Funnyman Eddie Murphy has been on the national stage for nearly 30 years now, so it's understandable that audiences think they know the comedian and actor inside and out. Here are five things you might not know about the man who brought Axel Foley to life:
1. He Knew What He Wanted to Be When He Grew Up
Murphy's high school yearbook photo featured the caption, "Future plans: Comedian," and the young Murphy got down to business pretty quickly. He started working Long Island clubs like the Comic Strip, and his act proved to be so popular that within two years he was a full cast member on Saturday Night Live. It was a pretty quick start for someone who was such a lethargic student that he had to repeat the 10th grade.
Murphy was a natural for SNL, where his impersonations included Buckwheat, Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali, and Jerry Lewis. Murphy wasn't as at home off-screen, though, where he had trouble using his paychecks responsibly. As he later put it, "Give any 19-year-old kid $1,000 a week and he'll freak out." In 1982 Murphy told People that he had blown his previous year's earnings on a Trans-Am and gifts for friends.
2. He May Not Have Written Coming to America
John Landis' 1988 film Coming to America cracked up audiences and piled up a worldwide gross of over $288 million. Not only did Murphy star in the film, he also received the sole story credit. Writing and starring in such a smash hit would have been a major coup for even a big star like Murphy, but there was something fishy about the writing credit.
After the film became a huge success, humorist Art Buchwald sued Paramount for $5 million on the grounds that the movie was based on a treatment Buchwald had sold to Paramount in 1983. It turned out that Paramount had indeed optioned a very similar story in 1983 before terminating the project in 1985. Curiously, though, the Murphy-penned story for Coming to America came out three years later in 1988.
Buchwald and agent Alan Bernheim realized that Paramount was trying to bilk them out of some serious cash, and they sued the studio. After a seven-year legal battle, the pair received $825,000 from Paramount. Although Murphy was never personally implicated in the plotline pilfering, it's pretty clear that his writing credit may not have been a true solo project.
3. He Had a Hit Record
Yes, Murphy did the obligatory celebrity record. His 1985 musical debut, How Could It Be, reached #26 on the Billboard 200. Although Aquil Fudge produced most of the album, it did have one Rick James-produced track in "Party All the Time." The song was quite a hit; it even spent three weeks at the second spot on the Billboard Hot 100 behind topper Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me."
When MTV wanted Murphy to host the Video Music Awards that year, Murphy joked that he'd do it only if the channel would air his video. To Murphy's surprise—he didn't even have a video—MTV agreed. Murphy and James quickly threw together a video for the song, and James' hair alone makes it a masterpiece:
4. His Suit from Delirious Met a Funny Fate
One of Murphy's first major triumphs as a solo comedian was the 1983 stand-up special Delirious. Today the special is remembered for two things: its raunchy content and the form-fitting red leather suit that Murphy wore on stage for the taping. In fact, so many fans remembered the trademark suit that they would often ask Murphy what happened to the snappy duds.
In 2007, Murphy revealed the truth: Keenen Ivory Wayans had ruined the suit. According to Murphy, he once dared Wayans to wear the suit out for a night on the town and remain in character. Although the suit was tight on the much smaller Murphy, the 6'3" Wayans took his friend up on the dare. As Murphy later remembered, "He met girls, he had a sausage in his pants, there was dancing." The suit, though, was seriously stretched out after Wayans' adventures.
5. He's a Clean Freak
As a child, Murphy was such a neat freak that his stepfather would joke that the lad needed to get a degree and a good job so other people would have to do his dirty work.
Fame didn't change Murphy's clean habits; if anything, it magnified them. Murphy has said he takes several showers a day and constantly washes his hands. As he explained it in an interview with Playboy, the process of meeting fans is just an inherently unsanitary one. "Because I always figure somebody might have dug in his nose—then he comes to shake my hand, 'Hey, Eddie!' Sometimes you pee and get a little pee on your hands and then it's, 'Hey, Ed!'"
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