Eddie Murphy hasn’t performed standup in decades, even though in the ‘80s he was considered one of the finest practitioners of the form: his classic 1987 standup film “Eddie Murphy Raw” grossed $50.5 million on an $8 million budget, making it the most financially successful standup film of all time.
Now, TMZ is reporting Murphy is in talks with Netflix to produce an undetermined number of new standup specials for a $70 million price tag. The move makes sense given that Chris Rock received a $40 million payout and Dave Chappelle $60 million for their own Netflix specials. Rock had two specials and Chappelle had three, putting the individual fee for stars of their caliber at around $20 million per installment – suggesting Murphy would probably create three specials, or maybe just two given the rarity and exclusivity of the enterprise.
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Murphy’s been saying for ages he wants to return to standup – he said as much to this writer at the Comedy Central Awards in 2011 – and most recently reiterated his desire to Jerry Seinfeld in “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
The Netflix move comes at a moment when Murphy is taking on one of the most challenging roles of his career as legendary comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who parlayed his swaggering shtick into the character of Dolemite, anchoring a series of raunchy Blaxploitation movies in the ‘70s. Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Keegan-Michael Key, and Chris Rock round out the cast of “Dolemite Is My Name,” which began shooting in summer 2018 and currently does not have a release date.
Murphy’s last major film was “Tower Heist,” the 2011 Brett Ratner effort about a plot to rob a crooked financier. “A Thousand Words” was released after, in 2012, but was filmed four years earlier.
Murphy appeared on the “Saturday Night Live” 40th Anniversary Special in 2015, but neither performed standup nor appeared in a sketch, despite being one of SNL’s finest sketch artists in the early ‘80s — no one has ever done a better James Brown. Norm Macdonald, who was brought back in to write for the special, claims he offered Murphy the chance to portray Bill Cosby in a skit, but Murphy said no because he “didn’t want to kick a guy when he was down.”
The comedian has been candid about the sometimes underwhelming quality of his films, joking to the press room at the Comedy Central Awards in 2011 that “nobody’s clamoring for a ‘Pluto Nash’ sequel.” Arguably, his last truly acclaimed performance was in the big-screen musical version of “Dreamgirls” in 2006, for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and won the Golden Globe.
IndieWire has reached out to representatives for Murphy and Netflix for comment and confirmation.