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: