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Growing older has been a difficult process for Eddie Murphy. While his youthful energy and cocksure humour turned him into a superstar in the early 1980s with his memorable roles in Saturday Night Live and 48 Hours, his standup shows courted controversy due to accusations of homophobia and sexism.
His initial attempt at catering to a child-friendly marked with The Nutty Professor and Doctor Dolittle proved successful, but while his voiceover as the donkey sidekick of Shrek would allow him some much-needed success at the box office, other lesser efforts like Daddy Day Care and The Haunted Mansion cast a dark cloud over his career.
Fans have long hoped that Murphy, who turned fifty in 2011, would return to the more outrageous and offensive brand of humour that defined his work in the 1980s, recent attempts at moving further away from family-oriented audiences with Norbit – in which, much like 1988’s Coming to America and The Nutty Professor, featured Murphy in multiple roles – were greeted with criticism. ‘Fat people, apparently, are hilarious,’ said Empire reviewer Tony Horkins sarcastically. ‘Stereotype-based comedy from Eddie Murphy in a variety of fat suits is just not enough to make a decent film.’
Murphy’s first collaboration with director Brett Ratner, Tower Heist, brought Murphy further controversy due to a comment in the movie in which he referred to co-star Ben Stiller as ‘seizure boy.’ Following comments from Heroes actor Greg Grunberg, who took offense at the joke due to having an epileptic son, Ratner issued a public apology for the scene, while the movie was met by mixed reviews. ‘Tower Heist feigns being an Ocean’s 11 for schmucks, but plays like a retread of 48 Hours,’ declared USA Today.
While last year’s pilot for a proposed small screen spinoff of Murphy’s most famous role, foul-mouthed, no-nonsense detective Axel Foley in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, failed to convince network executives that a TV series was worthwhile, it did convince producers at Paramount that a fourth movie was a viable option. While Murphy’s third collaboration with John Landis, the director of Trading Places and Coming to America, had produced the critically-mauled Beverly Hills Cop 3, Murphy had expressed interest on many occasions in returning to the character of Axel Foley.In an interview last December with television host Ellen DeGeneres, Murphy confirmed his involvement in the long-awaited fourth instalment of the series. ‘We have a script that is kind of pretty much there and trying to get it perfect and the original producer Jerry Bruckheimer who produced the first movie is coming back to produce it,’ he revealed. ‘We’ve got Brett Ratner, yes ma’am. My very good friend, Brett Ratner, the director…We just get the script just right it’s something that we’ll do. But this will be just perfect because I don’t want to do anything else that sucks ever again.’
Prior to his work with Murphy on Tower Heist, Ratner had carved a success career as a director of action comedies with the multi-million dollar Rush Hour franchise, while also being responsible for X-Men: The Last Stand and Red Dragon. ‘I’m working on it now as we speak, on the script and stuff, so I’m definitely interested in making it next,’ Ratner recently told Total Film. ‘I just think it’s going back to the R kinda hardcore Eddie Murphy that everyone would love and wants to see again, from 48 Hours, from Beverly Hills Cop. That type of character.’ Regarding the character of Axel Foley he added, ‘What you didn’t learn in the first three you’re going to learn in this one.’