For a good portion of the 1980s, Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest stars in the world. He was one of the few actors guaranteed to pull in audiences - and hefty box office receipts. But what happened to Eddie Murphy in the years since? In many ways, it feels as if he's disappeared from both moviemaking and public life. Where did Eddie Murphy go?
Well, there's not one specific answer to these questions. A combination of factors, both professional and personal, have influenced where Murphy is today. His movies, once dependable crowd-pleasers, have largely become duds. As he's transitioned from box office star to living legend, he's become more elusive. His private life has revealed some unsavory aspects of who Murphy is when the cameras aren't rolling. All of these conditions have had an impact on the surprising trajectory of a once-thriving career.
Read on to discover some stories, facts, and other things you didn't know about Eddie Murphy.
Murphy was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance in 2006's Dreamgirls. He had already won two major awards - the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award - for his role as R&B singer James "Thunder" Early. Picking up these honors made him a frontrunner for the Oscar, and when he lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine, Murphy stormed out of the ceremony. Though it looked remarkably unsportsmanlike, Murphy later claimed it was all a misunderstanding.
"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."
On May 2, 1997, Murphy was pulled over in West Hollywood after picking up a sex worker named Seiuli. Murphy was not arrested or charged, as an interrogation by police determined nothing illegal had transpired, but his passenger was arrested on an outstanding prostitution warrant. The media naturally went nuts, especially considering Murphy's openly homophobic stance at the time. Murphy's spokesperson said Murphy was simply giving the woman a ride home.
“She asked him for a ride, and Eddie did so, like he had helped people in the past.” The spokesperson also told CNN that Murphy said, “I was trying to be a Good Samaritan, and this is what happens.”
In 2017, Murphy's older brother, Charlie, died of leukemia. Charlie was an accomplished comedian and actor in his own right, starring in Chappelle's Show and a number of other movies and TV shows. The loss was huge for Eddie. "Our hearts are heavy with the loss today of our son, brother, father, uncle and friend Charlie," Eddie Murphy wrote in a public statement.
"Charlie filled our family with love and laughter and there won’t be a day that goes by that his presence will not be missed."
Warning: This video contains repeated profanity and offensive language.
No discussion of Eddie Murphy would be complete without at least a mention of his well-documented homophobia and AIDS hysteria. Even at the height of his fame in the 1980s, when making fun of gay people was something most comedians did without batting an eyelash, Murphy's own homophobic remarks were seen by many as crossing a line. This is not even a matter of debate; Murphy himself said he was afraid of gay people. He also spread abundant misinformation about AIDS. One example:
"It petrifies me because girls be hanging out with [gay men]. One night they could be in the club having fun with their gay friend, give them a little kiss. And go home with AIDS on their lips! And then when her husband, like five years later, somebody says, 'Mr. Johnson you have AIDS.' 'AIDS?! But I'm not homosexual!.' [sarcastically] 'Sure you're not homosexual!'."
For the record, Murphy did eventually apologize and admit to being misinformed... 15 years after first making gay folks his onstage punching bags.