From his legendary characters on “Saturday Night Live” to his outrageous comedy specials, Eddie Murphy is probably one of the most recognizable comedians of his generation. Born in 1961 and raised in Long Island, Eddie spent most of his childhood as the class clown, even performing for money while he was still in school. By the time he turned 18, Eddie was already a headlining act on the comedy circuit, so it’s not very surprising that “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels was so quick to bring in the rising talent at such a young age. As a cast member for the late-night skit show, Eddie quickly became a crowd favorite with characters like Buckwheat, Gumby and James Brown, but after only four years on the show, he quickly made his exit for Hollywood; thanks in part to the success of his first few films (“48 Hrs.” and “Trading Places”).
By 1984, Eddie’s career was flourishing. “Beverly Hills Cop” had just become a smash hit at the box office, and his first comedy record, Delirious, earned him a Grammy. Rounding out the ‘80s with films like “The Golden Child,” Beverly Hills Cop 2,” and “Coming to America” only made his star shine brighter, and he even topped his earlier record with a follow-up (Raw) that remains his best to date. The early ‘90s didn’t treat Eddie quite as well as the past decade, but after releasing a string of bad films (like “Boomerang,” and “Beverly Hills Cop 3”), he was still coming out on top. Still, many look to his 1996 remake of “The Nutty Professor” as the actor’s true return to form, and though the rest of the decade was padded with kid-friendly projects like “Mulan” and “Dr. Doolitle,” it appeared that Eddie was finally back to his old self.
The above statement held true for a couple years. Eddie made the highly underrated “Bowfinger” with “SNL” alum Steve Martin, created a prime time animated series (“The PJs”) for FOX, and even provided the voice of Donkey for DreamWorks’ animated film, “Shrek,” but as was becoming a pattern for Eddie’s career, all good things must come to an end. Before he knew it, the comedian’s reputation was sinking yet again with a series of box office flops like “Showtime,” the abysmal sci-fi comedy “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” and the big-screen adaptation of “I Spy.” None of these performed quite as well as many had expected, and so Eddie quickly gave in to earning the easy paycheck with appearances in “Dr. Doolitle 2,” “Shrek 2” and “Daddy Day Care.”
And just when we had finally given up hope that Eddie would ever surprise the moviegoing public again, his award-winning dramatic turn in “Dreamgirls” has single-handedly breathed new life into his career. Unfortunately, Eddie has gone on record as saying that he’s not entirely keen on the serious roles, so this might just be a one-time deal. Still, if this produces even one good comedy from the veteran actor in the next decade, we can all agree that it’s probably better than nothing.
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Eddie on the Screen
Eddie's career has been one of the biggest rollercoaster rides of just about any stand-up comedian looking to break in to acting. Originally appearing as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," Eddie quickly made a name for himself as a box office superstar with starring roles in "48 Hrs.," "Beverly Hills" Cop" and "Coming to America." Future sequels ("Another 48 Hrs." and "Beverly Hills Cop 2") also bode well for Eddie, while cult classics like "The Golden Child" helped to boost his starpower. His box office draw also helped to make his stand-up specials ("Delirious," "Raw") instant classics. The late '80s and early '90s weren't so kind to him, however, with a series of flops including "Harlem Nights," "Vampire in Brooklyn" and "Metro," but he quickly bounced back (quite literally) with a remake of "The Nutty Professor." Since then, Eddie has appeared in several more flops ("Holy Man," "The Adventures of Pluto Nash"), hits ("Dr. Doolittle," "Daddy Day Care"), and even voiced a few animated characters ("Mulan," "Shrek").
Fresh off his very first Academy Award nomination, Eddie will look to reclaim his comedy crown over the next few years with a whole slew of projects. This year finds Eddie donning the fat suit again in "Norbit," as well as returning in the role of Donkey for "Shrek the Third" and "Shrek the Halls," the television Chrismas special. Future projects include a revisit to the sci-fi/comedy genre with "Starship Dave," the family comedy "NowhereLand," an untitled blue collar comedy with Chris Rock, and untitled Romeo & Julier film, and yes, even "Shrek 4."
From the Mouth of Eddie
"I don't think more concentration is required for Robert De Niro to do what he does as for Jim Carrey to do what he does."
On the sudden surge of family flicks:
"I'm 42 and the age of a guy who has kids, so I guess I'm playing right where I'm supposed to be. I'm comfortable with that, but in the same breath I'd do something edgy. If someone came to me and offered me an edgy and funny story, then I'd do it."