From an incredibly young age, Eddie Murphy was born to be an entertainer.
At just 19 years of age, Murphy was signed up to a contract with SNL - one of the most well-known comedy shows in television - and performed alongside actors and comedians twice his age, often writing many of his own sketches in the process.
At 21, Murphy made his feature debut in the now-classic crime comedy, 48 Hrs., starring alongside Nick Nolte as the flashy ex-convict Reggie Hammond. Murphy was paid $1,000,000 for the role - a huge amount in 1982 and was, at the time, the highest amount ever paid to an actor on their first film. A year later, Murphy would star in Trading Places alongside SNL alumnist Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis. Directed by John Landis, the film was a critical and commercial hit and solidified Murphy's reputation as a comedic talent.
Promotional image from Delirious
Despite one or two commercial and critical flops, namely The Golden Child and Best Defence, Murphy was one of the most sought-after actors working in the '80s. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was originally supposed to feature Murphy in a major role, but had to be rewritten when he was unable to meet the scheduling deadline. Dan Aykroyd had originally intended Murphy to play the role of Winston Zeddmore in Ghostbusters and specifically wrote the character for him, however Murphy passed on the role as he was committed to shooting Beverly Hills Cop II.
As well as this, Murphy continued performing standup comedy and produced Raw in 1987. Murphy also wrote, produced and directed Harlem Nights in 1989 with his idols, Richard Pryor and Red Foxx, appearing in supporting roles. Murphy had said in 1985 that he planned to "to produce, direct, write, score, and star in a film in exactly the way" that Charlie Chaplin did, all before he was 30. Heading into the '90s, Murphy was commanding huge salaries per film, however many were less than well-received by critics.
Murphy, however, was frank about why he chose to make less-than-stellar films. "Every bad decision I've made has been based on money. I grew up in the projects and you don't turn down money there. You take it, because you never know when it's all going to end." For Beverly Hills Cop III, Murphy made $15,000,000. For Dr. Doolittle, he made close to $17,000,000. By the late '90s, Murphy had opted for more family-friendly films, most of which were incredibly successful. His more adult-oriented works, however, continued to bomb both commercially and critically.
Around the same time, Murphy was the subject of consistent tabloid gossip over his various personal relationships. His former stomping ground, SNL, even turned on him. David Spade called him a "falling star" during a Weekend Update sketch, which Murphy saw and confronted Spade over the phone. "I just stared at (Chris) Rock in disbelief," said Spade in his memoir, Almost Interesting. "It was so much worse than I had imagined. I wanted to apologize, explain the joke, anything, but nothing came out. Here was one of my favorite comedians of all time ripping me a new asshole. I had worshipped this dude for years, knew every line of his stand-up. And now he hated me. Like, really really hated me." Murphy would not return to SNL for twenty years, and made a brief and somewhat stilted appearance at the 40th Anniversary in 2015.
The most critically hailed performance of his career only came in 2006, starring alongside Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. Playing a washed-up soul singer who becomes enraged when his former back-up singers become more successful, Murphy won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor that year. In 2008, Murphy was linked to The Dark Knight Rises, with anonymous sources claiming that he was set to play Dr. Edward Nygma - otherwise known as the Riddler - in the follow-up to The Dark Knight. However, the rumours ultimately proved false and Murphy, for his part, laughed them off.
2011's Tower Heist would be Murphy's last film to see a wide release; 2012's A Thousand Words was never released outside of the US in cinemas and currently has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Murphy all but retreated from public life shortly after. In a lengthy interview with the Washington Post in 2015, Murphy explained that "the check movies are over for me." Murphy's first film in four years, Mr. Church, is set for release shortly and is his least expensive film to date - with a budget of just $8 million. By all accounts, he's relatively happy living out of the limelight.
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, he explained that he has no e-mail address, doesn't own a computer and doesn't bother with social media. He doesn't even Google himself. Although many expect him to make a return to standup, Murphy seems reticent. In that same interview, Murphy stated he's just not sure what would come out. It's hard to know precisely why it is that Murphy has chosen to close himself off from the world. It could be that his brand of comedy is no longer fashionable or even acceptable. It could just be that he's happy to move away from the spotlight and simply enjoy his retirement.
In one interview, Murphy said that he'd "make movies until I'm fifty and then I'll go and do something else. I'm going to be a professional gentleman of leisure." Murphy did, however, receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour in 2015.
Speaking after the event, Murphy talked about meeting President Obama for the first time. "He issued me an executive order to do more standup. I guess I better go write some jokes!"