Old News: Eddie Murphy

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Published September 7, 2011

The 84th Academy Awards just got a lot more interesting. On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially announced that Oscar nominee-slash-Norbit-star Eddie Murphy will act as host for the show, which will be telecast February 26, 2012. It’s true that, as Oscars producer Brett Ratner said in a statement, “Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever.” But at a time when Murphy is better known as the voice of Donkey in the Shrek movies—or, worse, for starring in a string of bombs like Meet Dave—than for being a virtuosic performer, it’s difficult to know what to expect from his hosting gig. Will this gig serve as a sort of comeback for a beloved comic icon? Or will Murphy, like Anne Hathaway and James Franco before him, find that hosting the Oscars is a lot harder than it looks?

Before you ponder those questions, we’d like to draw your attention to the following interview with Murphy, which ran in Interview‘s September 1987 issue. At the time, Murphy was at the top of his game; Beverly Hills Cop II had debuted to enormous success in May of that year, and he was preparing for the release of Eddie Murphy Raw, which would go on to earn over $50 million at the box office. The comedian spoke with film critic Elvis Mitchell about why he doesn’t do interviews, the brilliance of Richard Pryor, how critics are out to get him, and “Party All the Time.” The introduction to their chat is reprinted below.

 

Entering Eddie Murphy’s compound, a rented home tucked neatly away in Beverly Hills, is a little like walking into a hugely overpriced college dorm. Moving inside past the carport, which harbors a shiny new Porsche and a stately Rolls, you find Eddie’s boys lounging around, while Murphy himself is upstairs recuperating from a night that ended at 7 a.m. The huge, serviceable house’s glass-encased bookshelves are filled with videocassettes; the preferred reading seems to be the “Life” section of USA Today, which, conveniently, also contains the TV listings. Sitting in the den, gazing distractedly at televised women’s gymnastics, are Murphy’s brother, Charlie—who, although slimmer and older, bears a strong resemblance to Eddie—and Richie Tienken, one of Eddie’s managers. They talk amiably about preparing the country for a Murphy land assault. Eddie’s planning a tour, which should dovetail into the opening of Eddie Murphy Raw in December. Raw, Murphy’s first theatrical concert film, was directed by fellow comedian Robert (Hollywood Shuffle) Townsend. This interview was conducted in February, during the litigation with former Murphy manager King Broder, and before Tienken—who has a small role in Beverly Hills Cop II—was dismissed. The Broder suit was reportedly settled for about $700,000. Murphy has since been involved in other troubles, which include a paternity suit filed in April and an Atlantic City investment scam into which he put $240,000. The good news is that Murphy has announced plans with Hanna-Barbera to begin an animated Eddie Murphy series. Apparently there is some justice, after all.

When Murphy enters, a subtle change takes place in the room’s atmosphere. The fellas, catching a whiff of house royalty, assume a modestly servile stance: nothing that would be immediately noticeable—there are no clicking heels or salutes—but it’s evident they aren’t just cooling out and buzzing past cable stations at a friend’s joint. Eddie offers a friendly greeting and moves the interview session into the cavernous living room.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW.