather Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyers Ice Cream plant. Eddie was a bright kid, who spent a great deal of time on impressions and comedy stand-up routines rather than academics. Eddie's comic talent was evident from an early age, and by 15 he was writing and performing his own routines at youth centers and local bars, as well as at the Roosevelt High School auditorium. Eventually, Murphy made it to a Manhattan showcase, The Comic Strip. The club's co-owners, Robert Wachs and Richard Tienken, were so impressed with Murphy's ability to make dead-on impressions of celebrities and his overall outlooks on life that they agreed to manage his career.
Murphy was voted "Most Popular" while attending Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Roosevelt, New York, due to the stand-up comedy routines he would perform in the school's auditorium and jokes he would tell classmates during lunch. Murphy then attended Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York, before beginning his acting career.
Stand-up Comedy Routines
Murphy did stand-up comedy at the same Bay Area Comedy Club as Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg (who at the time was working under her real name, Caryn Johnson). His early comedy was racy, akin to Richard Pryor, whom Murphy says was the one "that wanted [him] to get into comedy." Characterized by frequent swearing and making fun of gays, singers, and others, Murphy became, in a sense, the Pryor of the 1980s. He made vicious comments about gays and AIDS during his 80's standup routines, so vicious that some years later he apologized for the remarks. At the height of his popularity, Eddie Murphy appeared in the concert films Delirious (1983) and Raw (1987). Delirious contained an infamous routine in which he depicted Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton from The Honeymooners as gay lovers. In 1983, Murphy won a Grammy for his comedy album Comedian.
Saturday Night Live
On an autumn morning in 1980, the phone of talent coordinator Neil Levy began ringing off the hook. A young man at the other end of the line begged the producer to give him a shot on the show, but was constantly rejected by the show having already booked a full cast. The man pleaded with Levy that he had several siblings banking on him getting a spot on the show. Levy finally conceded and allowed the man an audition. The caller was a 19-year-old named Eddie Murphy, and his audition performance had Neil Levy begging with new executive producer Jean Doumanian (who succeed Lorne Michaels after the 1979-1980 season) to let him on the show. Doumanian refused, citing that another actor named Robert Townsend had already been selected as the cast's "token black guy," and that the show's shrunken budget could not allow for any more actors. Doumanian changed her mind after watching Murphy's audition and also began pleading with the network to allow him on the show. NBC only agreed after it was determined that Townsend had not yet signed a contract, and Murphy was cast as a featured player.
In the second episode of the 1980-1981 season hosted Malcolm McDowell, Murphy made his network television debut as an extra in a skit called "In Search Of The Negro Republican". Murphy had his first speaking role two weeks later as Raheem Abdul Muhummad on Weekend Update. He made such a positive impression that he would be called on for more in later episodes. Murphy would soon be raised to the status of full cast member.
The 1980-1981 season would ultimately prove to be such a disaster that NBC fired Jean Doumanian and everybody in the cast with the exception of Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Whereas Murphy had rarely been featured during Doumanian's tenure, he became a break-out star under Doumanian's replacement, Dick Ebersol. Murphy's soaring popularity helped restore the show's ratings. He created some of the period's best characters, including the empty-headed former child movie star Buckwheat and an irascible, life-size version of the Gumby toy character, complete with life-size star ego. Murphy could also pull off an uncanny impression of Stevie Wonder (who, sportingly, appeared in a fake ad for Polaroid cameras). SNL was mostly a two-man show from 1981–1984, with Murphy and Piscopo playing a bulk of the lead characters. All other cast members played supporting roles and were treated with very little patience by the producers.
Post SNL career
In 1982, Murphy made his big screen debut in the cop-buddy thriller 48 Hrs. alongside Nick Nolte. The movie was perhaps most notable for a scene involving Murphy (on a bet with Nolte) terrorizing a redneck bar. 48 Hrs. proved to be a smash hit when it was released in the Christmas season of 1982. Murphy and Nolte's comedic and antagonistic chemistry, alongside Murphy's believable performance as a streetwise convict aiding a bitter, aging cop, won over critics and audiences. 48 Hrs. is considered by some to be the originator of the now tried and true mismatched, police, action-adventure formula (which was followed by the likes of Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and Rush Hour).
Nick Nolte was scheduled to host the December 11, 1982 Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, but he became too ill to host, so Murphy took over as host. He became the only cast member to host while still a regular. Murphy opened the show with the phrase, "Live from New York, It's the Eddie Murphy Show!" The decision to have Eddie Murphy host was reported to have upset the rest of the cast.
The following year, Murphy co-starred with fellow SNL alummus Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. Trading Places marked the first of Murphy's collaborations with director John Landis (who also directed Murphy in Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop III) and proved to be an even greater box office success than 48 Hrs.
In 1984, Murphy starred in the mega hit Beverly Hills Cop. Beverly Hills Cop, which was arguably Eddie Murphy's first full-fledged starring vehicle, was originally intended to star Sylvester Stallone. Beverly Hills Cop grossed over $200 million at the box office (thus, solidifying Murphy's status as a box office player) and for nearly 20 years, was the highest grossing R-rated movie of all-time (a record that has since been broken by The Matrix Reloaded).
Also in 1984, Murphy appeared in Best Defense featuring Dudley Moore. Murphy, who was credited as a "Strategic Guest Star", was added to the film after an original version was complete and tested poorly with audiences. Best Defense was a major critical and financial disappointment but Murphy was for the most part left unscathed since the entire weight of the movie wasn't on his shoulders.
Eddie Murphy has also been rumored to be initially a part of hits such as Ghostbusters (featuring his Trading Places co-star Dan Aykroyd and fellow SNL alummus Bill Murray). The part that was originally written with Murphy in mind ultimately went to Ernie Hudson. Murphy was also rumored to had been offered a part in 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (a role that ultimately went to 7th Heaven star Catherine Hicks).
Also in 1986, Murphy starred in the supernatural comedy, The Golden Child. The Golden Child was originally intended to be a serious adventure picture starring Mel Gibson. After Gibson turned the role down, the project was offered to Murphy as it was subsequently rewritten as a partial comedy. Although The Golden Child still managed to be a hit (with memorable bits such as Murphy's "I want the knife!" routine), the movie wasn't as critically acclaimed as 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. The Golden Child was perhaps a radical change of pace for Murphy considering the supernatural setting (which is ironic considering that he was offered a part in the more favorable Ghostbusters) as opposed to the more gritty and/or "street smart" settings of Murphy's previous efforts.
A year later, Murphy reprised his role Axel Foley in the Tony Scott directed Beverly Hills Cop II. Although Beverly Hills Cop II wasn't as critically acclaimed as its 1984 predecessor (Beverly Hills Cop II was trashed by critics for its perceived misogyny, general mean-spirited tone, and overall ridiculous plot), it was still a box office smash, grossing over $150 million. Producers reportedly wanted to turn the Beverly Hills Cop franchise into a weekly television series. Murphy though declined the TV route but was willing to do a sequel instead.
Eddie Murphy was one of the last movie actors to sign an exclusive contract with a studio. In this case, it was Paramount Pictures, which released all of his early films.
Murphy was also a singer, and had two hit singles, "Party All the Time," (which was produced by Rick James) and "Put Your Mouth on Me," in the 1980s. The former is better known than the other, and is incorrectly considered Murphy's only hit. Intended as dance music, the song was repetitious and resembled the adolescent-driven bubblegum music of the '60s and '70s. As a result, there was a distinct disconnect between "Party" and fans of Murphy's edgier comedic persona. In 2004, VH-1 and Blender magazine voted "Party" number seven among the "50 Worst Songs of All Time," barely behind such efforts as Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice, Baby" and Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy, Breaky Heart."
Murphy also recorded an album in the early 1990s, entitled "Whazzupwitu" in which he performed in a video of the single of the same name, alongside Michael Jackson. In 1999, the "Whazzupwitu" video which featured Murphy and Jackson in a technicolor-like dream world was voted as one of the 25 worst music videos in the MTV era. In 1992, Murphy also appeared in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" video alongside fellow celebrities Magic Johnson and Iman.
In the late 80's and early 90's, Murphy's fame was fading via a series of poor sequels (i.e. Another 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop III), drab comedies (i.e. Boomerang and The Distinguished Gentleman), and ego-driven vehicles (i.e. Harlem Nights and Vampire in Brooklyn) that the public avoided in droves. His directorial debut, Harlem Nights was savaged not only by the critics, but also by several of the actors in the film. Richard Pryor had nothing good to say about the film or the star, which stunned Murphy, who had considered Pryor an idol. Murphy was also criticized tremendously by film maker Spike Lee for not using his show business stature to help black actors break into film.
Perhaps the lowest point for Murphy was when David Spade insulted Murphy on his Hollywood Minute segment on Saturday Night Live. With a caption of Murphy on screen, Spade said "Look children, a falling star... Quick, make a wish!" Although Murphy is arguably the biggest movie star ever to come out of Saturday Night Live (an argument can also be made for Adam Sandler), he has never attended any cast reunions or anniversary specials. Some believe that it has to do with Murphy feeling that SNL (the show that gave him his big break) betrayed him with Spade's comments. Others believe it has to do with Murphy having no allegiance to Lorne Michaels, since Murphy was on SNL when Dick Ebersol was the executive producer, not Michaels.
Comeback and Image Makeover
Murphy's career continued to slide until 1996, when he would make his comeback in family-friendly comedies (likely reflecting Murphy's new life as a responsible father), starting with The Nutty Professor. His record since then has been hit and miss, with several big flops (Holy Man, Metro, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, and Showtime) and some hits (Mulan, Dr. Doolittle, Bowfinger, Shrek, Daddy Day Care, and The Haunted Mansion).
On May 2, 1997, Los Angeles police stopped Murphy's car and found a transgendered prostitute named Shalimar (Atisone Seiuli) in the passenger's seat. Murphy claimed that he was just been driving through and the prostitute asked him for a ride home. This incident was later lampooned by Tim Meadows on Saturday Night Live. This particular sketch, along with the aforementioned comments from David Spade, reportedly created an even greater rift between Murphy and SNL.
In August 2005, Murphy's wife Nicole Mitchell filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." The couple wed on March 18, 1993 and they have five children together. They met in 1988 at a NAACP Image Awards show. They lived together for a year and a half before they married. They were married at the Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
- 48 Hours, 1982, Reggie Hammond
- Trading Places, 1983, Billy Ray Valentine
- Eddie Murphy Delirious, 1983, Eddie Murphy
- Best Defense, 1984, Landry
- Beverly Hills Cop, 1984, Axel Foley
- The Golden Child, 1986, Chandler Jarrell
- Beverly Hills Cop II, 1987, Axel Foley
- Eddie Murphy Raw, 1987, Eddie Murphy
- Coming to America, 1988, Prince Akeem/Clarence/Saul/Randy Watson
- Harlem Nights, 1989, Quick
- Another 48 Hours, 1990, Reggie Hammond
- Boomerang, 1992, Marcus Graham
- The Distinguished Gentleman, 1992, Thomas Jefferson Johnson
- Beverly Hills Cop III, 1994, Axel Foley
- Vampire in Brooklyn, 1995, Maximillian/Father Pauley/Guido
- The Nutty Professor, 1996, Sherman Klump/Buddy Love/Lance Perkins/Papa Klump/Mama Klump/Grandma Klump/Ernie Klump
- Metro, 1997, Scott Roper
- Dr. Dolittle, 1998, Dr. John Dolittle
- Holy Man, 1998, G
- Mulan, 1998, Mushu (voice)
- Bowfinger, 1999, Kit Ramsey/Jeff Ramsey
- Life, 1999, Ray Gibson
- Nutty Professor II. The Klumps, 2000, Sherman Klump/Buddy Love/Grandma Klump/Mama Klump/Papa Klump/Young Papa Klump/Ernie Klump/Lance Perkins
- Dr. Dolittle 2, 2001, Dr. Dolittle
- Shrek, 2001, Donkey (voice)
- The Adventures of Pluto Nash, 2002, Pluto Nash
- I Spy, 2002, Kelly Robinson
- Showtime, 2002, Trey Sellars
- Daddy Day Care, 2003, Charlie Hinton
- The Haunted Mansion, 2003, Jim Evers
- Shrek 2, 2004, Donkey (voice)
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