When Eddie Murphy paid out $6.3 million dollars in cash to buy Cher 's white Moroccan-inspired, Egyptian-decorated mansion with it's eight bedrooms, gym, cinema, sunshine roof, swimming pool and moat, he was exactly where he thought he should be -- at the top of the Hollywood Hills.
Perched up there amid Moorish towers and giant palms it could be seen for miles. This was a black artist who had hurdled racial barriers and was revelling in 1980s-style rewards. Living excessively was the best revenge. This was the outlaw on and off screen, stage and record in the profane tradition of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. He made it so fast by being quick, outrageous and savvy. He boasted with a cheeky grin that he called a spade a spade.
He had his tongue around more four, seven and twelve-letter words than Spanish navy but although he had attitude he was not perceived as aggressive. Yet he never played Uncle Tom or the black stereotype, the number two man or the kerbside drug addict; he was the action star (‘Beverly Hills Cop') or the hilarious con artist (‘Trading Places') and always the leading man.
Arguably, for the actor who bridged the Hollywood colour gap, in a sequel too many.
His instant fame can be recorded in figures. The arithmetic: he was 22 in 1982 when he became a movie star with his debut in ‘48 Hrs'.
From then on he made millions and wrong decisions. He was the only African-American actor able to open a film in the 1980s
He went from zero to two billion dollars and you don't do that without a little attrition. He didn't feel it at the time:' It got so easy.I'd just come out on stage and they'd start laughing.'
The living was easy too and vice versa. He'd buy a $65,000 Porsche and a hot dog during a lunch break and built up a museum of a jewellry collection ( 'Jewellry ain't such a bad habit. You can't inhale diamonds') and a matching oversized entourage. There were comparisons between Murphy and Elvis, the Murphy Mafia for the Memphis Mafia. He liked to hear the word ‘yes' in other people's sentences.He relished the string of zeros after the double figures on the cheques
His image was hip and funny and gold Rolex. And maybe too smart. He played mainstream:' I've been called ‘'nigger'' only one one my life. There's very little anger in my humour.'
There was also very little humour in his life. It reflected in his work; he seemed bored, self-satisfied and close to self-parody.
Just as suddenly -- and easily -- audiences stopped enjoying Eddie Murphy. And he fell out of love with Hollywood but not, he admits, the money his exclusive Paramount contract was affording him.He sold up the castle in the hills four years ago ( at a $2.3 million profit) and began living full time at his even more over the top Xanadu, his Bubble Hill estate in New Jersey.
His ability had been to tiptoe the line between polemics and entertainment, to please the mass white audience and not lose his inbuilt black one. Almost everybody was his audience and his films repeatedly earned more than $100 million dollars the figure by which box office hits were counted.
When the duds, ‘Harlem Nights', ‘Another 48 Hrs.','Boomerang', ‘The Distinguished Gentleman', began arriving the studio marketing men did surveys. They reported that white audiences were not turning out as they had been. Complex and political reasons were expounded for that.