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Eddie Murphy Speaks: The Rolling Stone Interview

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What would the twentysomething Eddie think of all the family movies you did?

Would the 27-year-old have wondered what I was doing in Dr. Dolittle? No. Or in those Shrek movies? No. But, you know, both the 27-year-old and the 48-year-old was like, "Why am I in Imagine That?" The movie didn't have a chance at the box office – it's just me and this little girl and a blanket.

So is family time over for now?
Yeah, I don't think I'm gonna be doing a lot of family stuff for a while. I don't have any interest in that right now. There's really no blueprint, but I'm trying to do some edgy stuff. And I only want to do what I really want to do, otherwise I'm content to sit here and play my guitar all day. I always tell people now that I'm a semiretired gentleman of leisure, and occasionally I'll go do some work to break the boredom up.

Your original idea for Tower Heist would have been a very different movie: an all-star cast of black comedians playing inept thieves trying to rob Trump Tower.
Yeah, I wanted to get all the funny brothers on the scene – me, Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan – and do a movie together, like I did on Harlem Nights. I still want to do something like that. I have this idea called "Jamal and Tyrell and Omar and Brick and Michael's Wack-ass Weekend," about this group of guys who get abducted by aliens on their way to the fights. I'm writing that now.

You're hosting the Oscars next year, which seems uncharacteristic – people think of you almost as a recluse.
I leave my house all the time! But I'm not at all the Hollywood parties. I'm grown, and where else am I supposed to be? I'm supposed to be home. When you go out now, as soon as you leave that driveway you're in the world. It's all this stuff that you have to deal with now, like the camera phone – this shit destroyed the world. Now wherever you go, they're taking your fucking picture. If I were out in the clubs every night, they'd be saying, "That's a shame, look at him, 50 years old, he's still out at these clubs." Recluses are nasty, with long nails, don't wash their ass... I'm too vain to be a recluse. But homebody, absolutely. I'm 50 years old, beautiful house, I'm supposed to be home, chilling.

My whole shit revolves around having this peace of mind. It's peaceful, quiet, that's my day-to-day. I play my guitar, hang out with my girl. My kids went to their mom's this week. I'm chilling, no stress. After all these years, I've done well and I'm cool. I feel comfortable in my skin, I've saved some paper, everybody's healthy, my kids are beautiful and smart, doing different things, it's all good. I'm trying to maintain my shit like this, and do a fun project every now and then.

When did you start feeling this way?
Ten years ago, I was like, "I still have to show and prove and make them see..." Now I don't give a fuck what nobody thinks.

What freed you?
Just getting older, man. I turned 50 in April. I know this is a business where success is the exception, not the rule. There's really nothing you could say – even if you don't like me, you have to give it up, I've been around for 30 years. I think Stallone said it: You don't do 25 years in this business being stinky.

Do you read reviews?
I remember when Beverly Hills Cop came out, they gave it some horrible reviews... back then I would listen and trip. Now I don't listen to anything. I haven't read a newspaper in 20 years. I don't look at the computer or anything. You have to have a filter on what you let in.

Isn't there a danger of feeling like you're in a vacuum?
I don't feel like I'm in a vacuum. I be chilling, and the really, really important things, you hear about. It's the day-to-day bullshit I don't need. I don't watch any of it. I don't know how. The computer is a trip to me. Sit in a room, everybody is on their computer or phone. I don't do any of it.

Do you at least have a cellphone?
When I got divorced, I went out and I was talking to this chick and I was like, "Let me get your number," and she was like, "OK." I was like, "Let me get a pen and a piece of paper." She was like, "That's cute, you want to do this the old-fashioned way." I was like, "What are you talking about?" Everybody had a phone, so now I got a phone and I know how to text and send a picture, but I don't need to network with anyone. I don't need to be on the Facebook.

There was talk of you playing Richard Pryor in a biopic. Would he have been cool with that? There was one point after Harlem Nights where you said that he resented you.
Not a resentment. When I showed up, Richard felt threatened by me. It was this weird "I like this motherfucker, but he is going to take my spot." Richard went through the little head trip, but we were cool. I would think he would like me to play him. We just got in the mix when they still did one nigger at a time in Hollywood.

You changed that situation, and the culture shifted – within a few years, hip-hop was the dominant music in America.
This is going to make me sound like I'm delusional, but it's similar to when James Dean came out, and the town realized, "Hey, you'll go see movies where kids are the story."

Young and fresh and street &8211; all those things became a part of hip-hop. I embodied all those things, it's the soil for all that came afterward. They didn't even realize you could make money in those areas.

One thing that's shocking now in 48 Hours is that Nick Nolte's character is using racial slurs right to your face.
[In perfect Nick Nolte voice] "I don't know what the hell you're smiling about, watermelon!" You know why it worked then and the reason why it wouldn't now? My significance in film – and again I'm not going to be delusional – was that I'm the first black actor to take charge in a white world onscreen. That's why I became as popular as I became. People had never seen that before. Black-exploitation movies, even if you dealt with the Man, it was in your neighborhood, never in their world. In 48 Hours, that's why it worked, because I'm running it, making the story go forward. If I was just chained to the steering wheel sitting there being called "watermelon," even back then they would have been like, "This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!"

There was a big push for Beverly Hills Cop IV – what's going on with that?
They're not doing it. What I'm trying to do with Beverly Hills Cop now is produce a TV show starring Axel Foley's son, and Axel is the chief of police now in Detroit. I'd do the pilot, show up here and there. None of the movie scripts were right; it was trying to force this premise. If you have to force something, you shouldn't be doing it. It was always a rehash of the old thing. It was always wrong.

Are you done with sequels, in general?
Even if this heist movie is a smash, why do a sequel? If I wanted to work with Ben Stiller again or Brett Ratner again, I could do that. Why go back and try to rehash this story? I'm some kind of sequel champion, I did more sequels than anybody. I did my share of sequels for now, anyways.

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