EDDIE MURPHY AS "DR. JOHN DOLITTLE" IN DR. DOLITTLE (1998) The central character in a series of children's books by Hugh Lofting (1920â€“1952), Doctor John Dolittle shuns human patients in favor of animals that he can communicate with in their own languages. Actor Rex Harrison played the lead role in the 1967 film adaptation, but Murphy helped revive the character with his 1998 remake, which grossed over $250 million worldwide and spawned several sequels.
When the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences enlisted Eddie Murphy, star of the new movie Tower Heist, to host the next Oscars, they knew what they were doing. The Brooklyn native hadnâ€™t hosted an awards show in years (more on that later), but heâ€™s been entertaining since he was 19 years old. Following this yearâ€™s debacle with actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway as co-hosts, the Oscar committee called in a more seasoned funnyman. Whether heâ€™s acting or doing voiceover work in one of his many blockbuster films, performing stand-up, or even singing his way up the Billboard charts, Murphy knows how to entertain a captive audience. Here, BlackEnterprise.com decodes Murphyâ€™s deceptively versatile resume. â€”William Ketchum III
Murphy may be known for his blockbuster films these days, but the perennial funnyman earned his chops the old-fashioned way on the stand-up comedy circuit. While numbers for his 1983 special Eddie Murphy Delirious were tough to dig up, Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) earned more than $50 million at the box office. More recently, Murphy has expressed plans to return to the stand-up stage, but there have been no official announcements just yet.
When Murphy was 19 years old, he was cast on what would become the legendary television show, Saturday Night Live. According to IMDB, he was initially only hired as a guest performer without any duties. Bringing the Brooklyn native as a full-time cast member paid off well, though. During his four years on the show (1980-1984), SNL earned five different Emmy Award nominations, two of which were specifically for Murphyâ€™s work on the show.
Comedy is Murphyâ€™s bread and butter, but his star power translated into popular music as well. His Rick James-assisted single â€œParty All The Time” (1985) reached as high as No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and another single, â€œPut Your Mouth On Me,â€ (1989) reached 47 on the Hot 100 (along with No. 2 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart). While his full-length albums didnâ€™t fare as well, Murphy still made his mark musically. â€œParty All The Timeâ€ has been parodied by Weird Al Yankovic, covered by Aubrey Oâ€™Day (of Danity Kane fame), and still gets airplay in lists like VH1â€™s â€œ100 Greatest One Hit Wondersâ€ and AOL Radioâ€™s â€œ100 Worst Songs Ever.â€ Even still, he got to show his musical range more recently in 2006â€™s Dreamgirls as the boisterous James â€œThunderâ€ Early.
Murphyâ€™s stand-up material may have been lewd, but he showed his versatility with his voiceover work in animated childrenâ€™s films. The Shrek franchise, which features Murphyâ€™s voice as â€œDonkey,â€ is the highest-grossing animated series (one of the top five highest-grossing film series ever), with a total worldwide box office gross of $2.94 billion, according to CNBC. The 1998 animated film Mulan had a budget of $70 million and made over $304 million worldwide.
Actors already have the daunting tasks of memorizing their lines and to be sure to convey the emotions of their roles. Several of Murphyâ€™s films have doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled those duties as he played multiple characters. Thankfully, the method works most of the time. He played four characters in the classic Coming To America, which grossed $288,752,301 worldwide. Bowfinger ($98 million-plus worldwide with a $55 million budget) and Norbit ($159 million with a $60 million budget) also performed well at the box office. Murphyâ€™s most memorable moment of playing separate characters, however was in the Nutty Professor series, where he plays protagonist Sherman Klump, antagonist Buddy Love, five (!) of Klumpâ€™s family members (often with the whole family in one scene), and a workout instructor named Lance Perkins. The two films grossed a whopping $440,300,909 worldwide.