Eddie Murphy is leading the way in Dolemite is My Name, his first film in three years and it’s already being tipped as his big comeback.
Murphy takes centre-stage in Netflix’s comedy biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, the comedian who created the alter-ego Dolemite and made a successful 1975 blaxploitation movie around the character. Two sequels followed in 1976 and 2002.
It’s a telling role for the comedian who himself has seen his career dip and rise over the last 30 years.
Making his name on Saturday Night Live in the early ‘80s, Murphy sold out stadiums with his stand-up and took leading roles in 48 Hrs, Trading Places, Coming to America and, of course, the Beverly Hills Cop franchise.
Into the ‘90s, the star went on to appear in more kid-friendly features including The Nutty Professor, Doctor Doolittle and Mulan then in 2001 he made the first of four appearances as Donkey in the Shrek franchise.
However, this family-oriented rebrand boxed Murphy into the children’s market and a slew of disappointing movies, like I Spy, Pluto Nash and The Haunted Mansion followed.
2006’s Dreamgirls was meant to be Murphy’s big comeback as he earned critical-acclaim playing the troubled James 'Thunder' Early. He earned several nominations for Best Supporting Actor, including one for the Oscars, but won at the Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics’ Choice Awards in 2007.
Alas, what followed were two increasingly more disappointing Shrek sequels, and a string of lacklustre comedies that helped secure him the Golden Razzie for worst actor of the decade.
He also resigned from hosting the 2012 Oscars in support of Brett Ratner who quit following widespread criticism over his use of a homophobic slur during a promotional interview for Tower Heist, in which Murphy starred.
The actor was off-the-radar for three years after his 2013 film A Thousand Words flopped, until he appeared in the indie drama Mr. Church which was also panned upon release.
Now it looks as though this time Murphy is returning in a big way, not just with Dolemite is My Name - which also stars Wesley Snipes, Craig Robertson and Chris Rock - but also a reported $70 million deal to make a Netflix comedy special.
Murphy’s previous live specials, Eddie Murphy: Delirious and Eddie Murphy: Raw, were added to Netflix in 2016 but Delirious, recorded in 1983, came under renewed scrutiny for its homophobic content.
In 1996, Murphy apologised for the anti-gay sentiments in the stand-up routine.
“I deeply regret any pain all this has caused. Just like the rest of the world, I am more educated about AIDS in 1996 than I was in 1981,” he said at the time. “I know how serious an issue AIDS is the world over. I know that AIDS isn’t funny. It’s 1996 and I’m a lot smarter about AIDS now.
“I am not homophobic and I am not anti-gay. My wife and I have donated both time and money to AIDS research.”
This year, Murphy confirmed that he was going to return to the stage during his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee appearance: “I’m gonna do it again. It’s just, you know, everything has to be right.
“The only way I can get, like, an act is I gotta go to the clubs and work out,” he told Seinfeld.
He’s also returning as Akeem in Coming 2 America as well as Detective Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop 4.
Maybe this time Eddie Murphy’s comeback will stick.