Two years ago, when Eddie Murphy appeared on Inside the Actors’ Studio — right after the release of Dreamgirls, right before the release of Norbit — I sat watching in awe at how gracious, deliberate, and insightful he was.
Granted, everyone puts on their best coy face for James Lipton. All Inside the Actors’ Studio guests demure when their roles are announced and the fawning college-aged audience claps, even if the film really, really sucked.
But Eddie captured me. He sat there discussing the art of comic timing, his own entertainment influences, class, family dynamics, his opinions on who has “It” in the current comedy market, and above all, he was just… funny—even when he wasn’t trying.
None of this should’ve been surprising. Eddie Murphy dominated the 1980s–and the way I’ve described him above is pretty much the way he came across back then, before the movie game got a hold of him and made him this elasticized, unfunny self-caricature. That didn’t happen until the ’90s, but once it did, we were hard-pressed to get anything natural or down-to-earth out of Eddie… unless he was in a fat suit*.
His Inside the Actors’ Studio appearance just reminded me why people went so crazy over Eddie in the first place. I saw Dreamgirls not too long after that episode aired, and though I’m among the few who think his interpretation of Jimmy Thunder Early was a bit over-lauded, Murphy alluded to what his future as an entertainer could be, if he borrowed a bit more from himself as an interviewee rather than as a funnyman.
Then came Norbit (Nuff said). And he’s giving us Meet Dave—which, if I’m to judge by the trailers, will be about as humorous as Pluto Nash. Or Holy Man.
So it’s not surprise that, even before the release of this latest probable flop, Murphy has announced his retirement from the acting business this week, citing boredom and a surplus of easy money at the viewing audiences’ expense:
“I have close to fifty movies and it’s like, why am I in the movies?” he said, adding, “I’ve done that part now. I’ll go back to the stage and do stand-up.”
Murphy, 47, said that while a Beverly Hills Cop 4 flick was in the works, he didn’t want to do it, because “the movie wasn’t ready to be done.” Murphy said he agreed to do Cop 3” because of the large fee he was offered. “They said this is how much we’re going to pay you. I said, ‘let’s go shoot it! I don’t care if the script ain’t right.”
Interesting that he’s officially declared his intention to return to stand-up. When the subject was broached on Inside the Actors’ Studio, he, like all good IAS guests, demured.
* Eddie’s eye-acting in The Nutty Professor, when manic, over-acting Buddy Love joned on sensitive, brilliant Sherman Klump was some of the best acting work he’s done, period. Let alone in a fat suit.