Eddie Murphy Interview

The actor discusses getting into this very big role

With a reputation as one of the most talented performers in Hollywood, Eddie Murphy is experiencing an interesting career revival. Starting with edgy concert performances like Eddie Murphy Raw and 48 Hours, Murphy moved into the lucrative business of children's films with such vehicles as The Nutty Professor and Daddy Day Care.

Currently up for an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor for his work in Dreamgirls, Murphy returns with what can only be described as an edgy kid's film in Norbit.

Norbit (Eddie Murphy) is a meek guy pressed into marrying a monstrous woman (also Murphy), only to meet the woman of his dreams (Thandie Newton). Cuba Gooding Jr. takes the role of Newton's boyfriend, while Eddie Griffin stars as a retired pimp. Terry Crews is in as one of Norbit's in-laws.

Where did the idea for Norbit come from?

Eddie Murphy: I remember, uh, we saw a video, uh, on the, on the computer of a woman beating her husband up and all the wives thought it was the funniest thing ever, and it was, like, you think that's funny? They're just, like, yeah, look she, he's, she can't, he can't, hah, hah, hah, and she, the guy that just couldn't defend himself, and my brother and I talked about it, it was, like, they think that's so funny, and it was, like, well, let's write something.

And we kinda, like, used The Color Purple as the, as a model, it was, like, uh, if you take The Color Purple and switch it and make it a man that was under a woman's thumb... ...his whole life, it's, it, kinda, kinda funny, uh, you know, you take the edginess out of it and just this guy, this, this , this henpecked husband, it's kinda, it made it kinda funny and, uh, that's how it came about.

What's it like playing multiple characters, and how do you develop your different characters?

Eddie Murphy: It's fun for me, the end result, when I see, I, when I've been in one of these movies where I did multiple characters, but it's not fun doing it, it's a bunch of hard work doing it, but it's fun when you see it all put together. Yeah, well, what happens is Rick Baker, the brilliant, genius Rick Baker, who did these make-ups and Coming to America, and The Nutty Professor, uh... he'll make the face, and then he'll start asking me questions, and that's how I find the character, it'll just start, you know, so where are you from, you know, while he's doing about, when he's about a hour or two before he's finished, yeah, how many kids do you have, you know, and we, and I'm trying different voices out, and stretching the make-up around, and, and after about two or three hours of him asking questions and me seeing what the make-up can do, after awhile you have it, and it's, like, oh, you can really see, watch those make-up tests, you could really, be, like, oh right there is where the character locked, you could, like, see it happen right on film sometimes.

Why was it important to have Rick Baker as part of this project?

Eddie Murphy: Well, Rick makes my characters look like real people... and what's crucial to, to these make-up pieces, when I do these movies, uh, and the, most make-up movies usually in the plot the audience knows that the character is in make-up and they're undercover, or they gotta do it, they're hiding and you know, and there are scenes where they gotta put their make-up on fast and all that, so you know it, that it's, and it, so it doesn't have to really look real, 'cause you know it's an, you know, your favorite actor underneath it or whoever.

But this is, like, it's crucial that the make-ups, you forget they're make-ups, and that's where Rick's genius is, it's crucial that you forget it's Eddie Murphy, you forget it's whoever, it's you're seeing this character, you know, and maybe somebody's have to tell you after that Coming to America , when I first started doing it, afterwards, uh, the old Jewish guy I did, people would be, like, you know, that was Eddie, after the movie they wouldn't even know it.

And I think if I had, if you, if I hadn't had a history of this, you'd come to this movie and you wouldn't know I was that old Asian guy, coming into it you know it, but if no one had told you, you would never think that that wasn't a really an old Asian guy and that's Rick's genius.

What's it like playing in a scene with yourself? Did you have trouble ad-libbing?

Eddie Murphy; I've done it so much, it was kinda, you know, uh, I've done it so much for me, go, going, all the way back to Coming to America, I've been, these scenes with myself so it was kind of, you know... Uh, ad-libbing is always encouraged and we have Marlon Wayans and Cuba Gooding Jr., the Academy Award-winning Cuba Gooding Jr., not the comedian, uh, you have Comedian Eddie Griffin, we got Katt Williams, uh, Thandie Newton, so we got a really good supporting cast. And Brian is a talented and funny director, I, I had such a good time working with Brian......um, my next movie Brian is directing.

Tell me more about Rasputia?

Eddie Murphy: Well, it's just, you know, she's just, just tyranny in a skirt, I'd never played anybody quite as mean as, uh, Rasputia, and, uh, she's a screen villain, she's one of the great, she, the movie starts off as a comedy, but towards the end Rasputia's like a great screen villainess. I never played a villainess.

What's your favorite part of Norbit and why?

Eddie Murphy: Well, my favorite part of the movie is, uh, doing these characters and, uh, what I can't, uh, uh, the, what I love about the movie is this sweetness that's at the center of it, the sweetness, the sweet little love story between, uh, you know, uh, Thandie Newton and, uh, Norbit's character and it's, like, uh, that's in the back and it's real sweet and believable with these outrageous characters around. And so it's, right what we wanted it to be.

What do you hope audiences get out of Norbit?

Eddie Murphy: I think they're just gonna laugh, I think they'll really laugh, I think it's, I have a lot of people, hey when are you gonna do another movie, you know, I've been making so many movies for kids, people, when are you gonna do that "Eddie Murphy" funny movie? And it's, like, okay, here's one with multiple characters and make-up and it's edgy, and funny and I think they're just gonna laugh.

Norbit opens February 9 from Paramount and DreamWorks Pictures.