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Edward "Eddie" Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961, Brooklyn, New York City) is an Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe Award-winning American actor and comedian. He was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984, and has worked as a stand-up comedian. He has also enjoyed a minor singing career.
Murphy has received Golden Globe nominations for best actor in a comedy or musical for his performances in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, and The Nutty Professor. In 2007, he won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of fictitious soul singer James "Thunder" Early in Dreamgirls, and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same role.
Murphy's work as a voice actor includes Thurgood Stubbs in The PJs, Donkey in the Shrek series and the dragon Mushu in Disney's Mulan. In some of his films, he plays multiple roles in addition to his main character, including Coming to America, the Nutty Professor films, where he played much of the Klumps clan, and 2007's Norbit. Another trademark of Murphy is his deep, infectious, and considerably goofy laugh.
As of May 2007, with the box office success of the films Norbit and Shrek the Third, Murphy has now surpassed the earning power of such actors as Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson, with grosses as a leading man that total over $3.35 billion in North America alone.
Murphy was born in the Bushwick projects of Brooklyn, New York. His biological father, Charles Murphy, a policeman and amateur comedian, left the family when Murphy was three and was stabbed to death when Murphy was eight. Murphy and his brother Charlie, and half-brother Vernon Lynch, Jr. were raised by his mother Lillian Murphy, a telephone-company employee and his stepfather Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyers Ice Cream plant. Murphy was considered an exceptionally bright child, but despite testing into gifted and talented programs, he spent a great deal of time on impressions and comedy stand-up routines rather than academics. Murphy's future was put into jeopardy when he was nearly expelled for assaulting a teacher after he referred to Murphy as a "caveman". The teacher received only minor injuries and later dropped all charges. Around the age of 15, he was writing and performing his own routines along with his then comedy partner Mitchell Kyser at youth centers and local clubs, as well as at the Roosevelt High School auditorium. These routines were heavily influenced by Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. According to his former manager, Ujima, who first met Murphy when he and Kyser auditioned for a talent show he gave in July 1977, "Eddie would tell anyone who would listen that he would be a household name by the time he was 19, and that's exactly what happened." After leaving Ujima's management and hooking up with King Broder, who paired him with two white comedians as "The Identical Triplets" and mostly got him exposure on cable TV, Murphy decided to seek his own gigs and eventually made it to a Manhattan showcase, The Comic Strip Live. The club's co-owners, Robert Wachs and Richard Tienken, were so impressed with Murphy's impressions of celebrities, along with his overall outlook on life, that they agreed to manage his career and help him find his own direction.
Murphy was voted "Most popular" while attending Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Roosevelt, New York, due to the stand-up comedy routines he would perform in the school's auditorium, and jokes he would tell classmates during lunch. Murphy then attended Nassau Community College in Long Island, New York, before beginning his acting career.
In 1982, Murphy made his big screen debut in the cop-buddy thriller 48 Hrs. alongside Nick Nolte. Murphy has cited this first movie as his favorite of all the movies he's done. The movie was perhaps most notable for two scenes: 1) a scene involving Murphy (on a bet with Nolte) terrorizing a redneck bar, and 2) a scene in which Murphy, in a jail cell, sings "Roxanne" by The Police loudly and out of key while listening to the song on headphones. 48 Hrs. proved to be a smash hit when it was released in the Christmas season of 1982. It's considered by some to be the originator of the mismatched, police, action-adventure formula, which was followed by Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, and others.
Nolte was scheduled to host the December 11, 1982 Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, but he became too ill to host, so Murphy took over as host. He became the only cast member to host while still a regular. Murphy opened the show with the phrase, "Live from New York, It's the Eddie Murphy Show!" The decision to have Eddie Murphy host was reported to have upset the rest of the cast.
The following year, Murphy co-starred with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. The movie marked the first of Murphy's collaborations with director John Landis (who also directed Murphy in Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop III) and proved to be an even greater box office success than 48 Hrs.
In 1984, Murphy starred in the successful Beverly Hills Cop movie. This film was arguably Eddie Murphy's first full-fledged starring vehicle, originally intended to star Sylvester Stallone. Beverly Hills Cop grossed over $200 million at the box office and when adjusted for inflation, remained in the top 40 highest-grossing movies of all time as of 2005.
Also in 1984, Murphy appeared in Best Defense co-starring Dudley Moore. Murphy, who was credited as a "Strategic Guest Star", was added to the film after an original version was completed but tested poorly with audiences. Best Defense was a major financial and critical disappointment. When he hosted SNL, Murphy joined the chorus of those bashing Best Defense, calling it "the worst movie in the history of everything." At the same time he pointed out that "If they paid you to do "Best Defense" what they paid me to do "Best Defense", y'all would have done "Best Defense" too."
Murphy has also been rumored to be initially a part of hits such as Ghostbusters (featuring his Trading Places co-star Dan Aykroyd and fellow SNL alumnus Bill Murray). The part that was originally written with Murphy in mind ultimately went to Ernie Hudson. Murphy was also offered a part in 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a role that, after being heavily re-written from comic relief to love interest, ultimately went to future 7th Heaven star Catherine Hicks. By this point (according to the autobiography of the film's director and co-star, Leonard Nimoy) Murphy's near-exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures rivaled Star Trek as Paramount's most lucrative franchise.
Also in 1986, Murphy starred in the supernatural comedy, The Golden Child. The Golden Child was originally intended to be a serious adventure picture starring Mel Gibson. After Gibson turned the role down, the project was offered to Murphy as it was subsequently rewritten as a partial comedy. Although The Golden Child (featuring Murphy's "I want the knife!" routine) performed well at the box office, the movie wasn't as critically acclaimed as 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. The Golden Child was considered a change of pace for Murphy because of the supernatural setting as opposed to the more "street smart" settings of Murphy's previous efforts.
A year later, Murphy reprised his role of Axel Foley in the Tony Scott-directed Beverly Hills Cop II. Although the film was panned by critics for its perceived mean-spirited tone and overall plot, it was still a box office smash, grossing over $150 million. Producers reportedly wanted to turn the Beverly Hills Cop franchise into a weekly television series. Murphy declined the TV offer, but was willing to do a film sequel instead.
Murphy was one of the last movie actors to sign an exclusive contract with a studio. In this case, it was Paramount Pictures, which released all of his early films.
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