Eddie Murphy to play Richard Pryor in biopic?

Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly said writer/director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) was shopping his own script with Eddie Murphy set to star in Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, while HitFlix went further to say it had been shopped to Fox Searchlight with a $25 million budget. Condon helped Murphy get an Oscar nomination in Dreamgirls, and Murphy used to impersonate Pryor in his young stand-up act, so you'd think this would be a solid choice. Roll the NSFW clip:

And here is a classic clip from Richard Pryor (also NSFW) about going to prison in Arizona:

Then again. Two things.

1) Eddie Murphy is such a star himself, that despite the impersonation, I'll be curious to see how he slips into the role and life of the groundbreaking Pryor without reminding us that he is Eddie Murphy. In Dreamgirls, he was playing off of his James Brown/SNL riffs without having to play the actual James Brown, so it was a little easier to follow. Yes, yes, Jamie Foxx won an Oscar playing his Ray Charles. It is possible. And in a more of an apples-to-apples comparison, Jim Carrey pulled off Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. But I sometimes watch Eddie's brother, Charlie Murphy, and find myself thinking about Eddie. I'm not the only one who does that, right?

2) Which leads me to a previous attempt at a Richard Pryor biopic. Just a few years ago, comedian Mike Epps was telling MTV News that he would play Pryor, saying in 2005 he was personally auditioning for the family. In December 2006, Epps said a family fight over the late comedian's assets had delayed the project, along with a desire to rewrite the script with material from Pryor's daughter, Rain. Pryor and wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, had been producing that project, and Jennifer had told Variety back in May 2005 that they originally had thought of Damon Wayans for the role, but reconsidered. "The material is larger than life, and you need someone to fit into it
who's not extraordinarily famous or else it would be like Al Jolson
playing Malcolm X," she said. "Richard and I saw Mike's standup, and
there is a dangerous edge, a Richard-esque quality about him." Pryor died in December 2005.

Naturally, then, I wonder what the family thinks of this latest development.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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