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Stories From Behind The Scenes Of 'Coming To America'

Updated March 4, 2021 36.7k views11 items

Upon its release in 1988, Coming to America was a huge success, but because of challenges during filming it's a miracle the movie was made at all. Behind the scenes, Coming to America was a nightmare for comedian Eddie Murphy who, along with the rest of the cast and crew, pulled off one of the most sensational comedies of the 20th century. Murphy butted heads with longtime collaborator John Landis (who directed An American Werewolf in London and the music video for "Thriller"), and the crew only had six months to make the entire movie.

Coming to America isn't the first time a comedy hit has overcome production problems; it wasn't even John Landis's first time dealing with behind-the-scenes blues. Even though the filmmakers faced serious adversity while on set, they managed to piece together a memorable staple of 1980s comedy. These stories don’t just shed light on Coming to America, they also provide insight into The Nutty Professor and Beverly Hills Cop III - both films that found their footing on the set of the little comedy movie that could.

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  • James Earl Jones Referred To Eddie Murphy As An "Arctic Wind" On Set 

    According to John Landis, Eddie Murphy was a completely different person than the last time he worked with him on Trading Places. He claims that although he believes Murphy to be very talented, they "clashed quite a bit because he was such a pig, he was so rude to people." Landis alleges that James Earl Jones referred to the star as an "arctic wind" whenever he came on set.  

    Murphy later told Rolling Stone that he struggles with depression, although he thought it didn't make sense for someone of his stature to be depressed. He said, "I get depressed a lot. I was depressed this morning. It's just natural; it's human. My depressions are even more frustrating because I think, 'Why the f*ck am I depressed?"

  • McDonald's Was Surprisingly Chill About McDowell's

    McDowell's, the fictional fast food restaurant where Prince Akeem and his friend Semmi work in order to experience life as normal people, is an obvious nod to McDonald's. Even though the filmmakers changed the color scheme and names of the food, they still had to ask permission from the burger conglomerate to poke a little fun. 

    In 2018, writer Barry Blaustein told Good Morning America, "They only had one request: when the guy robs him and puts the money into a bag, they asked to make it a plain white bag."

  • Paula Abdul Choreographed The Wedding Sequence

    In the same year that she released a single with MC Skat Kat, Paula Abdul choreographed the famous dance scene that takes place in Zamunda.

    In 2013 Abdul recalled the shoot, saying:

    I really wanted to create something that was regal, unique and exhilarating all at the same time. John Landis wanted an unforgettable performance that captured the joy and spirit of Prince Akeem’s wedding celebration. One of the biggest compliments I could ever receive as a choreographer is when I’m told that it’s one of the most recognizable and recreated dance scenes in our pop culture history. Working on this project was one of the most extraordinary experiences that has truly enriched my life.

  • Eddie Murphy And John Landis Had A Falling Out, But Made Up Six Years Later

    It took six years, but John Landis and Eddie Murphy finally made up after their disastrous time on set together. While filming Coming to America, the two argued, and even got physical at one point, but when Murphy decided to make Beverly Hills Cop III he reached out to Landis. 

    When the call came to Landis he was shocked because the last time the two had spoken they "really disliked one another." Landis says, "I asked, 'Well, who’s playing Eddie Murphy?' They said, 'No, Eddie asked for you.' So, I met with him, and he was pleasant."