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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Eddie Murphy

Will Eddie Murphy host the 2012 Oscars?

September 4, 2011 | 11:15 am

Photo: Eddie Murphy. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Is Eddie Murphy going to host the 2012 Academy Awards? No decision has officially been made, but sources close to the show say the comedian has emerged as the top candidate to do the honors for the February broadcast. A decision could come as early as this week when producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer meet with Academy of Motion Pictures President Tom Sherak. Representatives from the Academy declined to comment on Sunday.

While nothing is set in stone, the thinking behind Murphy as host is a return to the basics of what has worked on shows past.  (Reports about Murphy's potential hosting first surfaced over the weekend on a website covering black comedians and entertainment.)

Recent attempts at changing up the hosting duties from the popular single-comedian format -- two actors (James Franco and Anne Hathaway), two comedians (Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin) -- haven't been as successful. Murphy would represent the kind of talent that has historically worked best: An energetic comedian who is quick to improv -- he's a "Saturday Night Live" veteran and his very R-rated live show "Raw" was turned into a popular film in 1987. Still, his live-on-stage talent hasn't been in use in about a quarter-century, so going with Murphy is a risky decision. Plus, aside from his voice work in the "Shrek" series, Murphy's movie career hasn't exactly been on fire recently. (He was, however, nominated for an Oscar for 2006's "Dreamgirls.")

While the producers may believe that putting this famous actor in this role is something of an exciting choice, that could prove to be a big mistake should Murphy's upcoming two movies fail to connect at the box office. His next effort, "Tower Heist" (directed by Ratner) will debut in early November, while the long-shelved, and likely more problematic "A Thousand Words" won't open until January, one month before the Oscars.

Besides Murphy, other names being bandied about for hosting duties include Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld. If Murphy is selected, the choice will likely disappoint anyone in Britain who's already laid down money with bookies -- one popular site came out this week with their odds on various possible Oscar hosts, giving the best shot (at 6-1) to Oprah Winfrey, followed by Steve Martin (8-1), Bradley Cooper and Crystal (9-1 each). Murphy wasn't even listed.


Rush Hour director to produce the Oscars

Tower Heist: A clue to this year's Oscars?

Brett Ratner: Oscar fan who recognizes his outsider status

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Eddie Murphy. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Can someone please shoot the interracial buddy cop comedy?

February 26, 2010 |  8:41 pm


The interracial buddy crime comedy -- the very subgenre that audiences will be subjected to with Kevin Smith's "Cop Out" this weekend -- has been around for decades. But that doesn't stop filmmakers from adhering fervently to the tropes as though they were handed down at Sinai yesterday.

In approximately this sequence, those rules include:  Two men of different background/race are thrown together by circumstance (and quadrant-minded Hollywood marketing executives). They chafe at and resist each other; in fact, they rub each other so wrong that comedy (and, later, a little bit of drama) ensues. But thanks to a common threat, they finally come to appreciate and help each other. We all feel a little lighter for laughing, and maybe a little elevated to boot, because, hey, if a white cop and a black cop can get along, can't all of us?

The races sometimes change (Asian instead of white, Hispanic in lieu of black); the setup varies. A raunch-minded director who made a great '90s slacker comedy, for reasons understood by no one, decides to come on board. But the rules never change.

Of course just because there's a formula and/or a cynical marketing calculation doesn't mean the form hasn't been executed well. The right chemistry, writing and timing has given us "48 Hrs.," the first few "Lethal Weapon" movies and, if your definition of crime and cops stretches a little, the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder gem "Silver Streak" (or, if your definition of buddies stretches a little, "Beverly Hills Cop"). With a little bit of dramatic heft and some well-constructed action scenes, many of these movies have worked.

48hrThey just haven't worked anytime in the last 15 years, a period in which the subgenre has spawned the "Rush Hour" franchise, future AFI honoree "Nothing to Lose" (with Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence), the "Miami Vice" remake, and this weekend's "Cop Out." You could argue that Hollywood has been unlucky. Or you could say that every avenue for comedy or action in this format has been explored (forcing filmmakers into a position where the only thing they can up is the silliness level) and filmmakers should just stop looking (this means you, all you people working on the "Beverly Hills Cop" reboot.)

One does wonder how the Kevin Smith movie would have looked if it hadn't been made at a studio, or if David Dobkin had wound up directing it, as some original discussions had it, back when it was called "A Couple of D@$ks." Dobkin directed "Wedding Crashers," so "Cop Out" might have had the freshness and vigor of that movie. Or it might have offered one more reason someone should put this subgenre out of its misery.

--Steven Zeitchik

Top photo: Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis in "Cop Out." Credit: Abbott Genser/Warner Bros.

Seond photo: Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in "48Hrs." Credit: Paramount

Ben Stiller could plan a heist, as 'Ocean's Eleven'-style movie could go from black to white

February 16, 2010 |  5:30 pm

"Trump Heist" is one of those films that could be a brilliant update or so much high-concept high jinks -- or maybe a little bit of both.

Stiller The film (which may eventually be called "Tower Heist" -- that pesky legal department) is about a group of con-men who devise a plan to swindle the residents of New York's upscale Trump Tower, where they also work. It's basically a black "Ocean's Eleven" (not our phrase -- that's how development people in Hollywood are talking about it), with stars like Chris Rock, Chris Tucker and Eddie Murphy all previously mentioned in connection with the film.

But now the project from Universal and frequent production collaborator Imagine could be getting a bit of an, um, face-lift: Ben Stiller is in talks to play the lead heist-meister, the role Murphy would have played. A new draft of the script will be written -- likely by a writer Stiller has worked with in the past whom he'll bring on for this film. Universal declined comment. [UPDATE: Sources say that the studio has brought on Noah Baumbach, the "Squid and the Whale" writer who directed Stiller in the upcoming "Greenberg," to do a little bit of work on the latest draft. Said draft was written by "Mrs. Doubtfire" writer Leslie Dixon, who also worked on Stiller's "The Heartbreak Kid."]

The project might have a different feel with Stiller in the lead role of what was a black-oriented comedy -- he's not exactly Eminem -- though with Murphy a crossover star in his own right, it may also not be that dramatic a switch. As for timing, well, the project has been through the paces -- director Brett Ratner has been talking about it for some time now -- but the filmmaker could now make it a priority.

"Heist" has brought on a who's who of Hollywood screenwriters over its development history --  including "Inside Man" writer Russell Gewirtz, Hollywood veteran Rawson Marshall Thurber, and, most notably, "Ocean's Eleven" writer Ted Griffin. (Thurber has a Stiller connection, too, writing and directing "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," which saw Stiller play the villain White Goodman).

Hollywood has a history of giving movies with white stars a black treatment; Murphy was previously part of one such effort with "The Nutty Professor" franchise. This one puts an extra quarter-turn on the idea -- it's a white movie re-imagined as a black movie that may now be reconfigured with a white lead.

There are some business implications, too, as Universal is throwing in lately with Stiller. Although his production company Red Hour is now on the Fox lot, the actor is reprising his Gaylord Focker role for the studio's "Little Fockers" next holiday season and also takes a more dramatic turn as the lead character in "Greenberg," a Noah Baumbach film that Universal specialty division Focus Features will release next month. Stiller has done action in films only sporadically (in "Tropic Thunder" and 2004's "Starsky & Hutch"), but a good con-man tale is hard to resist, in black or white.

--Steven Zeitchik and John Horn

Photo: Ben Stiller. Credit: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times


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