He's been one of Hollywood's greatest titans for more than four decades, and he's one of the best comedians of all time. It's our pleasure to highlight for Black History Month this icon of icons, Eddie Murphy.
How You Know Him
You know him as the star of the acclaimed "Dolemite Is My Name." You know him as the Academy Award nominated co-star of "Dreamgirls." You know him as the voice of Donkey from all the "Shrek" movies, and as the voice of the dragon Mushu in "Mulan." You know him as the star of '90s films like "The Nutty Professor" and "Bowfinger" and "Boomerang." You know him as the biggest box office star of the '80s, appearing in hit after hit from "48 Hrs." to "Trading Places" to "Beverly Hills Cop" to "The Golden Child" to "Beverly Hills Cop II" to "Coming to America."
He was also one of the biggest stand-up comedians of the '80s, going on tour to sold-out crowds, and starring in two specials, "Delirious" and "Raw."
You also know him as one of the biggest stars in "Saturday Night Live" history, playing hilarious characters from Gumby to Buckwheat to James Brown (in the hot tub) to Mr. Robinson. At the end of 2019, he made a triumphant return to the show as a host, reviving his cherished characters, and winning an Emmy in the process.
In just a couple of weeks, he'll make another triumphant return, more than 30 years later, as one of his most beloved characters, Prince Akeem (now king), in the sequel, "Coming 2 America."
Their Life So Far
Eddie has been entertaining audiences most of his life. He grew up in Brooklyn with his older brother Charlie (who was a comedian as well, gaining fame on "Chappelle's Show"). After hearing Richard Pryor comedy albums, the young Murphy began forming his own act and imitations, drawing inspiration from Pryor, Peter Sellers, Robin Williams, Redd Foxx, Bruce Lee, and others.
By his teen years, Murphy was already performing in clubs around the New York City area. At age 19, he was cast on Saturday Night Live, and over the next 5 years, he would skyrocket to stardom on the show and in feature films.
Over the next decade, Murphy starred in comedy classics like "48 Hrs.," "Trading Places," "Beverly Hills Cop," and "Coming to America," as well as the stand-up set "Delirious" (which rightfully should also be criticized for some of its views). The "Delirious" set would go on to influence Black comedians for generations, everyone from Dave Chapelle to Chris Rock to Kevin Hart and others.
While Murphy's box office receipts somewhat dimmed in the '90s, he was still appearing in huge successes like "Boomerang" and "The Nutty Professor" and "Dr. Dolittle" and "Mulan" and "Bowfinger." By the '00s, Murphy was celebrated as the voice of Donkey in "Shrek" movies, and earned the Oscar nomination for "Dreamgirls."
His projects have been less frequent in the last 10 years, but he was fantastic in "Tower Heist," earned more critics awards for "Dolemite Is My Name" and he was welcomed back after more than three decades as a still amazing and funny host on SNL.
Murphy's also a huge family man, with 10 kids, and a happy life onscreen and off. When he hosted SNL, comedians Dave Chapelle, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and Kenan Thompson appeared alongside him. Nearly 40 years after he'd started his career, it made sense that their generations would pay tribute to him.
The Movie to Watch
"Dolemite Is My Name" is a standout project for Murphy. Nominated for Golden Globes for Best Film and Best Actor for Murphy, it's a hilarious and heartfelt story about real-life Rudy Ray Moore, who starred in the '70s in blaxploitation hit films as the Dolemite character. Murphy's also a producer on the film. It's truly one of the best projects to showcase both his comedic and dramatic chops. It's also an insight into how much more Murphy has to offer as he enters his fifth decade in the industry.
What's Up Next
Mark it on your calendars. Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, Jermaine Fowler, James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson and more are all "Coming 2 America" on Prime Video on March 5, 2021.
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Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.