Creating and performing stunts that even the most experienced, daredevil stuntman would pass on, Jackie Chan has been thrilling audiences since the 1970s with his imaginative and supreme physicality. From stuntman, to actor, to director and very often all 3 at the same time, Jackie Chan is a truly gifted living legend, a creative and daring force in action cinema.
In 1978, Jackie Chan made 7 films back-to-back. In the future, some of these movies would go on to be hailed as classics and grouped together to form a series called "The Jackie Chan Collection". Included in that catalogue of films are titles such as; Shaolin Chamber Of Death (aka Shaolin Wooden Men), Magnificent Bodyguards, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and To Kill With Intrigue. In between the formation of the Jackie Chan Collection which started in 1976 with New Fist Of Fury and finished in 1983 with Fearless Hyena 2, Jackie would also star in Snake In The Eagles Shadow (1978) which went on to be a major success. Two films after SITES, Jackie went on to star in the movie that would not only eclipse SITES's box office, but become the film that would give him his international breakout. In Drunken Master Jackie played Wong Fei-hung, a real life person of interest, mythological figure, folk hero and one of the most depicted characters in TV and movie history. Jackie delivered on all fronts and gave us a delightful portrayal of a young Fei-hung, who was comedic, juvenile, sincere and of course physically skillful. His rendition of the character set new standards in combining straight Kung-fu, comedy/Kung-fu with dramatic acting and is still regarded as one of the best today.
The power and influence of any film's concept and deft execution, can be said to be extremely successful when the entire industry starts trying to recreate the idea over and over again. In this case, the 'drunken' element was so well loved and received, that 4 films with drunken styled themes were made and released before 1979 came to an end. But in the film that started it all, Jackie played Wong Fei-hung, a good, but mischievous character who has a habit of getting into minor scrapes and scraps, but never with malice in his heart. However, when his father reaches the last straw with Wong's continuously immature behaviour, he decides to send him away to be disciplined by Sam Seed aka Beggar So - a tough Kung-fu teacher. Sam Seed has a reputation for his training regime being so hardcore, that he has been reported to have crippled some of his pupils. In going through just a few grueling exercises with Wong, Wong concedes defeat and runs away. In his self-exile he encounters Yim Tit-fan aka Thunderfoot, a kicking specialist assassin and in managing to antagonize Thunderfoot, Wong then foolishly challenges him to a fight where he ends up badly beaten. Defeated and humiliated Wong runs back to his Sam Seed's place to ask for forgiveness and resume his training in a bid to get revenge. In the sequel Drunken Master II aka The Legend Of The Drunken Master (1994) Wong goes up against smugglers who are stealing and selling Chinese artifacts. The title: The Legend Of The Drunken Master is the name of the Dimension Films / Miramax US version of the film which had major cuts and English language dubbing. Despite the differences it still garnered positive box office critical acclaim.
Drunken Master earned HK$6,763,793 at the Hong Kong box office, becoming the second most popular film in Hong Kong in 1978. This was the equivalent to US$1.45 million. In Japan, the film grossed ¥1.9 billion (US$17.21 million), becoming one of the year's top ten highest-grossing films. In South Korea, it was the highest-grossing film of 1979, making ₩1348 million (US$2.8 million). Earnings combined, the film grossed a total of approximately US$21.2 million in East Asia, the equivalent to US$83million. Drunken Master II broke Hong Kong's grossing record, earning HK$40,971,484 (US$5.302 million). By 1995, the film had grossed US$17.3million from five other East Asian territories and grossed CN¥10million in China and NT$39,889,970 in Taiwan, ¥726million in Japan and US$5.45million in South Korea. It actually took 6 years for Drunken Master II to hit North American theaters as The Legend of Drunken Master and when it did, the film was showcased in 1,345 screens. This re-edited, English language dubbed version made US$3,845,278 in its opening weekend and made a total of US$11,555,430 in the United States and Canada. Combined, the film's total worldwide gross revenue was approximately US$34.31million.
What was instantly noticeable about Project A (1983) was the time period that it was set in. Traditionally, Kung-fu films were either set in an ancient period circa the time of the Shaolin monks or in modern, present times. Project A was set in the 19th century and focussed on the Hong Kong Marine Police and their fight against sea pirates. Chan played Sgt. Dragon Ma Yue Lung, a Marine police officer who is mature enough to try and stove off the hostility between the marine police and the local ones, but not wimpy enough to back out of a bar brawl when provoked. As the villainous pirates get more and more bold in their attacks, eventually the two police corps join forces to take them on, leading to an explosive showdown. Project A was the 4th film Jackie directed and you can see a great deal of cinematic homage to the stunts of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, who Jackie has cited influenced him. On top of that, there is a great cast of actors who we would later go on to see in many future classic Hong Kong films, including actor Dick Wei as the pirate Lor Sam Pau and two of Jackie's closest friends and Peking Opera School buddies; Yuen Biao who plays captain Tzu the head officer for the local rival police force and Sammo Hung who is cast as Fei, a local smuggler. Collaborating again for the second time, Sammo is also credited as the action director and fans would go on to witness these 3 appear in many films together as one hell of a triple threat. 4 Years later a sequel - Project A Part II (1987) was released, but it didn't feature Yuen Biao or Sammo Hung, as they were both filming Eastern Condors (1987). Project A made HK$19,323,824 / US$2.7 million and Project A Part II which saw the remaining pirates from the original film try to get revenge on Dragon grossed HK$31,459,916 / US$4,052,938 at the Hong Kong box office.
Set within The Royal Hong Kong Police Force the Police Story franchise has the most entries in all of Chan's franchises numbering eight, though some are spin-offs and reboots. Set in modern days, Jackie only directed the first 2 films but with each outing still pushed to elevate the risk or complexity in the action sequences. In Police Story (1985), Kevin Chan (Jackie) is framed for murder by a gangster and must prove his innocence whilst bringing down the criminal who framed him. In Police Story 2 (1988), the gangster Kevin Chan put away in the first film is released on false pretenses of bad health and seeks to make Kevin Chan's life miserable, at the same time criminal bombers start extorting businessmen for money. In Police Story 3: SuperCop (1992) Kevin now holds the rank of inspector and must team up with another Inspector from Interpol - Jessica Yang (Michelle Yeoh), a female version of himself to bust a drug smuggling operation.
The first spin-off Project S aka SuperCop 2 (1993) sees Michelle Yeoh reprising her role from SuperCop and Jackie Chan only making a cameo appearance. Crime Story (1993) is also placed under the Police Story banner and here Jackie plays Eddie Chan, a special agent assigned to protect a Chinese businessman who ends up being kidnapped. Police Story 4: First Strike (1996), sees Kevin Chan return and team up with interpol (minus Michelle Yeoh) to track down and find an illegal weapons dealer. In New Police Story (2004), Chan plays a new character Chan Kwok Wing, a high level detective disgraced by having led his former team into a trap where they all died. Working with a new cop who also harbors a past, they must collectively put their retrospective woes behind them and find the killer of the original team. Police Story 2013 aka Police Story: Lockdown (2013), is a second reboot, where Chan plays a Chinese mainland cop Zhong Wen, trying to rebalance his life as he newly reconnects with his estranged daughter. This effort is somewhat interrupted when his daughter's boyfriend takes them hostage in a bid to have a prisoner released. The entire Police Story franchise has grossed US$264,249,778 worldwide.
ARMOUR OF GOD
In Armour Of God (1986) Jackie plays the Asian Hawk, an Indiana Jones style adventurer, who uses state of the art technology, unique gadgets and his physical prowess to track down and collect lost artifacts. Blackmailed into finding the remaining lost pieces of the Armour Of God by a religious cult, Hawk is forcibly thrown into a worldwide adventure where he must obtain the artifacts, in order to rescue his kidnapped friend from the cult. In Armour Of God II: Operation Condor (1991), the Asian Hawk races against a neo-nazi and his mercenary henchmen to retrieve gold from a now buried, secret military base from WW2. 21 Years later, Jackie reprised the role of the Asian Hawk in Chinese Zodiac (2012) where he searches the world for 12 bronze heads, each of which represent a figure from the Chinese Zodiac. Armour Of God's box office was HK$35,469,408, Armour Of God II: Operation Condor made HK$39,048,711 ($10,405,394) and the Chinese Zodiac grossed US$171,338,930, though the latter film really did not match the former two entries in story, humour and action.
After the success of Rumble In The Bronx in 1995, Jackie proved that he could be successful with US mainstream audiences when he is allowed to do, what he does best. Earlier efforts in the form of Battle Creek Brawl (1980) and the horrendous The Protector (1985) had him either not fully delivering the Jackie Chan experience or studios trying to turn him into Dirty Harry. Rumble In The Bronx was made for $7.5million and grossed $76million which definitely got the attention of producers. In the formation of Rush Hour, Director Brett Ratner flew to South Africa himself to pitch the film to Jackie and a few days later Jackie agreed to be in the movie. Chris Tucker came on board later, but rumour has it that Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys) was considered before him and Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop) actually declined the part, that we now can't imagine anyone but Tucker playing. Brett Ratner had history with Chris Tucker, having directed him in Money Talks (1997) in which Tucker starred alongside Charlie Sheen.
Rush Hour (1998) sees Jackie play Yang Naing Lee, a Detective Inspector for the Hong Kong Police Force, who tries to find and rescue the young kidnapped daughter of Han (Tzi Ma) a Chinese consul ambassador, who is currently stationed in Los Angeles. The F.B.I. believe that Lee's arrival will look like the calling of outside help and believing the international optics to be negative they call in the L.A.P.D. and saddle Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) with Lee as a babysitting assignment. This assignment also serves as a payback punishment to Detective Carter who messed up a previous case for the F.B.I. Both cops annoyed about their circumstances rebel to save the young kidnapped girl and the comedy ensues from the defiance, cultural misunderstandings, the language barrier and pig-headed stubborness as the two men interact with each other and other people in their company. Eventually they get past these barriers, form a friendship and go on to save the day. In Rush Hour 2 (2001) the duo this time around are in Hong Kong and it is now Carter who is the fish out of water and although on holiday, the pair still manage to get themselves embroiled in a money counterfeiting operation run by the triads. In Rush Hour 3 (2007), Ambassador Han is in trouble again with the Triads, where he escapes an assassination on his life. Lee and Carter must go off to France to find a woman who knows the identities of some of the top members of the society and then take them down. The Rush Hour films are both Jackie's (and Chris') most successful films to date. Rush Hour was made for $35million and grossed $244,386,864 worldwide, the huge success led to the sequel Rush Hour 2 with a substantially bigger budget of $90million. The sequel went on to earn $347,425,832 at the box office. The last entry, which did show signs of not being as original or funny reflected this in its taking and with the franchises largest budget of $180million, it performed the worst at the box office with earnings of $258,022,233.
In witnessing the pairing mode and success of the Rush Hour concept, a fashion for having Jackie work with an American or English speaking co-star took hold for the US produced movies and through the years were given the likes of; The Medallion (2003) with Lee Evans, The Karate Kid (2010) with Jaden Smith and of course the Shanghai series, where, Jackie was paired with Owen Wilson. In Shanghai Noon (2000), Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu), a Chinese princess is kidnapped from her homeland and brought to the US. In response, three royal, warrior guards of the Emperor of China are sent out to retrieve her, one of them being Chon Wang (Chan) who makes his way to America's wild west. Through a colliding of events, Roy O'Bannon (Wilson) and Wang team up to take on the kidnappers and other ruffians from the west and much like Rush Hour, the fish out of water tactic is employed, to a mix of hit-and-miss success. The first outing did well enough to warrant a sequel and in Shanghai Knights (2003) Roy and Chon are back, but this time in England, taking on the man who murdered Chon's father. Shanghai Noon's budget was $55million and it made 100.5million yet Shanghai Knights' production team must have been skeptical about the sequel's reception and were wise enough to keep the budget primarily the same for the sequel. With a $5million deficit in the budget, Shanghai Knights went on to gross less than the original, making $88.3million, yet despite the declining viewers and a significant amount of time having gone by, an announcement of a third film: Shanghai Dawn has been made.
KUNG FU PANDA
In 2008, Jackie voiced one of the Furious Five Kung-fu fighting animals alongside, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross in Kung-Fu Panda. Playing a golden snub-nosed monkey, Chan reprised his role another 2 times in 2011 and 2016 for sequels, but also lent his voice to short films and video games playing the same character. In total, the Kung-Fu Panda films crossed the billion dollar mark, grossing $1,817,258,332.
THE LUCKY STARS
It is well documented that Jackie went to the Peking Opera school and many of his fellow co-stars/friends are from the same establishment. Within the school, they had a changing line-up of top students that were called the "the seven lucky fortunes". The title/concept later being adopted to name a series of films called "Lucky Stars" with recurring actors and characters. Sammo Hung was the one who developed the concept and Jackie appeared in the first three of these films; Winners & Sinners (1983), My Lucky Stars (1985) and Twinkle Twinkle My Lucky Stars (1985). Other films in the series included Pom Pom (1984), Lucky Stars Go Places (1986), Return Of The Lucky Stars (1989), Ghost Punting (1992) and How To Meet The Lucky Stars (1996). The total box office of The Lucky Stars series amounts to HK $121,890,054.
Jackie Chan's pursuit of physical excellence has led him to serious injury and on more than one occasion a dance with death. His professionalism and desire to push the boundaries of physical cinema have led him to shooting the most takes to get a trick or stunt right and that number is easily in the hundreds possibly thousands. In 2012 jackie was presented with 2 new Guinness World Records; one for holding the most amount of credits in one movie - totalling 15 and the other for performing the most stunts by a living actor. Still willing to perform and direct, Jackie continues to wow audiences and if he ever decides to retire from being on screen, it would be interesting to see what action sequences he could come up with with just concentrating on one thing.
Post Return Of the Jedi, Star Wars films for the most part have received mixed reviews, none quite hitting the mark like you would do a womp rat with a T16. But with part IX putting the main series to rest, will JJ Abrams bring out every trick in the book and ensure that the saga goes out with a galactic bang?
And so, from a galaxy far, far away, but with frequent news still making its way to our part of the universe, a naturally force-strong scavenger, an ex-imperial stormtrooper, an ace pilot and a wookie with vast life experience, are left (with a few friends in toe) to put to bed, what the Rebel Alliance started in Star Wars: A New Hope. What immediately became evident with JJ Abrams' latest opus was that he had 3 tasks fulfil. 1) To remind audiences why they loved about classic Star Wars. 2) To patch-up the mythology-killing parts of The Last Jedi and 3) still make a unique film which could stand on its own merits.
In The Rise Of Skywalker, Abrams gives us an ode and a sequel more akin to the Return Of The Jedi, which is his first smart move and there are a few secret revelations within TROS worthy of the first trilogy. It's not all good news though, parts of TROS are patchy, like you can see the seams showing because of the re-wiring that had to be done, due to the damage inflicted by The Last Jedi. I would even go as far as saying Abrams is also able to subvert our expectations - in a good way...to a degree, but because he had to semi-recreate the canonical damage, he could only go so far without contradicting the preceding film's narrative. There is plenty of true action, most of it standardly good, but some of which doesn't work. In particular, the awkward physics of the Jedi's more grand movements and everything astral projection, an overused device in the film, that I'm not wholly sure even belongs within the Jedi skill set.
Knowing what was on the line, there is no teasing of what is to come in the story, we are thrust into the thick of things and even the opening iconic yellow prologue is so straight to the point and without pazaz, that I am sure that a bored teenager who doesn't even like Star Wars wrote it. Events move along at a brisk pace which is pleasing, but at the same time, a bit too quickly for any true feeling to permeate out of the screen or for most of the jokes to land. The biggest device used to generate feeling is the music, but a score cannot carry an entire film.
The main problem with the latter entries of the Star Wars franchise is that it continues to deliberately stay arrested and this revelation I will ashamedly admit to, did not come from my own reasoning, but from Freddie Prinze Jr. in a interview about his involvement with Star Wars animation. The problem is whilst we, the fans grow older, we crave a more mature, potent delivery from the journey, with harder themes to match our age and life experiences. Our expectations continue to grow and grow, but become less and less realised as the franchise deliberately stays juvenile. We forget that we have to experience the magic through the eyes of children or as children, which is probably why The Phantom Menace really hurt. The Empire Strikes Back remains the most 'adult' film out of the series, never once issuing a corny moment or a back-track to 'safety' with heroism suddenly coming in to save the increasingly bleak circumstances. The Rise Of Skywalker is a good enough finish for the trilogy and the overall nonagon narrative, though it was always going to be a fight, had with one arm tied behind its back. I think with such a beloved franchise, we were always going to demand more and this finale just might not seem big or fulfiling enough for some.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Is Out Now On General Release.
She is the only surviving member of a slain group, the one that ends up vanquishing the evil or stopping the malevolent force from winning. She is a great and well-established trope of cinema, she is; The Final Girl.
Who Is The Final Girl?
In horror movies and sometimes survivalist themed films, it is a common and much celebrated cinematic convention, to have the last hero standing, be a virtuous, unassuming kind woman. She is typically the one person in a group dynamic, that we wouldn’t bet on surviving if the apocalypse came tomorrow, yet she becomes the one that remains - she becomes; The Final Girl and internationally, she is one of the most recognised motifs in cinema.
The History Of The Final Girl
The term Final Girl was first coined by Carol Clover in 1987, when she wrote an essay called “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” which was later mentioned in her 1992 book “Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film”. Predominantly cited as a feature in the Slasher genre of horror film, my own observations of the final girl heroine, usually had her be a weak, unskilled and unknowledgeable person. Yet ultimately, the final girl seemed to be empowered, even protected by her innate goodness or 'pureness', perhaps stemming from a sub-conscious, puritanical Judeo-Christian reason, as to why she should not die. Male filmmakers, with their construction of the female archetype, I imagine wanted the peril to be absolute and so by pitting a thoroughly malevolent male-energised force against someone who looked like they couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag, they had to encapsulate the complete opposite. Remember the rule about couples who have sex or do 'bad things' in horror movies...well that outlook in part seems to manifest in the final girl's construction and so we are given an inexperienced female as a norm, with no radical life experience or formidable nature.
Subverting The Type
Not to say; that there were never any exceptions to the rule, but in the early days of horror, the bog standard archetype of the final girl was almost guaranteed. However, it began to change when less obvious forms of the Slasher horror began to emerge, usually in movies that spliced the established part of the genre with something totally unrelated. Modern films like Happy Death Day (2017) which has time travel within its narrative and The Final Girls (2016) which has characters sucked into a movie, are high-concept films, with Science Fiction and Fantasy elements. Not only have they helped sustain and elevate the genre, they have added to the characterisation roster of what a final girl can be. But, they owe their allowed existence to pioneering and isolated works from previous decades, as it was back in 1979, when Alien, a Sci-fi Slasher film set in space changed the game. Now I can hear you thinking "Alien", a slasher movie?" Well think about it - we have the mandatory tight group confined to a particular locale. We have the malevolent force, killing the group off one by one. We have the early parts of the film establishing personality types, leadership and skill qualities and we have the cast in itself, which served to make you think about who would survive, as surely the producers wouldn’t allow the big stars to be killed - right? No one saw a final girl premise being implemented and no one saw Sigourney Weaver coming either. A virtual unknown, Alien was Weaver's second ever big screen role and her first role in Annie Hall (1977) was a small non-speaking part. As the surprise lone survivor of the Nostromo incident, this was probably one hell of an unexpected direction for the movie and it is no surprise that Weaver was the last person to be cast. The gamble paid off and audiences loved and continue to love Ripley, a final girl who was neither timid nor exceptionally strong, who had skills, knowhow, and a quite charm that allowed us to see her as a real human being.
A Look At Some Of Cinema’s Most Memorable Final Girls
Laurie Strode – Halloween (1978)
What is interesting about the format of Halloween, is that the tight knit group that we are use to seeing in Slasher's, didn’t really exist here, there are no scenes where they all become alerted as a group to whom the big bad is and then unite as a team to fight it. Instead, the bogeyman Michael Myers is stealthy, no one notices him (except for Laurie) leaving everyone to roam around as normal and to be picked off one-by-one in isolation. In films like I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) or Final Destination (2000) the group usually (eventually) becomes aware of the evil and they band together to fight it off, which contributes to the drama. In Halloween, all of Laurie’s 'group' are killed before she truly encounters Michael which in itself is horrifying because of the ignorance of a nearby, but unseen danger. Even in fighting back, we still see that the final girl trope is in its infancy, as it is a male hero, Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence), enters the scene in the nick of time and ‘ejects’ Michael through a window. 40 years later and the situation comes full circle, where now Laurie Strode is well versed in all things Michael Myers and has a skill set akin to that of a militia warrior to deal with him. Sarah Connor in the The Terminator (1984) could easily be compared to Laurie Strode, as both Michael Myers and the T-800 series cyborg are two unstoppable forces, with similar mindsets, hell bent on killing one person and not averse to killing anyone that gets in the way of their mission. And just like Laurie empowers herself years later, Sarah Connor, in T2 Judgement Day (1991) also expands as a character, having evolved into a gun-toting, trap-setting bad ass too.
Nancy Thompson – Nightmare On Elm Street
Appearing in three of the NOES films, Nancy uses her brains to try and combat, not so much Freddy Kruger at first, but falling asleep. When this becomes too hard, she relies on uncovering the personal legend behind Krueger and then discovers her own supernatural power somewhere in the process. Nancy Thompson may also be the first final girl to outwit a supernatural foe, which may have been the prototype that led to so many other movies taking this route. Instead of meeting force with force, solving a mystical conundrum, revolving around the villain's mythology became the solution. A lot of thought went into understanding dream psychology and fear, drawing on the night terrors that humans truly have and so this gave the earlier entries of the NOES a more respectable standing and potency. In NOES 3 – Dream Warriors, we get one of the most organised and unified team of victims ready to fight back and they are all imbued with powers to fight the evil. This made the plot fresh, as most horrors needed the victims to be completely powerless and have the audience empathise with their total helplessness and jeopardy. But even in knowing that each character is headed for their own personal gallows, the ace in the hole was in crafting bespoke deaths, that directly linked to a character's personal fears and trauma and with the exception of the Saw films, I don't think any other franchise or one shot film ever made the life of a character so connected to their death. The Wishmaster films are another bunch of stories that rallied around the idea of the final girl using cunning and trickery to resolve the peril, making audiences think as much as they did jump.
Kirsty Cotton - Hellraiser
Away from the Slasher genre, another angle of exploration, came courtesy of character Kirsty Cotton’s approach to dealing with the Cenobites in Hellraiser (1987). Using the power of negotiation, Kirsty had to deal with a well-spoken evil that actually had manners and her encounters with Pinhead provided an eerie contrast for viewers because the confrontations were verbal, very still but extremely tense. We all knew that the Cenobites didn’t have to listen to anyone’s pleas to seek a civil audience or show anyone, any mercy, but in examining the personality of the Cenobites' Kirsty saw their weakness and appealed to their hubris. Exploiting a very human emotion she tells them of an escapee from their subterranean cells and in their utter disbelief that anyone could escape them - their power, she is able to trade her life for his. In the second entry Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987) her words are used to remind the Cenobites of their former humanity, showing the audience that we are all not that far away from being the horror or the hero ourselves. As a final girl, Kirsty was great at thinking on her feet, rather than just using them to run.
Sidney Prescott - Scream
What was interesting about Scream (1996) was it’s unapologetic ode to all the conventions of the Slasher film, by talking and examining the rules of the genre within its own narrative. A direct message to the audience that; we know what you’re expecting and you won’t be seeing that here, prepared us to be tricked and misdirected throughout each entry. The Scream endings might have been inspired by the likes of films like Sleepaway Camp (1983) and April Fool’s Day (1986), where the reveal is just as important as the scares. Scream also has a lot in common with a whodunit mystery drama, with final girl Sidney Prescott being depicted as intelligent, calm and resourceful, traits closer to a detective, than a person purely present to be in peril. Scream also allowed recurring characters, from the original central group to return - yes! Those who by default should have been killed returned for multiple sequels.
The Future Final Girl
As the final girl motif continues to stay with us, it also continues to evolve. Modern depictions of the final girl have permitted us, even forced us to have a range of characterisation that can give us all types of personality. But who ever takes the mantle of the final girl, we know that she is going to be chased, cut, shot at, tortured, petrified, made to scream and made to witness death. But we also know that she will fight back, ultimately instilling hope and promoting self-reliance.
Eddie Murphy emerged as a fresh new talent, bringing an edgy energy and improvisational talent to film that nobody had seen before. As of 2014, Eddie Murphy became and has stayed the 6th highest grossing actor of all time, his pictures amassing a whopping $6.8 billion worldwide.
In 48 Hours (1982), Murphy plays Reggie Hammond, a still imprisoned convict who is temporarily released into the custody of Jack Cates (Nick Nolte), an angry, bullish, faux-racist cop, in order to find two criminals. Wowing critics and audiences alike, 48 Hours went on to be credited as the quintessential, proto-mismatched cop duo movie, that would later fashion the likes of Lethal Weapon (1987) Bad Boys (1995) and Rush Hour (1998). The film garnered nominations for various awards including a nod to Eddie in the form of a Golden Globe for Best New Star Of The Year - Male, but the award went to Ben Kingsley for Gandhi. Though Murphy lost in that respect, the nomination, the film and Eddie's performance all highlighted that Murphy was an upcoming force to watch. 8 Years later, both Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte returned for the sequel Another 48 Hours, in which Eddie's salary this time around, would be equal to the entire budget of the first movie. For 48 Hours, Eddie earned $200,000, but after multiple box office hits in the interim, his star power shifted and he was paid $12,000,000 for the sequel and also claimed a share of the film's overall gross. 48 Hours was made for $12,000,000 and grossed $78,868,508. Another 48 Hours had budget a of $50,000,000 and made $153,518,974.
BEVERLY HILLS COP
Scoring his next big hit with Trading Places in 1983, which served up another Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy, Murphy would step into another iconic role considered by many, to be from his most popular franchise. In Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy played Detective Axel Foley, a fast talking, tough Detroit officer who receives a random and surprising visit from his childhood friend and ex-con Mikey Tandino, played by James Russo. Visiting all the way from from Beverly Hills, California, a night of nostalgic catch-up is turned sour when two men appear, knock out Axel and kill Mikey in cold blood. Murphy, who is told to leave the investigation alone by his hard-nosed, no nonsense boss Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill) defies the order, takes some 'personal vacation time' and heads to Beverly Hills to investigate. Once there, he discovers a drug smuggling operation headed by Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) and intends to bring him down.
Throughout the investigation, we see Murphy/Foley play the fish out of water role to perfection, we see him mock and ridicule the bougie practices of the rich and famous and be two steps ahead of everyone whilst making it look like he is blissfully ignorant. Assigned to watch Foley by Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox), Axel picks up two babysitters in the forms of Sergeant John Taggart (John Astin) and Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who start out as buffers to limit any social and political damage Foley could do, but eventually befriend Foley and become his strongest allies. Beverly Hills Cop was Eddie Murphy's first solo lead role and he knocked it out of the ball park. Not only did he gain another Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy the film became the highest grossing of that year, the highest grossing comedy of all time and also the highest grossing 'R' rated picture of all time - at that time. Two sequels followed; Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) and even though they were both box office hits, the former gained mixed reviews whilst the latter was universally panned by everybody. Beverly Hills Cop was made for $13,000,000 and grossed $316,360,478, Beverly Hills Cop II had the highest grossing debut weekend of all time and with a budget of just $20,000,000, making $299,965,036 and despite a major drop in quality, Beverly Hills Cop III still performed well, using its budget of $50,000,000 to earn $119,208,989.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
The original The Nutty Professor (1963) starred Jerry Lewis, who also served as the film's director and co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Richmond. The 90s version was adapted by 4 different writers and though Murphy was just going to act, he wasn't going to play one role, but seven! In the original premise of the movie, Jerry Lewis played Jerry Kelp, a buck-toothed university professor who is uber awkward and socially impotent. Plagued by his status and loneliness, he invents a concoction that creates an alter ego, turning him into the very opposite - a suave, good-looking, sophisticated alpha male. Altered for modern audiences, Murphy's 1996 version would make the main issue about his weight and whereas Jerry Lewis' Buddy Love (the moniker of the alter ego) became handsome and confident, Murphy's Buddy Love becomes handsome, confident and thin. However, in both versions, the Buddy Love alter ego tries to usurp the professor's original form, by trying to find a permanent way of staying as Buddy Love, the battle therefore becoming an allegory for all our inner battles. 4 Years after the original film, a sequel appeared in the form of Nutty Professor II - The Klumps, with new formulas being invented and old enemies returning. The Nutty Professor had a budget of $54,000,000 and earned $273,961,019, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps had a budget of $84,000,000 and grossed $166,339,890 and Eddie Murphy was once again nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy...which he failed to collect...again. He did however win a Saturn Award for Best Actor, a Blockbuster Award for Favourite Actor - Comedy and won and was nominated for several other awards too.
Taking on another remake, Eddie Murphy became Dr. Dolittle (1998), where he played a human being that can hear and communicate with animals. First realising his gift as a kid, John Dolittle loses this fantastical ability when an upsetting incident involving his dog, makes him forget about it. 30 years later, his ability is reactivated and high jinks and craziness ensues. In 2001, the only other Eddie Murphy sequel Dr. Dolittle 2 was released. The first outing had a budget of $70,500,000 and raked in $294,456,605, the sequel's budget of $70,000,000 didn't quite ensure the same results, but it still managed to gross $176,104,344.
In 2001, Murphy would voice Donkey in the first of the Shrek animations from the Dreamworks studios. As part of an ensemble cast that included Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow and Vincent Cassel, Shrek went on to be a smash hit, with a noticeably high and valuable contribution by Murphy's charismatic voice acting. Donkey was the unwanted friend and sidekick of Shrek. Always upbeat and positive, donkey had the biggest heart out of the main cast and was probably the most child-friendly character out of the ensemble. Shrek became so popular that not only did it spawn sequels and spin-offs galore, but it became the first full length animation to win an Academy Award for 'Best Animated Feature'. Critics and crowds immediately took to the old fashioned fairytale storytelling and settings, but in addition really appreciated it's draw and insertion of modern day popular culture. All in all, Murphy was featured in Shrek, Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party, Shrek 4-D, Shrek 2, Shrek The Third, Shrek The Halls, Shrek Forever After, Donkey's Christmas Shrektacular, Shrek's Yule Log, Scared Shrekless, and Shrek's Thrilling Tales. Sticking to just the cinematic movies; Shrek's budget was $60,000,000 and earned $484,409,218. Shrek 2 was made for $150,000,000 and grossed $923,075,336. Shrek The Third's production cost were $160,000,000 and reaped $804,438,141 and Shrek Forever After cost $165,000,000 and made $752,600,867. Constantly swapping places with The Lion King, Despicable Me and Toy Story, Shrek is, has been and will probably be again, the highest grossing animated franchise ever.
Away from his franchises, Eddie Murphy has also given us great stand-alone pictures such as Trading Places (1983), The Golden Child (1986), Coming To America (1988), Harlem Nights (1989) which he directed, Boomerang (1992) and My Name Is Dolemite (2019). And now with a Coming To America sequel in the works "Coming 2 America" he is adding yet another franchise to his filmography totalling six. There will also be another outing for Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop IV, perhaps re-awakening his strongest brand for a whole generation that weren't around even born when the last entry came out 25 years ago. And finally playing opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, Eddie is also set to join the sequel to Twins called Triplets, where he will play the third Benedict brother. If all of these films are carefully modernised from their 80s and 90s roots and are hits, Eddie Murphy could cross even more generations and cement a legendary status that will last forever.
TDD, RC & IK talk: