Despite Flops, Studios Still Want Eddie Murphy. Why? (An Analogy You'll Love)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
April 11, 2012 4:27 PM
11 Comments
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Found this old piece on the New York Times website, though still thought it relevant today, in light of recent Eddie Murphy *events.*

If you've wondered, as I have, why, over the last several years, Eddie Murphy somehow continues to star in big-budgeted studio film after film, given the percentage that are substantial critical and commercial flops (especially relative to their often hefty budgets), wonder no more. The NY Times' Brooks Barnes explains it all, making what at first seems illogical to us, logical.

The article's first sentence is a rather harsh quote from Rick Bentley of The Fresno Bee in California, although it probably echoes the thoughts of many: "If Eddie Murphy’s career were an injured horse, it would be shot and the carcass buried in the remotest part of the desert to ensure no one ever stumbled upon it.”

Um... ouch much? Keep reading...

In short, as I understand it, Barnes claims the reasons for Murphy's puzzling studio desirability can be summed up using an American football analogy. I'll do my best to explain: Eddie's like that workhorse running back the QB keeps feeding the ball to, even though he only picks up a yard or two on each play, and sometimes even gets dropped for losses; yet the coach and the QB keep feeding him the ball because, as he's proven previously, and as they know, he'll break out on one long 50-yarder for a touchdown, sooner or later. So, the coach will take the occasional 10-yard loss on a run play, or even the fumble, because he knows his running back is bound to make up for it on those 2 or 3 big plays that will go all the way, and even win the game for the team!

That's Eddie Murphy - at least, that's how the studios regard him, if Brooks Barnes' piece is accurate. He's a big play guy... or something. Why take the chance on an uproven running back who may or may not give the team what it needs, when you've got an established player whose patterns you've come to acclimate yourself to, and who the fans still know and love?

Make sense?

Here's a snippet of Barnes' article:

Why does Hollywood keep hiring this man? The answer — multifaceted but almost universally agreed upon by moviedom’s power players — offers insights into how the gears of the modern motion picture business grind. Mr. Murphy is still considered Hollywood royalty, if no longer a member of the A-list then the solid B-plus.

One reason is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, studios have long memories. 

People who prophesied that his career was over in 2002 with “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” which cost about $100 million to make but only sold about $7 million worldwide in tickets, looked awfully foolish when “Norbit” arrived five years later. It cost about $60 million and featured him in a fat suit, sold $159 million worldwide in tickets and was a smash on DVD.

“He is explosive, given the right project, the right circumstances, the right concept, the right director,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation and a friend. What of the notion that Mr. Murphy has lost his movie mojo? “Absolute nonsense,” Mr. Katzenberg said.

There you have it. Explosive in the right circumstances! What better way to describe a running back in the mold I laid out in my explanation?

"Absolute nonsense," says Katzenberg. And he would know, right?

You can read the rest of the informative article HERE, where you'll learn about the rejected Richard Pryor biopic Eddie was once attached to star in, the third Nutty Professor movie that was in development at the time, as well as Eddie's apparently diva-ish ways.

Say it ain't so Eddie...

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11 Comments

  • anon | April 13, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    He was good in dreamgirls and It reminded me why he was such a talent so long ago. Hey, he even got oscar nominated for it.

  • Monique A. Williams | April 12, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    My 11 year old daughter loves Eddie Murphy from Delerious, Harlem Nights, Coming to America, Shrek(s), and yes, Norbit. His work needs no explanation to those who get it.

    Me? I think Eddie Murphy knows exactly how to make a movie I'm not interested in seeing. I even gave him a chance for Tower Heist. WTF is that accent he does?????? I'll take old school Eddie anyday.

  • J. Bernard Jones | April 12, 2012 10:30 AMReply

    "Explosive in the right circumstances" also describes diarrhea.

  • SF | April 11, 2012 10:49 PMReply

    Sorry, in my previous post, I meant to say 'far more difficult genre to master'

  • SF | April 11, 2012 10:48 PMReply

    Eddie Murphy is and always will be an A-List personality. When you consider this entire body of work, he deserves the same praise we heap on Denzel and Morgan Freeman. Actually, he's accomplished a more impressive body of work than those gentlemen. Eddie is a comedic actor, which is a far more genre to master. And no one has done it better than Eddie over the past 30 years!

    And, no, I'm not family. Never met him. Just someone who goes back to Eddie's Saturday Night Live days.

  • lilkunta | April 12, 2012 4:02 PM

    SF eddie WAS alist. i agree he is strong b list now. i am considering his entire body of work. for you to compare eddie to denzel is foolish. Denzel was steven biko, denzel was malcolm x, denzel was hurrican carter, denzel was an anguished father trying to get his son a new heart in John Q, and so much more. To compare eddie's work to Denzel's is wrong IMO.

  • B | April 12, 2012 12:05 AM

    Agreed.

  • SF | April 11, 2012 10:44 PMReply

    @WOW- Eddie Murphy is far, far from wasted talent. You must know nothing about his career or be in high school.

  • WOW | April 11, 2012 9:46 PMReply

    the argument makes sense. i just view him as wasted talent.

  • Akimbo | April 11, 2012 7:43 PMReply

    He's still funny, despite the stupid movies. I know he's a dick and has whatever personal issues, but I like him.

  • UK Lady | April 11, 2012 7:26 PMReply

    I actually think Eddie Murphy is a decent actor. He is like John Travolta - all depends on the script and director. As for Norbert, that film was awful, but my teenage nieces thought it was hilarious, so I guess I wasn't the right demographic for it. Remember we also had 3 or 4 American Pie movies too!

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