The actor is starring in a new film, “Dolemite Is My Name,” which is released this Friday on the streaming platform Netflix. Where did he go?
“In life, I don’t look anything like the characters I’ve played,” Warns Eddie Murphy on this fall afternoon in a living room at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. So, please not confuse him with the one he plays in Dolemite Is My Name (launched on October 25 on Netflix): the flamboyant Rudy Ray Moore, comedian and cult actor of the seventies thanks to a series of outrageous films in the genre black exploitation where he embodied the eponymous Dolemite, a pimp with a well-stocked repertoire of obscenities, a nightclub owner and an incidental kung fu enthusiast.
“I discovered him as a teenager and his very raw humor had amazed me,” he recalls. “He probably wasn’t up to a Richard Pryor who remains, by far, the best and most hilarious in the genre, but he possessed something uniquely irresistible. And that was all his charm, even if he wasn’t very handsome and was nothing likely to make him a star. Without always being the funniest, he believed in himself without anything to shake his determination to bring his projects to fruition and pursue his dreams. No rejections, no empty passages or criticisms. This is what makes him a character with an atypical background inspiring to me.
Murphy had kind of disappeared from the radar in recent years. Others who are visibly inspired by him, such as Kevin Hart, in particular, have in the meantime earned their stripes with a new generation by applying a similar formula and approach. He doesn’t care. At 58, he takes a lucid and nostalgic look at forty years of an extraordinary career.
“I can claim to have had a dream life,” he says. “I was so young and everything happened to me very quickly, I saw it all as self-evident! When I was 18, I found myself on Saturday Night Live, two years later, I was on the bill for 48 hours and I’m still here today after about 40 films on my counter, some of which were huge successes. So, I don’t have to complain or regret failures. It never dented my self-confidence and my belief that I was always able to make people laugh.
You don’t win every time. It’s the law of business and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sacred king of the box office since the 1980s, he has easily accommodated fame. “I knew I was popular,” he admits with a smile, “and I never felt any pressure. Success didn’t scare me. It seemed natural to me. Today, in hindsight, I remain stunned when I think back to this period because it was rather incredible.
He is currently filming a sequel to the Prince in New York, reuniting thirty years after his character Prince Akeem for an opus that he promises just as feel good. “Over time, the original resonated more than any other of my films with an audience of all ages who love these characters.
So, it’s a continuation of their adventures and we’ve found a way to reconnect them for what is ultimately a fairy tale without a political message. He will follow up with a fourth installment of the Beverly Hills Cop, in the role of Axel Foley who made him a superstar in 1984. But most importantly, he just signed a juicy deal estimated at $70 million with Netflix for a series of one-man shows.
In 2020 he will embark on a world tour marking his return to stand-up after a very long break. “I had quit at the age of 27 because I was no longer having fun and also because my priority was the cinema at the time. Recently, I was intrigued by the idea of starting over, knowing that the landscape in this area has changed a lot in recent years. It has become a global phenomenon reflecting a great diversity.
So, I’m curious to get back on stage. I haven’t read newspapers for 20 years, I’ve been going through long periods where I don’t even look at the news, so don’t count on me to talk about controversial current issues. Which is not to say that I am not informed of what is going on. But I will talk exclusively about myself, my experience, my family and just being on this planet. I do not seek provocation or shock at all costs like others.
Busy schedule for those who refuse to be talked about as a comeback. “I don’t see it that way at all, even if it’s perceived that way,” he protests. “Simply, I don’t work like When I was making a film on the industry with a frantic rhythm. Besides, it wasn’t that much fun, contrary to what you might think. That time is over. Having said that, if great scripts with great directors come along, I’ll be receptive.
To tell you the truth, my priority remains at the end of the day to be able to spend the most time at home on my couch, within earshot of my children. This is probably the main reason for his “absence” on the screens: he has ten! On the other hand, he still does not have a computer and confesses that he only recently bought a mobile phone. He claims his allergy to Twitter. “I belong to the old school and being connected to social networks has never tempted me or even interested me.
Nothing is more terrifying to me than the idea of having millions of followers! What makes him laugh today? The answer is fuzzy. “So many things, but mostly my children! They’re making me crack. Especially my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Would he imagine that Hollywood could one day dedicate a biopic to him? “Oh, no,” he scoffs. “My life is not interesting enough to justify a good film. As far as I’m concerned, no drugs, no addiction or tragedies, and scandals, so that would be way too boring.