The return of Eddie Murphy, movie star, to the public sphere—courtesy of his Netflix awards contender Dolemite Is My Name—has also brought with it the resurrection of an even more potent cultural force: Eddie Murphy, interview subject. Murphy doesn’t do a ton of press, typically, presumably because he knows we couldn’t handle it. As a man with an era-defining wit, and almost nothing to fear (except, possibly, the suggestion that Eddie Murphy is anything but one of the world’s most influential stars), Murphy’s interviews tend to be vulgar truth bomb testing ranges, as interviewers scurry around, trying to avoid stepping on the landmines of his considerable (he’d probably say “well-earned”) ego. People are still picking over the debris of an interview Murphy gave to Playboy years ago about his rocky relationship with director John Landis. And while this IndieWire conversation with Tambay Obenson probably won’t go quite so far down in history, it’s still a pretty rough bit of battleground to cross.
Things start out well enough, with Murphy recounting his meetings with Rudy Ray Moore, and only briefly telling Obenson to shut up so he can dig a photo of the two of them out on his phone. It gets a bit rockier, though, when the interviewer repeats a question from someone else that begins from the premise that there are people on the planet—children, perhaps—who do not know who Eddie Murphy is, which is the sort of thing that Eddie Murphy simply cannot allow to stand.
“It’s just not reality,” Murphy quickly counters. “If you were born 15 years ago, then you’ve seen Shrek, you’ve seen Dreamgirls. There’s no such thing as ‘There are these people who don’t know who Eddie Murphy is.’” Having thus re-litigated his own existence (along with a long discussion of the doors he opened, and the roads he paved, for Black comedians and actors in Hollywood), Murphy then shifted into talking about the world of superhero movies, as all people who have ever even touched a camera are now culturally obligated to do.
Long story short: Don’t expect to see Eddie Murphy popping up in a Marvel movie any time soon. “No! I’m going to be 60 in a year. Who would I play? The old brotherman?” When reminded that contemporaries like Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker both had strong supporting roles in Black Panther, Murphy was even more forthright: “Man, fuck that. I can’t be standing around in a movie with a stick and shit, pointing and telling people, ‘Oh, you should do this or that.’” After bluntly stating that he’s “just not down with the whole superhero movie thing.,” he did toss out one ray of light to the costumed hopeful: “But, if I had to, I guess I could play a villain or some shit like that.” (We cannot be alone in imagining the pleasures of an Eddie Murphy spin on Michael Keaton’s low-key bad guy turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming.)
Other takeaways from this interview: Eddie Murphy does not own a computer. Eddie Murphy hasn’t read a magazine in 20 years. Eddie Murphy will admit to admiring Martin Scorsese, but will get very technical if you suggest that he’d “really want to work” with him. It’s great, slightly contentious stuff; you can read the full conversation here.