Murphy was born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. His mother, Lillian, was a telephone operator, and his father, Charles Edward Murphy, was a transit police officer and an amateur actor and comedian. His father died when he was young. When Murphy’s single mother became ill, the eight-year-old and his older brother lived in fostercare for one year. In interviews, Murphy has said that his time in foster care was influential in developing his sense of humor. Later, he and his older brother Charlie were raised in Roosevelt, new York by his mother and stepfather Vernon Lynch, a foreman at an ice cream plant. Around the age of 15, Murphy was writing and performing his own routines, which were heavily influenced by Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor.
His early comedy was characterized by frequent swearing and sketches lampooning a diverse group of people (including White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs), African Americans, Italian Americans, overweight people, and gay people). Murphy released two stand-up specials. Eddie Murphy was his first album, released in 1982.Delirious was filmed in 1983 in Washington, D.C. Due to the popularity of Delirious, his concert film Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) received a wide theatrical release, grossing $50 million; the movie was filmed in the Felt Forum section of Madison Square Garden in New York.
1980s acting career
Murphy first earned national attention as a cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL), and was credited with helping to revitalize the show during the early 1980s. His notable characters included a grownup version of the Little Rascals character Buckwheat; a street-wise children’s show host named Mr. Robinson (a spoof of Fred Rogers, who found it amusing); and a morose, cynical Gumby, whose trademark slogan became an SNL catchphrase: “I’m Gumby, dammit!”The Buckwheat character was retired in spectacular fashion—assassinated, on camera, in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza —at Murphy’s request, after he grew tired of constant demands from fans to “Do Buckwheat! Do Buckwheat!” In Rolling Stone magazine’s February, 2015 appraisal of all 141 SNL cast members to date, Murphy was ranked second (behind John Belushi). “It is customary (and accurate) to say that Eddie Murphy is the only reason SNL survived the five-year wilderness without Lorne Michaels,” they noted.
In 1982, Murphy made his big screen debut in the film 48 Hrs with Nick Nolte 48 Hrs. proved to be a hit when it was released in the Christmas season of 1982. Nolte was scheduled to host the December 11, 1982, Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, but became too ill to host, so Murphy took over. 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 following year, Murphy starred in Trading Places with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd. The movie marked the first of Murphy’s collaborations with director John Landis (who also directed Murphy in Coming to America and Beverley Hills Cop 3 and proved to be an even greater box office success than 48 Hrs. In 1984, Murphy starred in the successful action comedy film Beverley Hills Cop The film was Murphy’s first starring role. Beverly Hills Cop grossed over $230 million at the box office and as of August 2012 was 41st in the list of all-time total U.S. box office grossers (4th-highest amongst “R” rated films), after adjusting for inflation.
In 1984, Murphy appeared in best Defense, co-starring Dudley Moore. Murphy, who was credited as a “Strategic Guest Star”, was added to the film after an original version was completed but tested poorly with audiences. Best Defense was a major financial and critical disappointment. When he hosted SNL, Murphy joined the chorus of those bashing Best Defense, calling it “the worst movie in the history of everything”. Murphy’s Trading Places co-star Dan Aykroyd had originally written the character of Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters specifically for Murphy, but he was unable to commit at the time due to the Beverley Hills Cop shooting schedule. The part ultimately went to Ernie Hudson. Murphy was also offered a part in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a role that, after being heavily re-written from comic relief to love interest, ultimately went to future 7th Heaven star Catherine Hicks. By this point Murphy’s near-exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures rivaled Star Trek as Paramount’s most lucrative franchise.
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 (featuring Murphy’s “I want the knife!” routine) performed well at the box office, the movie was not as critically acclaimed as 48 Hrs, Trading Places and Beverley Hills Cop. The Golden Childwas considered a change of pace for Murphy because of the supernatural setting as opposed to the more “street smart” settings of Murphy’s previous efforts. A year later, Murphy reprised his role of Axel Foley in the Tony Scott-directed Beverley Hills Cop II. It was a box office success, grossing almost $300 million worldwide. Producers reportedly wanted to turn the Beverly Hills Cop franchise into a weekly television series. Murphy declined the television offer, but was willing to do a film sequel instead.
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 is also a singer, having frequently provided background vocals to songs released by The Bus Boys, which their song “The Boys Are Back in Town” was featured in 48 Hrs and Murphy’s comedy special Eddie Murphy Delirious. As a solo artist, Murphy had two hit singles, “Party All The Time” (which was produced by Rick James and “Put Your Mouth on Me” in the mid-1980s (although he actually started singing earlier in his career, with the songs “Boogie in Your Butt” and “Enough Is Enough”, the latter being a parody of Barbra Streisand and Donna Summers’ 1979 song, “No More Tears”. They both appear on his 1982 self-titled comedy album.) “Party All the Time” was featured on Murphy’s 1985 debut album How Could It Be which included a minor follow-up R&B hit in the title track, a duet with vocalist Crystal Blake. This track was written by Rusty Hamilton and was produced by Stevie Wonder’s cousin Aquil Fudge after a brief falling out and bet with Rick James. In 2004, VH-1 and Blender voted “Party All the Time” number seven among the “50 Worst Songs of All-Time.” Sharam used a sample of the song for the UK No. 8 hit “PATT (Party All The Time)” in 2006.
Murphy recorded the album Love’s Alright in the early 1990s. He performed in a music video of the single “Whatzupwitu”, featuring Micheal Jackson. He recorded a duet with Shabba Ranks called “I Was a King”. In 1992, Murphy appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” alongside Magic Johnson and Iman.
Though uncredited, Murphy provided vocal work on SNL castmate Joe Piscopo’s comedy single, “The Honeymooners Rap.” Piscopo impersonated Jackie Gleason on the single, while Murphy provided an imitation of Art Carney.
In Coming to America, he imitated Jackie Wilson when he sang “To Be Loved”, but because the character he was playing had a thick accent, he had to sing it in character. In later years, Murphy performed several songs in the Shrek film franchise. In the first film, he performed a version of “I’m a Believer” in the film’s final scene; in Shrek 2 he performed Ricky Martin’s hit “Livin’ La Vida Loca” along with co-star Antonio Banderas.
In 2013 he released his first single in years titled “Red Light”, a reggae song featuring Snoop Lion. He is also working on a new album titled 9.
From 1989 and through most of the early 1990s, box office results and reviews for Murphy’s films were strong, but by 1992 results for both dropped, hitting a low point with the critically panned Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), a movie Murphy would ultimately denounce during an appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, although he did find box office success with Boomerang and Another 48 Hrs. Harlem Nights featured Murphy, who had previously been known only as a performer, as director, producer, star, and co-writer, with his brother, Charlie Murphy, as well as supporting roles for Murphy’s comic idols Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor.
During this period Murphy was criticized by filmmaker Spike Lee for not using his show business stature to help black actors break into film, despite Murphy’s films (especially those he produced) often being populated with predominantly black casts (Coming To America, Harlem Nights, Boomerang, Vampire in Brooklyn, Life). Many black actors who would later gain wider recognition make early appearances in Murphy films such as Damon Wayans in Beverly Hills Cop, Halle Berry and Martin Lawrence in Boomerang, Samuel L. Jackson and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Coming to America, Dave Chappelle in The Nutty Professor and Chris Rock in Beverly Hills Cop II.
Although Murphy has enjoyed commercial success since Saturday Night Live, he did not participate in the making of the Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live retrospective book by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller (2002), nor did he ever attend cast reunions or anniversary specials until his appearance on the SNL 40th anniversary special. Murphy’s box office results began to recover in 1996, starting with The Nutty Professor.
1998 to present
He followed with a series of very successful family-friendly movies like Mulan, Dr. Dolittle and its sequel, theShrek series, Daddy Day Care, and The Haunted Mansion, along with Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. However, most of his movies meant for more adult audiences performed moderately; Metro, I Spy, andShowtime all tended to gross less than $40 million domestically, Holy Man performed poorly, grossing less than $13 million, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash is on record as one of the biggest theatrical money-losers of all time, grossing just $7 million worldwide on a reported $110 million budget. A notable exception to this run of poorly received adult-themed films was the Frank Oz comedy Bowfinger, also starring Steve Martin. The film garnered generally positive critical reviews, and grossed $98 million at the box office.
In 2006, he starred in the motion picture version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls as soul singer James “Thunder” Early. Murphy won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award in that category. Several reviews for the film highlighted Murphy’s performance while he received some pre-release Academy Awards buzz. Murphy was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on January 23, 2007, but lost to Alan Arkinfor his performance in Little Miss Sunshine – there was a suggestion that one of the reasons Murphy lost out on winning the Academy Award were the negative reviews of his subsequent film Norbit, released in early February 2007. Dreamgirls was the first film distributed by Paramount Pictures to star Murphy (who once was on an exclusive contract with the studio) since Vampire in Brooklyn in 1995.
In 2007, Murphy was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a result ofViacom’s acquisition of DreamWorks, Paramount distributed his other 2007 releases: Norbit and Shrek the Third. He starred in the 2008 film Meet Dave and the 2009 film Imagine That for Paramount Pictures.
Murphy co-starred in Tower Heist, directed by Brett Ratner. Murphy played a thief who joins a group of hardworking men who find out they have fallen victim to a wealthy businessman’s Ponzi scheme, and conspire to rob his high-rise residence. Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, and Casey Affleck also starred in the film, released on November 4, 2011.
It was reported in 2011 that Murphy would host the 84th Academy Awards in 2012. However, he dropped out of his hosting duties on November 9, 2011, in the wake of the Brett Ratner scandal.
On December 6, 2013, it was announced that Murphy would star in the fourth film of the Beverly Hills Cop series. Brett Ratner will direct the film, Jerry Bruckheimer is confirmed to produce the film, and Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec will write. In a June 2014 interview Murphy discussed the plot of the film stating that it would take place in Detroit and they would actually film in Detroit bringing in an estimated $56.6 million to the state of Michigan.
On March 8, 2014, it was announced that Murphy would team up with Boomerang co-star Halle Berry in a new film titled Miles And Me. The film also stars Laurence Fishburne and is set to begin pre-production later this year and is supposedly from Paramount Pictures. No other word yet on what the film is about or who else is attached.
Murphy will co-star with actress Britt Robertson in the upcoming drama Cook.
On March 15, 2015, it was announced that Murphy will play comedian Richard Pryor’s father, LeRoy Pryor, in the upcoming biopic directed by Lee Daniels with Mike Epps playing Pryor.
Murphy began a longtime romantic relationship with Nicole Mitchell (born January 5, 1968) after meeting her in 1988 at an NAACP Image Awards show. They lived together for almost two years before getting married at the Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel in New York City on March 18, 1993. Murphy and Mitchell had five children together: Bria L. Murphy (born November 18, 1989), Myles Mitchell (born November 7, 1992), Shayne Audra (born October 10, 1994), Zola Ivy (born December 24, 1999) and Bella Zahra (born January 29, 2002). In August 2005, Mitchell filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. The divorce was finalized on April 17, 2006.
He also has a child by Tamara Hood: son Christian Murphy (born on November 29, 1990), and another child by Paulette McNeely: son Eric Murphy (born on July 10, 1989).
As of 2008, Murphy resides in Long Island, New York.
Following his divorce from Mitchell, in 2006, Murphy began dating former Spice Girl Melanie Brown, who became pregnant and stated that the child was Murphy’s. When questioned about the pregnancy in December 2006, by RTL Boulevard, Murphy told Dutch reporter Matthijs Kleyn, “I don’t know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, sir”. Brown gave birth to a baby girl, Angel Iris Murphy Brown, on Murphy’s 46th birthday, April 3, 2007. On June 22, 2007, representatives for Brown announced in People that a DNA test had confirmed that Murphy was the father. Brown had stated in an interview that Murphy has not sought a relationship with Angel, although it was later reported in 2010 that Murphy was getting to know her.
Murphy exchanged marriage vows with film producer Tracey Edmonds, former wife of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, on January 1, 2008, in a private ceremony on an island off Bora Bora. On January 16, 2008, the couple released a statement saying, “After much consideration and discussion, we have jointly decided that we will forgo having a legal ceremony as it is not necessary to define our relationship further,” and called the Bora Bora wedding a “symbolic union”. The two had planned on having a legal ceremony upon their return to the U.S. but did not, and their wedding was never official.
It is assumed that he and Tracy Edmonds broke up at some point, as Eddie Murphy began dating Paige Butcher in 2012.
In 1988 Art Buchwald sued Murphy and Paramount Pictures, alleging that they had used ideas from a screenplay he had submitted to Paramount as the basis for Murphy’s film Coming to America. In 1992 Buchwald was awarded $150,000 in a summary judgment; Buchwald’s producing partner, Alan Bernheim, was awarded $750,000. Both sides described the outcome as a “victory”.
Murphy has donated money to the AIDS Foundation, and cancer, education, creative arts, family/parent support, health and homeless charities. He has donated to the Martin Luther King Jr Center, various cancer charities and $100,000 to the Screen Actors Guild strike relief fund.
Jummy Ariyo (Baroness J)
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