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Eddie Murphy on His Legacy, the Oscars and ‘Saturday Night Live’

‘I’m the first black actor to take charge in a white world onscreen. That’s why I became as popular as I became.’

Eddie Murphy

Photo by Mark Seliger

The new issue of Rolling Stone has an extremely rare print interview with Eddie Murphy that touches on his long career of ups and downs, his possible return to stand-up, his Oscar hosting plans and much more. The full story is available on news stands and through Rolling Stone All Access on October 28th. 

Eddie Murphy

Bruce McBroom/©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

On His Movie Choices

"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. 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."

Eddie Murphy

Paramount Pictures/Courtesy: Everett Collection

On His Legacy

"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."

Eddie Murphy

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

On His Signature Laugh Disappearing

"I don't laugh like that anymore, somehow it doesn’t come out. It's weird to change something that’s as natural as that. But it started out as a real laugh, then it turned into people laughing because they thought my laugh was funny, and then there were a couple of times where I laughed because I knew it would make people laugh. Then it got weird. People came up to me and said, 'Do that laugh,' or if you laugh, someone turns around and goes, 'Eddie?' I just stopped doing it."

Eddie Murphy

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

On His Relationship with John Landis

"I had lunch with John about a month ago. We did the ill-fated Beverly Hills Cop III after Coming to America. Yeah, I'm cool with John, I did some great movies with him. Rarely do I have any shittiness that stays shitty. I either resolve it or walk away. Rarely do I let shit linger."

Eddie Murphy

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

On Not Making ‘Beverly Hills Cop IV’

"They're not doing it. What I'm trying to do 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 the 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."

Eddie Murphy

Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

On His Relationship With ‘Saturday Night Live’

"They were shitty to me on Saturday Night Live a couple of times after I'd left the show. There was that David Spade sketch [when Spade showed a picture of Murphy around the time of Vampire in Brooklyn and said, 'Look, children, a falling star']. I made a stink about it, it became part of the folklore. I felt shitty about that for years, but now, I don't have none of that. I wouldn't go to retrospectives, but I don't let it linger."

Eddie Murphy

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

On Reading 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."

Eddie Murphy

Mary Evans/EDDIE MURPHY PRODUCTIONS / PARAMOUNT PICTURES/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

On Doing Stand-Up

"If I ever get back onstage, I'm going to have a really great show for you all – an hour and a half of stand-up and about 40 minutes of my shitty band. But I don't know. The way that used to come about, you'd be around the house, hanging out, say something funny and it'd be like, 'I'm going to go to the club, try that out tonight.' That still happens, but it's been a long time. I'm not that guy in the leather suit anymore. The hardest thing for comics nowadays is to find your fucking voice."

Eddie Murphy

Johnny Nunez/WireImage

On Hosting the Oscars

"There's no pressure. It ain't about me that night, it's about the Oscars and making the show move smoothly. It's not, 'And now, ladies and gentlemen, the 2012 version of my ice cream bit, sit back and relax. I want some ice cream. . . . In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to say, 'Goonie goo goo. Thank you very much!' I don't think it's going to be anything like that."

Eddie Murphy

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

On Not Getting an Oscar for ‘Dreamgirls’

"Afterward, people were like, 'He’s upset,' and I’m like, 'I wasn’t upset!' What happened was after I lost, I’m just chilling, and I was sitting next to Beyoncé’s pops, and he leans over and grabs me and is like, [solemn voice] 'There will be other times.' And then you feel Spielberg on your shoulder going, 'It’s all right, man.'Then Clint Eastwood walks by: 'Hey, guy . . . ' So I was like, 'It’s not going to be this night!' [Mimes getting up] I didn’t have sour grapes at all. That’s another reason I wanted to host the show – to show them that I’m down with it."

Eddie Murphy

Steve Granitz/WireImage

On the Last Time he Saw Michael Jackson

"The last time I saw Michael, I was building this house, and I was staying around the corner, and he came over one night with Prince – his Prince, not Prince. I think Blanket was a little baby, either Blanket or Paris was a little baby, and he came over with them, cooled out for a minute. It was nice. There was a whole regular person in there."

Eddie Murphy

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

On Life These Days

"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."

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