Last week Forbes magazine named Eddie Murphy the second most overpaid star in Hollywood. “Eddie Murphy is in desperate need of some career rehab,” wrote Dorothy Pomerantz, who calculated that Murphy’s recent films have returned an average of $2.70 (compared to say, Nicole Kidman, who clocked in at number ten and earned $6.70 for every dollar the studio paid for her performance).
Pomerantz added, “His family-friendly comedies like “Dr. Doolittle” and “The Nutty Professor” earned more than $250 million globally each and helped make Murphy one of the highest-paid stars in the industry. But over the last few years the comedian has struggled.”
Denzel Washington, Drew Barrymore, Will Ferrell, and Reese Witherspoon also made the overpaid list.
In order to determine who was “overpaid,” Forbes looked at the 40 highest-earning actors in the business. To qualify, each had to have starred in at least three movies that opened in more than 500 theaters each, all within the past five years. Movies that opened after May 1, 2011 were not counted, which obviously eliminates Murphy’s current film, “Tower Heist.”
For Murphy, Forbes looked at films like “Imagine That” and “Meet Dave,” both of which earned less than they cost to make. Murphy’s ranking did not include his role as “Donkey” in the Shrek series, which has grossed more than $3 billion (and would likely remove Murphy from this list).
Unfortunately, Murphy’s current film, “Tower Heist,” isn’t likely to improve his rank with Forbes perspective. “Despite a strong Friday opening that had some critics predicting Tower Heist would lead at the box office, by the end of the weekend, the film was bested by “Puss in Boots.” Tower Heist opened to a “disappointing” $25.1 million.
“The film was impacted by what I believe is a general movie going malaise,” said Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco. “Audiences enjoyed their experience, based on exit polls.”
Actually… I was one of the people who saw “Tower Heist” Friday night as part of my due diligence to support working Black actors on opening weekend. It was entertaining, but the underlying premise — three straight-laced and Robin Hood-esque white men seeking revenge on a Bernie Madoff type turn to two Black criminals to show them the ropes was… uncomfortable.

Still, I chuckled, but didn’t laugh like expected. “Later I read in the LA Times that Murphy’s initial idea for “Tower Heist” was an “all-Black version of ‘Ocean’s Eleven.'”. Names like Jamie Foxx, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Tucker were considered to star opposite Murphy. I think that — essentially an updated “Harlem Nights” — might have made a better film.
All that said, “Tower Heist” might lend more credence to Forbes “overpaid” assertion, and the film may not be my cliche cup of tea. However, there’s a long list of Eddie Murphy films that are priceless to me, including “Coming to America,” “Boomerang,” and “Harlem Nights” (just to name a few.) Murphy may have his missteps, but based on a his catalog of comedy I’ll still give his projects the benefit of the doubt, and pay to see (most of) them.

Do you think Eddie Murphy is overpaid?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

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