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Call Him Money: Eddie Murphy Opens Up

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What do you make of your power in Hollywood?
I don't know. Strangely enough, given my personal circumstances and the success of my films, I've got the worst deal in town. [The deal is for five pictures; Eddie receives an estimated $6 million per movie, plus profit sharing.] When I renegotiated my deal with Paramount a few years ago, it seemed great. But nobody planned that those pictures would be as successful as they were. So now I've got a shitty deal compared with what I could be making, one picture at a time for different studios. And Paramount has me for another three movies at a set price.

You're like the last contract player left in town.
Yeah. Don't rub the shit in. Eeeh-eeh-eeh.

Still, your power is formidable. No matter what you do now – and you could do almost anything – you're surrounded by people who will tell you, "Way to go, Eddie!"
I know what you mean. But I hate yes people. I'm pretty good at making decisions for myself and my track record bears me out. But ultimately, I wouldn't do just anything. I don't have an asshole streak.

People see the pack of friends that follows you around and invariably wonder, "What's the deal with those guys?" One theory is that their presence allows you to move into unfamiliar territory and always feel comfortable.
May be so. I came to the realization that if you're lucky, you'll have five to ten friends in your life. And my old friends, people who were around me in grammar school and high school, they're all around me still. They're all intelligent and all serve a purpose. The thing is, I know they're my true friends. They knew me before it was financially desirable to know me.

Do you ever like to be alone?
No, I'm uncomfortable alone, especially at home. The only time I go off by myself is when I hop in the car and just drive for a couple ofhours.

Where do you go?
I'll just get on the freeway and go real fast. Or drive around in a fucked-up neighborhood, which can be really scenic. I like to see the hookers, the drug addicts, the bums, street fights, people getting arrested and shit. I do that a lot.

Is it some kind of reality check?
Maybe, but I just find it interesting. I once stopped and asked a prostitute, "Why are you out here?" I thought she would give me a heavy philosophical answer. But she just said, "Muthafucka, you wanna buy some pussy or not?!" Eeeh-eeh-eeh. I was anticipating this deep conversation about life and despair, and she said, "Do you want me to suck yo' dick?!" I said [sheepishly], "Excuse me, I'm gonna leave now . . . ."

Your first words to me were "Are you going to butcher me?" Why are you worried?
You know why I get paranoid about journalists? The first thing I hear about myself every day is some new shitty rumor. Something comes out in the Enquirer, and seven people who work for me all have a copy. Every time I walk into another room, I hear, "Hey, did you see this?" I've developed this lowdown self-image because every day I hear something horrible about myself. It gets to be a drag, to say the least.

What kind of rumors do you hear?
I've heard everything about myself. The most ridiculous rumor was that I was a faggot. I don't know where that came from. I've never had a dick in my ass or in my mouth! Maybe it's because I've made fun of homosexuals. The reasoning being, "He does a gay impression, so, well, he must be one." Then I've also heard I'm a notorious womanizer, which is sort of a contradiction in rumors. Another outlandish rumor is that I smoke crack, or that I do serious cocaine, or that I drink.

But you're in fact the picture of abstinence, right? Have you ever let liquor touch your lips?
I drank once. While making Coming to America, I had some weirdness with John Landis, who was directing the movie. We had a tussling confrontation, and when I went home, Arsenio [Hall] gave me some alcohol to settle me down. I thought a drink might help, so I drank a whole quart of Absolut vodka. I won the Most Vomit Award. I was bent over the toilet for hours. That was the first and last time I'll ever drink.

The Landis incident has never been clearly explained. One story has it that you two came to blows. What happened?
Nah, we didn't come to blows. Personalities didn't mesh. I grabbed him, and he thought I was playing. So he tried to grab my balls, and I pushed him away. But I wasn't kidding. He was doing some silly shit that made me mad. He directed me in Trading Places when I was just starting out as a kid, but he was still treating me like a kid five year later during Coming to America. And I hired him to direct the movie!

The notion was that were giving him a nice break at a time when he needed one.
I was gonna direct Coming to America myself, but I knew that Landis had just done three fucked-up pictures in a row and that his career was hanging by a thread after the Twilight Zone trial. I figured the guy was nice to me when I, did Trading Places, so I'd give him a shot. I'm a popular actor in this town, and to have a guy who was as fucked as he was get a job with me gave him some renewed credibility. I was going out of my way to help this guy, and he fucked me over. Now he's got a hit picture on his résumé, a movie that made over $200 million, as opposed to him coming off a couple of fucked-up movies – which is where I'd rather see him be right now. Eeeh-eeh-eeh.

Let's address the womanizing. Michael Michele filed a $75 million sexual-harassment and breach-of-contract suit against you after you fired her from 'Harlem Nights.' What's your side of the story?
She had the role that's now being played by Jasmine Guy, from A Different World. The fact of the matter is, I wanted someone with greater marquee value than Michael Michele. She wasn't working out. As for her claim that I was touching her – realistically speaking, if you're gonna be a sleaze and try to fuck somebody, you try to fuck em before you give 'em the part. And second, I don't have to give a woman a part in a movie to fuck her. I mean, she painted a picture like my name was Murray and I was five foot three with a big bald spot and a cigar, going [as scumbag producer], "You want the part? Then open your legs!"

The only thing that bothered me is that in her lawsuit, she says I tried to touch her, like I was a pervert. I never tried to touch this woman. We had, like, four conversations, each time with up to sixty people around us on a sound stage. But the lawsuit itself didn't bother me. Law-suits for me are an occupational hazard. You get your lawyers, and you deal with it.

Still, you give the impression that women can't help but prey on you. Is it difficult to know who to trust?
I'm not a trusting person by nature. My first reaction is to be distrustful – especially of women. I'm a target. As shitty as it sounds, I'm sure there are women who have gone out with me only because I'm Eddie Murphy. On the other hand, a lot of women go so far out of their way to show me that they don't care who I am that they end up being disrespectful. They treat me worse than they would some guy who works at Arby's. They act aloof and bored and won't even look at me. The least they could do is smile.

What qualities do you require in women?
Honesty, man. I'd take a dumb, honest woman who has nothing on the ball, just honesty. I'd take her every time over a smart one.

How do your relationships go wrong?
First of all, I haven't had a lot of relationships. When I break up with someone, it's usually because it got boring. I'm just like anybody else. Although last December I got involved in a weirdness. I went to London to meet this girl who's in a pop group called Five Star. She had sent me her picture, and I started talking to her on the telephone. I'm not a phone person; for me, five minutes is a long conversation. But I would be on the phone with her three and four hours a night, just talking. So I went over there, and she was adorable.

Then her father fucked up the whole relationship before it could get started. She couldn't go out unless security people came along. Even to the store. I said, "I know y'all are Five Star, but I go to the store!" I could never be alone with her. They didn't give me a chance to get to know her. In retrospect, I think the whole thing was a publicity stunt, because their new album was going into the shit house. So the father probably said, "Let's get something in the paper," and invited me out to the house. They probably sold another 20,000 records from that alone. Which weirded me out. I got used.

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