Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest comedy icons to emerge in the 1980s, and for a time his name alone was enough to bring audiences flooding in to theatres all over the world.
After emerging in stand-up, then reaching a wider audience on TV, he then broke into the movies and headlined a series of huge hits which remain popular favourites to this day – and his best days aren’t necessarily all behind him, as he’s enjoyed something of a comeback in recent years.
He’s definitely one of our favourite stars of the 80s, but there’s plenty about Eddie Murphy which you might not have known. Take a look at the following facts, for instance…
20. His father was murdered and he was in foster care as a child
Born Edward Regan Murphy in 1961, Eddie found fame as a funnyman – but when you hear about his childhood you’ll see there isn’t a lot to laugh about.
Eddie’s father Charles Edward Murphy, a transit police officer with aspirations of being an actor and comedian, died when he was son was only 8 years old.
The actor and comedian told Rolling Stone in 1989, “My mother and father broke up when I was three, and he died when I was eight, so I have very dim memories.”
“He was a victim of the Murphy charm. A woman stabbed my father. I never got all the logistics. It was supposed to be one of those crimes of passion: ‘If I can’t have you, no one else will,’ kind of deal.”
Later, when their mother fell ill, Eddie and his elder brother Charlie had to live in foster care for a year.
Murphy has claimed that this tumultuous time in his life was influential in developing his unique sense of humour.
19. He was only 19 when he joined SNL
While Murphy achieved his greatest fame as a film actor, he really made his name as a stand-up comedian.
Inspired by Richard Pryor, Murphy made his debut as a stand-up in the mid-70s, whilst still a teenager.
He was so successful so soon that by 1980 he was recruited to the cast of renowned comedy series Saturday Night Live.
Murphy was still only 19 years old when he joined the show, and he would go on to appear in 65 episodes.
He would bring his comedy to a wider audience with the TV special Eddie Murphy: Delirious, and the theatrically released Eddie Murphy: Raw.
In 2005, Comedy Central ranked Murphy at number ten on their top 100 list of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.
18. He was supposed to star in Ghostbusters
Everyone remembers Ghostbusters as the supernatural comedy classic starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.
However, in writer and actor Aykroyd’s first draft of the script, his vision of the story was a bit different.
Originally, Aykroyd planned to co-star in the film alongside John Belushi and, of course, Eddie Murphy.
However, Belushi’s sudden and unexpected death in 1982 forced a rethink, and his role ended up going to Murray.
Murphy remained attached to appear as Winston until fairly late in the day, but ultimately dropped out to make Beverly Hills Cop.
Murphy was reportedly disappointed at how little the character of Winston had to do in the film – something which replacement Ernie Hudson has also admitted being unhappy about in the years since.
17. Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone were offered Beverly Hills Cop before him
1984’s Beverly Hills Cop was a massively successful action comedy which turned Murphy into a mainstream superstar.
However, with a different roll of the dice the story of Detroit cop Axel Foley wreaking havoc in the illustrious city could have been very different.
The first actor offered the role was Mickey Rourke, who abandoned the project to make another film. Next, Beverly Hills Cop very nearly got made with Sylvester Stallone in the lead.
However, Stallone insisted on heavily rewriting the script, making it a harder-edged action movie. When his ideas were rejected, he too left the project (and would eventually take his ideas into his 1986 film Cobra).
With barely two weeks before they were due to start shooting, producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson decided to take a chance on Eddie Murphy, who – despite the success of 48 Hrs. and Trading Places – was still relatively little known.
Casting a black actor in a role originally intended for a white man was considered a bold move in Hollywood at the time, and it paid off: Beverly Hills Cop was 1984’s biggest box office hit, making over $316 million.
16. He’s fathered ten children with five different women
It’s fair to say that Eddie Murphy has enjoyed some rather fruitful relationships with women over the years.
The actor and comedian is father to a jaw-dropping ten children with five different women.
Paulette McNeely gave birth to Murphy’s first child, Eric, in 1990. Murphy’s first wife, Nicole Murphy, gave birth to his daughter Bria later the same year.
Nicole had a further four children with Murphy before their split, after which Murphy was briefly in a relationship with Mel B of the Spice Girls.
Notoriously, Murphy initially denied being the father of Mel B’s daughter Angel, but accepted the truth when blood tests proved otherwise.
Murphy has another son with Tamara Hood Johnson, and two with his current partner Paige Butcher.
15. He’s worth around $250-300 million
Eddie Murphy has made no bones about having made certain films just for the money (notably Beverly Hills Cop III, which he didn’t want to make but was paid $15 million for).
Whatever you think of some of the films Murphy has made, you can’t really question his business acumen when you see how well he’s done financially.
After his impoverished upbringing, Murphy’s first big break on Saturday Night Live earned him $4,500 per episode; this went up to $30,000 after a year, as his star was on the ascent.
Several years later, Murphy was earning paydays of $8 million per movie for Beverly Hills Cop II and Coming to America.
Then in the 1990s, movies like The Nutty Professor and Dr Dolittle earned Murphy around $20 million upfront, plus a cut of the gross profits.
Today Murphy’s worth is estimated at being in the region of $250-300 million, factoring in a $70 million deal he signed with Netflix in 2019.
14. He was offered Candyman, but the filmmakers couldn’t afford him
As hard as it may be to imagine now, at one point Eddie Murphy was a possibility for the title role in Candyman.
Bernard Rose, director and screenwriter of the 1992 horror classic based on a Clive Barker story, initially wanted Murphy for the lead.
However, the filmmakers didn’t have that huge a budget to play with, and Murphy proved to be out of their price range.
Ultimately, the role instead went to Tony Todd – who, at 6’5″ and with a famously deep and gravelly voice, was a natural fit.
In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine the 5’9″ Murphy with his comedic sensibility being able to bring anything like the same gravitas to Candyman.
Still, Murphy did have a crack at horror with Vampire in Brooklyn, directed by the legendary Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream).
13. He was was supposed to be in Star Trek IV
One thing you might not necessarily expect about Eddie Murphy is that he’s a huge fan of Star Trek.
As a matter of fact, at the height of his 80s fame Murphy came close to joining the crew of the Starship Enterprise.
Early on in development on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it was planned that Murphy would appear in the film.
Spock actor and director Leonard Nimoy hired Beverly Hills Cop screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr. to write a script with a key supporting role for Murphy.
In this script, the crew of the Enterprise travel back in time to the 1980s and meet Murphy, a college professor and UFO enthusiast.
Murphy didn’t like the script and chose to make The Golden Child instead, and his character was rewritten as a marine biologist played by Catherine Hicks.
12. His 2002 film The Adventures of Pluto Nash is one of the biggest box office flops of all time
By the early 2000s, Murphy’s leading man career was in a bit of a strange place.
After breaking through as a perpetually expletive-spewing motor-mouth, the turn of the century saw Murphy starring almost exclusively in family films.
Some of these, such as The Nutty Professor and Shrek movies, proved successful – but others, not so much.
The most spectacular failure of Murphy’s career was the 2002 sci-fi comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
The movie carried a substantial price tag of $100 million, so hopes were high for a hit.
Unfortunately for Murphy and company, The Adventures of Pluto Nash wound up one of the biggest box office flops of all time.
The film received absolutely scathing reviews and made a paltry $7.1 million from cinemas worldwide.
11. He turned down a proposed Beverly Hills Cop/Crocodile Dundee crossover
Most people know that Beverly Hills Cop is Eddie Murphy’s signature franchise, with three films made to date.
However, did you know that at one point Paramount Pictures mooted the idea of crossing the series over with another of their big 80s comedy franchises?
Yes, believe it or not there was at one point talk of Eddie Murphy and Paul Hogan sharing the screen in a Beverly Hills Cop/Crocodile Dundee crossover.
Brandon Tartikoff, chairman of Paramount Pictures at the time, came up with the idea, seeing it as a potentially lucrative third instalment for both franchises.
However, the idea didn’t get very far as Murphy is said to have completely rejected it. (How Paul Hogan felt about it is unknown.)
Both franchises would eventually get third instalments in 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III and 2001’s Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, neither of which were big hits.
10. He’s had two hit singles
On top of his success as a stand-up comedian and actor, Murphy has also enjoyed some success as a singer.
Murphy had sung a couple of original songs as part of his act, and in 1985 he launched a fully-fledged music career.
Most famously he recorded the single Party All the Time, which was co-written and produced by Rick James.
The song was a hit, reaching number 2 on the US singles chart and making the top 20 around much of the world.
This was followed by Murphy’s second single How Could It Be, which was also the title of his debut album.
Murphy went on to record two more musical albums, So Happy and Love’s Alright.
However, neither of these sold particularly well, and Murphy hasn’t released any music commercially since, aside from the songs he sings as Donkey in the Shrek movies.
9. He shot a Beverly Hills Cop TV pilot, but it never got picked up for a series
1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III may have killed the franchise, but talk of a possible fourth film continued in the years that followed.
For a time Beverly Hills Cop 4 looked set to happen with Brett Ratner directing, but ultimately the project turned into a proposed TV series.
In 2013 a pilot episode was shot for a Beverly Hills Cop TV show, with Murphy reprising the role of Axel Foley.
The pilot saw Murphy pass the torch to Brandon T. Jackson, who was cast as Foley’s son, who has naturally followed his father into law enforcement.
However, the pilot episode did not inspire confidence from the US TV networks, all of whom turned it down.
Ironically, though, the pilot was well-received enough for a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie to once again go into active development (AKA Development Hell).
8. He “cringes” at some of the more offensive jokes from his early stand-up
Murphy’s early work still raises eyebrows today, owing to the star’s incessant use of profanity and racial slurs.
Many jokes that he made in his stand-up routines were widely condemned at the time as sexist and homophobic.
In recent years, Murphy has reflected on these jokes with a degree of regret, insisting he is a “completely different person” today.
The comedian told CBS Sunday Morning, “Some of it, I cringe when I watch it… I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I said that.'” Still, Murphy has never outright apologised for past jokes and has insisted he has “no regrets whatsoever.”
Murphy has previously been condemned by gay rights activists over his early jokes about AIDS, to which he responded in 1996, “Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981.”
The comedian’s statement went on to say, “I think it is unfair to take the words of a misinformed 21-year-old and apply them to an informed 35-year-old man. I know [now] how serious an issue AIDS is the world over. I know that AIDS isn’t funny.”
7. He’s returning to stand-up comedy because Barack Obama asked him to
In 2019, Murphy made some big waves by signing a major deal with Netflix to produce new material.
Significantly, this deal included not only includes new movies (more on which later), but some all new stand-up comedy specials.
This will mark Murphy’s first time performing stand-up in more than 30 years – and the comedian was urged to make the return by a perhaps surprising individual.
Murphy met President Barack Obama whilst he was still in office, and one of the President’s first questions was when would Murphy be doing comedy again?
Murphy remarked in 2019, “When you go into the Oval Office and the president asks when are you doing stand-up, it’s time to do some jokes.”
Unfortunately, Murphy’s plans to go on tour in 2020 were forcibly put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic.
6. Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop sequels are on the way
In October 2019, Murphy’s film Dolemite Is My Name was launched on streaming service Netflix, and went down a storm with critics and audiences.
The comedy-drama biopic of 70s comedian and exploitation filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore was widely acclaimed as a major return to form for Murphy.
Netflix must have been pleased, as soon thereafter they signed a $70 million deal with Murphy to produce new content for them.
Now that Murphy’s hot again, two long-hoped-for sequels – Coming 2 America and Beverly Hills Cop 4 – have finally gotten off the ground.
Coming 2 America has been purchased by Amazon and is expected on their Prime streaming service in December 2020. Murphy will be joined by his original co-stars Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley and James Earl Jones, whilst Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer will call the shots.
Next will be the long-delayed Beverly Hills Cop 4, which is poised to be directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life).
5. He’s attached to star in the proposed sequel to Twins
It was revealed some time ago that Murphy is tenuously attached to appear in proposed sequel to the classic 1988 comedy film Twins.
Intended to be called Triplets, the film will reunite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito whilst bringing in Murphy.
In the original Twins, the joke was that Schwarzenegger and DeVito shared the womb – so any guesses as to the twist this time?
That’s right, the Benedict family will be made even more unusual with the revelation that there was a third child, who grew up to be Murphy.
Arnie has confirmed there’s a “funny thing that happens in the mixing of the sperm,” which we hope was the former bodybuilder talking about the proposed film and not anything else.
However, while Triplets was first announced as being in the works in 2018, there’s been no indication of it having gotten off the ground just yet.
4. He plays multiple roles in seven of his films
Eddie Murphy has such a larger-than-life comedy persona that sometimes it seems just one role in a movie isn’t enough.
It’s long since become a personal trademark of Murphy that he plays multiple roles in his movies, often under heavy make-up.
In truth, however, Murphy has only done so in seven of the 40 films he has made to date.
The tradition began with 1988’s Coming to America, in which on top of playing central character Akeem he also took the smaller roles of Saul, Clarence and Randy Watson.
In the years since, Murphy has played multiple characters in Vampire in Brooklyn, The Nutty Professor and its sequel, Bowfinger, Norbit and Meet Dave.
The upcoming sequel Coming 2 America will see Murphy once again take on multiple roles, reprising both Akeem and Randy Watson.
3. He’s a Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee
As well as being one of the biggest box office draws of the 80s, Eddie Murphy has also received acclaim for his performances.
He was nominated for Golden Globe awards for his early movies 48 Hrs., Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop.
Murphy got a fourth Golden Globes nomination in 1997 for The Nutty Professor, but again left empty-handed.
He didn’t finally win at the Golden Globes until 2007, when he landed the Best Supporting Actor award for Dreamgirls.
Winners in this category often repeat their success at the Oscars, so hopes were high this would happen when Murphy went on to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s first and to date only Oscar nomination did not result in a win – and it’s been speculated that this was largely down to Academy members being offended by his film Norbit, released the same year as Dreamgirls.
2. He’s become a Christmas fixture in Italy thanks to Trading Places
One of Eddie Murphy’s major breakthrough films was the 1982 comedy Trading Places, co-starring Dan Aykroyd.
This contemporary twist on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper saw the positions of Murphy’s broke hustler and Aykroyd’s wealthy investor reversed.
Director John Landis’ film has become a long-standing favourite of many – not least as it’s set at Christmas.
Indeed, in some parts of the world Trading Places has become a staple of TV viewing around the festive season.
It’s become a particular seasonal tradition in Italy, where TV station Italia-1 has screened it every year since 1997.
Not that the film was necessarily intended to be a Christmas classic: it first hit screens in July 1983.
1. He worked closely with his late brother Charlie Murphy
Eddie Murphy grew up with his brother Charlie Murphy, who was the elder of the brothers by two years.
As his younger brother rose to fame and fortune, Charlie Murphy was taken along for the ride.
Years later, Charlie Murphy would find a degree of fame in his own right as a star of Chappelle’s Show, with comedian Dave Chappelle. The recurring segment Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories featured the elder Murphy brother recalling a series of bizarre, reportedly real tales involving Superfreak singer-songwriter Rick James.
Charlie Murphy also worked with his brother on a number of projects. After appearing in Eddie Murphy’s directorial debut Harlem Nights, Charlie Murphy went on to co-write Vampire in Brooklyn and Norbit.
Sadly, Charlie Murphy passed away in April 2017 aged 57, after a battle with leukemia.