He’s a top-class stand-up comedian, a star of the big screen, a father 10 times over and the voice of everyone’s favorite animated equine.
Eddie Murphy has done it all and, at the age of 58, shows no signs of slowing down. Here’s everything you need to know about the legendary funny man.
He Started Stand-Up Early
During his time at Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Roosevelt, New York, Murphy regularly tried out his stand-up routines on his fellow students. They loved his impromptu performances in the auditorium and voted him Most Popular Student.
This dedication to his craft was instrumental in his future success because Murphy didn’t have anything handed to him on a plate. Growing up in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, his mother was a telephone operator and his father worked for the transit police while moonlighting as an amateur actor and comedian.
His Comedy Career Started With Al Green
Before Murphy was a movie star, he was a regular on the stand-up circuit. He credits a 1974 Richard Pryor comedy album as inspiring him to pursue a career in comedy, which began on July 9, 1976, when he performed in a talent show at the Roosevelt Youth Center, doing an impersonation of singer Al Green with “Let’s Stay Together” playing in the background.
He Had A Traumatic Early Childhood
Murphy’s parents, Charles and Lillian, split up when Murphy and his older brother, Charlie, were young. When Lillian became ill, the brothers lived in foster care for a year. Their dad was murdered by his girlfriend a few years later. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Murphy said, “Up until 8, every year, it was something traumatic going on. I’m sure all of that’s repressed.”
He Changed The Stand-Up Scene
Murphy’s first filmed comedy special, “Delirious,” was filmed in 1983 in Washington, D.C. Its success led to a wide theatrical release for his next comedy film, “Eddie Murphy Raw,” which was filmed in the Felt Forum section of Madison Square Garden in New York and released in 1987.
“Eddie Murphy Raw” grossed $50 million at the box office — the highest amount ever for a stand-up special. Today, it remains the No. 1 stand-up film of all time at the box office.
He Influenced Other Comedy Greats
Murphy ranked No. 10 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time, and No. 25 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.
Russell Brand, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock have all said they were influenced by Murphy’s stand-up style. When “Saturday Night Live” celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2015, Rock introduced Murphy, saying, “When I was young, I didn’t think comedy was a job. Then I saw Eddie Murphy on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and it changed everything. Not only could comedy be a job, but it could be a career.”
He Was A ‘Saturday Night Live’ Favorite
From 1980 through 1984, Murphy was a regular cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” One of his most famous sketches, “White Like Me,” saw Murphy using makeup to go undercover as a white man. Through a range of everyday experiences, like taking a bus and going to the bank, he used humor to draw attention to the numerous privileges white men receive on a daily basis.
Other notable characters included an adult version of the “Little Rascals” character Buckwheat and the scornful green clay Gumby, whose trademark slogan “I’m Gumby, dammit!” became an “SNL” catchphrase. In Rolling Stone’s 2015 ranking of every “SNL” cast member, Murphy came second, behind John Belushi. Murphy himself described SNL as “like Harvard for a comic actor.”
He Killed Off Buckwheat
It was the public’s love of the “Saturday Night Live” character Buckwheat that led to his demise. Murphy grew so tired of fans demanding that he perform as Buckwheat in public that he asked “SNL” writers to kill him off. On May 12, 1983, viewers watched the sketch “Buckwheat Dead: America Mourns,” in which Buckwheat is assassinated in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
His Big Screen Debut Was In ’48 Hrs’
In 1982, Murphy starred in the film “48 Hrs” alongside Nick Nolte. To promote the movie, Nolte was lined up to host “Saturday Night Live” on Dec. 11, 1982 (the Christmas episode) but was too ill to fulfill his role. Murphy stepped in, opening the show with the phrase, “Live from New York, it’s the Eddie Murphy Show!” He became the only “SNL” cast member to host while still a regular.
He Doesn’t Read Reviews
In 1984, Murphy landed his first solo leading role in the comedy film “Beverly Hills Cop.” It was a huge hit, but it got some negative reviews. Murphy learned from this experience, telling Rolling Stone that he realized early in his career that he had to block out the criticism.
“I remember when ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ came out, they gave it some horrible reviews … back then I would listen and trip,” he said. “Now I don’t listen to anything. I haven’t read a newspaper in 20 years. I don’t look at the computer or anything. You have to have a filter on what you let in.”
He Was Almost In ‘Star Trek’
Murphy was almost cast in the 1986 feature film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” but he was eventually replaced with Catherine Hicks. The movie’s co-writer Steve Meerson told The Hollywood Reporter that Murphy played an astrophysicist at Berkeley in an original draft of the script.
“Eddie was on the lot at Paramount at the time and arguably was the biggest star in the world,” said Meerson. “They had told us he was a huge Star Trek fan.”
His Directorial Debut Was A Hit
In 1989, Murphy made his directorial debut with “Harlem Nights.” It was a financial success, grossing over $60 million at the box office, and a hit with Murphy’s fans. But it didn’t go down too well with critics.
“‘Harlem Nights’ offers a depressing answer to that not entirely pressing question, ‘Will success spoil Eddie Murphy?’ It looks as if it has,” wrote Richard Schickel in TIME.
He’s a Talented Singer
Murphy frequently provided background vocals to songs released by The Bus Boys, such as “The Boys Are Back in Town,” which was featured in “48 Hrs” and “Delirious.” Murphy also had two hits as a solo artist in the mid-1980s: “Party All the Time” and “Put Your Mouth on Me.” In 2011, Murphy revealed that his passion for music was still strong.
“I never stopped recording music — I just stopped putting it out,” he said.
He Was Friends With Michael Jackson
In 1992, Murphy appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video alongside Magic Johnson and Iman. The following year, Murphy released the single “Whatzupwitu,” featuring none other than Jackson himself. Murphy gave Rolling Stone insight into his friendship with Jackson.
“There was a whole regular person in there,” he said. “Michael, he’s much more in touch than you would ever imagine. He wasn’t off in Never Neverland and not aware of the world that was spinning around him. The problem was the drugs.”
He’s Only Been (Legally) Married Once
Much is made of Murphy’s colorful love life, but he’s only been married once. He first met his future wife, model Nicole Mitchell, in 1988 at an NAACP Image Awards show. They lived together for almost two years before getting married on March 18, 1993, at the Grand Ballroom of The Plaza Hotel in New York City — in front of 500 guests. In 2005, Murphy announced that he and Mitchell were divorcing.
He Dated A Spice Girl
After his divorce from Mitchell was finalized in April 2006, Murphy began dating former Spice Girl Melanie Brown, who became pregnant and said the baby was Murphy’s.
Murphy, who by this point was dating businesswoman Tracey Edmonds, publicly questioned the baby’s paternity, saying on a Dutch TV show, “We’re not together anymore. And I don’t know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, sir.”
Mel B recently said Murphy would always be the love of her life.
“We had something special that I’ve never really truly felt with anybody else,” she told Piers Morgan.
He Took A DNA Test To Determine Paternity
Brown gave birth to a baby girl, Angel Iris Murphy Brown, on Murphy’s 46th birthday, April 3, 2007. On June 22, 2007, Brown’s representatives told People that a DNA test had confirmed that Murphy was the father.
“He’s the baby’s father, it’s official,” said a source. “The baby is undoubtedly, 110 percent his.”
At this point, Murphy was in a relationship with businesswoman Tracey Edmonds, former wife of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
He Exchanged Vows With Tracey Edmonds
Murphy and Edmonds exchanged marriage vows on Jan. 1, 2008, in a private ceremony on an island off Bora Bora, but they never made it legally binding and split soon after.
Two weeks later, the couple released a statement saying, “After much consideration and discussion, we have jointly decided that we will forgo having a legal ceremony as it is not necessary to define our relationship further.” They called the Bora Bora wedding a “symbolic union” but said that they had decided to “remain friends.”
He Has Ten Kids
Murphy and Mitchell had five children together: Bria, Myles, Shayne, Zola and Bella. The actor also has two older kids: Eric, whose mom is Paulette McNeely, and Christian, whose mom is Tamara Hood. Then there’s his daughter Angel, whom he had with Mel B. Finally, Murphy has two younger children with his current fiancée, Australian actress Paige Butcher: a daughter, Izzy, and a son, Max.
He’s Getting Married Again
“Toni and I are just friends,” he said. “I went to her show, and we’re friends and she’s a very, very sweet girl, but we’re just friends.”
He’s A Doting Dad
Paternity tests and overlapping relationships aside, Murphy is a devoted father to his 10 kids. In December 2018, his daughter Bria shared a rare family photo on Instagram. It shows the entire brood, including Butcher and Murphy’s youngest child, Max Charles Murphy, who was born on Nov. 30. However, you won’t ever see Murphy himself using social media.
He told Rolling Stone, “The computer is a trip to me. Sit in a room, everybody is on their computer or phone. I don’t do any of it.”
He’s The Voice Of Donkey In ‘Shrek’
In recent years, Murphy has become a regular as a voice actor in kids’ movies. Characters he has voiced include Thurgood Stubbs in “The PJs,” the Chinese dragon Mushu in Disney’s “Mulan” and, most famously, Donkey in the “Shrek” series. Murphy didn’t reprise his role for the TV special “Scared Shrekless” and was replaced by Dean Edwards, but he was back as Donkey in “Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular.”
He Won Favorite Voice
At Nickelodeon’s 24th Annual Kids’ Choice Awards in 2011, Murphy was awarded Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie for his role as Donkey in “Shrek Forever After.” Murphy managed to avoid getting slimed, but “Modern Family” star Rico Rodríguez and comedian Russell Brand got covered in the trademark green goo as they presented Murphy with his award.
He Has A Golden Globe
After receiving Golden Globe Award nominations for his performances in “48 Hrs,” the “Beverly Hills Cop” series, “Trading Places” and “The Nutty Professor,” Murphy finally won an award in 2007. He was named Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of soul singer James “Thunder” Early in “Dreamgirls.” He was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
He Was Named Worst Actor Of The Decade
Hot off the heels of his Golden Globes success, Murphy won the Golden Raspberry award (aka the “Razzie” award) for Worst Lead Actor for his role in “Norbit.” He was nominated for the same award in 2002 for “I Spy,” “Showtime” and “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” 2008 for “Meet Dave,” in 2009 for “Imagine That” and in 2012 for “A Thousand Words.” In 2010, Murphy got the Razzie for the Worst Actor of the Decade.
He Was Cool About His Oscar Loss
Despite press reports to the contrary, Murphy didn’t leave the Academy Awards in anger after losing out on the Best Supporting Actor award to Alan Arkin, who won for his performance in “Little Miss Sunshine.”
“Well, you know, for the record, Jeffrey Katzenberg said something wonderful: ‘Winning an Oscar is more art than science.’ All this other stuff comes into play with winning an Oscar, and Alan Arkin’s performance in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is Oscar-worthy, it’s a great performance,” Murphy told Rolling Stone. “That’s just the way the sh*t went. He’s been gigging for years and years, the guy’s in his seventies. I totally understood and was totally cool.”
He’s Philosophical About Career Lows
After being box office gold throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Murphy’s career started to stall in the 2000s, with the 2002 release of “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” marking the low point of his career — it’s one of the biggest money-losing films of all time. However, Murphy remains positive about his career as a whole.
“I’ve been making movies for so long that now it’s all just one body of work,” he told Rolling Stone. “If you have a flop movie, so what? And if you have a hit movie, it’s ‘so what,’ too, it’s on to the next movie. If I do something and I die in it, at least I took a chance.”
He Doesn’t Drink Alcohol
Murphy is practically a teetotaler, for which he credits his youthful appearance.
“You know when I had a drink… the night I fought with John Landis on the set of ‘Coming to America,’ I went back to the house and Arsenio got me drunk. And I got drunk on my honeymoon, when I drank three glasses of champagne,” he told Rolling Stone. “I’m terrible… I don’t throw up if I drink, but I can’t drink. That’s why I look 35, I don’t drink and no stress.”
He Has A Hollywood Career Achievement Award
In 2016, Murphy was honored with the Hollywood Career Achievement Award at the 20th annual Hollywood Film Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, joining an impressive list of past honorees including Robert De Niro, Glenn Close, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Keaton and Robin Williams.
“Eddie Murphy has had a spectacular career as a comedian, actor, writer, producer and director, spanning more than 35 years,” said Allen Shapiro, CEO of Dick Clark Productions.
He’s A Box-Office Big Shot
Murphy may have had his ups and downs in Hollywood, with just as many misses as hits, but he remains one of the industry’s biggest money-makers. According to IMDb, as of May 2019, Murphy is the 10th-highest grossing actor of all time in the United States. Not including cameos or bit parts, Murphy’s movies have grossed over $3,800,000,000. His highest-grossing movie is the 2004 release “Shrek 2,” which grossed over $441,000,00 in the U.S.
He’s A Homebody
Murphy is often thought of as being a recluse, but he set the record straight with Rolling Stone.
“I leave my house all the time! But I’m not at all the Hollywood parties. I’m grown, and where else am I supposed to be? I’m supposed to be home,” he said. “If I were out in the clubs every night, they’d be saying, ‘That’s a shame, look at him, 50 years old, he’s still out at these clubs.’ I’m too vain to be a recluse. But homebody, absolutely. I’m 50 years old, beautiful house, I’m supposed to be home, chilling.”