Eddie Murphy Says Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Prince All Serve as “Cautionary Tales” for Him

Eddie Murphy is getting candid about how the major celebrities who came before him and died young have served as a guide for his life.

The iconic comedian-actor sat down with The New York Times for an episode of its podcast The Interview, where he talked about everything from not wanting to do drugs to his feud with David Spade, which is now behind them.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

During the conversation, host David Marchese pointed out that there was a time period when Murphy was on the same level of fame as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Prince, but they all died pretty young and from drug use in one form or another. When asked if he understood the pitfalls that came with that level of fame, the Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F star and producer shared that he did.

“Those guys are all cautionary tales for me,” he said. “I don’t drink. I smoked a joint for the first time when I was 30 years old — the extent of drugs is some weed. I remember I was 19, I went to the Blues Bar. It was me, [John] Belushi and Robin Williams. They start doing coke, and I was like, ‘No, I’m cool.’ I wasn’t taking some moral stance. I just wasn’t interested in it. To not have the desire or the curiosity, I’d say that’s providence. God was looking over me in that moment.”

He explained that getting famous really young, especially as a Black artist, can be like living in a minefield because, at any point, something could happen that undoes everything.

“Now, at this age, I can look back and be like, ‘Wow, I came through a minefield for 35 years.’ How do you make it through a minefield for 35, 40 years? Something has to be looking over you,” he said, adding, “This business, it’s not set up for a Black artist. It was a new thing: I’m doing this stuff that no one’s ever done, and it’s in a business that’s not set up for me. It’s set up for some white dude. So you don’t have people watching your back, and you don’t have support groups.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Murphy opened up about “cheap shots” he’s received from people throughout his career, specifically addressing the time Spade made a joke about him on Saturday Night Live as part of his “Hollywood Minute” segment. The Benchwarmers actor poked fun at two of Murphy’s recent films that hadn’t done well at the box office, and the Candy Cane Lane star slammed him for it.

During the segment, Spade showed a photo of Murphy and said, “Everybody, catch a falling star.” Murphy shared with the Times that it “hurt my feelings” and recalled thinking at the time, “Yo, it’s in-house! I’m one of the family, and you’re fucking with me like that?”

“It was like: ‘Wait, hold on. This is Saturday Night Live. I’m the biggest thing that ever came off that show. The show would have been off the air if I didn’t go back on the show, and now you got somebody from the cast making a crack about my career?'” the Coming to America star said. “And I know that he can’t just say that. A joke has to go through these channels. So the producers thought it was OK to say that.”

He continued, “And all the people that have been on that show, you’ve never heard nobody make no joke about anybody’s career. Most people that get off that show, they don’t go on and have these amazing careers. It was personal. It was like, ‘Yo, how could you do that?’ My career? Really? A joke about my career? So I thought that was a cheap shot. And it was kind of, I thought — I felt it was racist.”

After the segment aired, he stayed away from the show for 30 years, refusing to return for its earlier anniversaries, until the 40th. Looking back now, the Nutty Professor star noted that they’re all good, and he no longer has any issue with Lorne Michaels, Spade or SNL.

Murphy also addressed the sentiment that he laid down the path for comedians like Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Chris Tucker, explaining that he felt like that wasn’t entirely true because they took their own paths, different than his.

“The comic used to be the sidekick, the comic was the opening act, and I changed it to where the comic can be the main attraction,” he said. “They thought of comics one way, and it was like, no, a comic could sell out the arena, and a comic could be in hundred-million-dollar movies. All of that changed. And with Black actors, it was, like, the Black guy could be the star of the movie, and it doesn’t have to be a Black exploitation movie. It could be a movie that’s accessible to everyone all around the world.”

Best of The Hollywood Reporter