Coming 2 America: 33 years later, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return to Zamunda


When Eddie Murphy made the unique Coming to America, he was, virtually indisputably, the funniest man in America.

Murphy was on the very peak of his fame, coming off Beverly Hills Cop II and the stand-up particular Raw. They had been heady occasions. Arsenio Hall, Murphy’s longtime good friend and co-star in Coming to America, remembers them sneaking out in the course of the shoot to a Hollywood nightclub whereas nonetheless dressed as Prince Akeem and his loyal aide Semmi. “We were insane,” says Hall.

The ’80s, Murphy says, are “all a blur.”

“I was so young, all this stuff was happening. You take everything for granted when you’re young, how successful I was,” Murphy says, talking by Zoom with a shelf of award statuettes behind him. “Now I take nothing for granted and appreciate everything.”

Thirty-three years after Coming to America, Murphy and Hall have returned to Zamunda. The sequel, initially deliberate to hit theaters final yr, was bought due of the pandemic by Paramount Pictures to Amazon, the place it’s going to start streaming Friday.

It’s an unlikely coda to a blockbuster comedy, one which belongs so utterly to the late ’80s that even the sequel tries to hold a few of that period’s spirit. (A number of notable R&B and hip-hop teams make cameos.) Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer, reverses the fish-out-water plot to convey Queens to Zamunda after Akeem learns he fathered a son (Jermaine Fowler) on his first go to to New York.

Some components have been up to date. There’s a plot of feminine empowerment; KiKi Layne performs Akeem’s daughter. At the barbershop, the place Murphy and Hall additionally reprise their characters, the dialog bounces from Teslas to transgender individuals.

“We had a draft where they had on MAGA hats and they were Republicans,” says Murphy. “It was funny but it was like, eh, let’s not even go there.”

Instead, Murphy and his collaborators — together with writers Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Kenya Barris — felt the core attraction of Coming to America lies in its fairy story premise.

“This is the only movie I’ve ever done that had a cult following,” says Murphy. “We had totally forgot about ‘Coming to America.’ Then this movie took on this life in the culture. It became like a cult movie. Lines from the movie became catchphrases. People do the mic drop now. The very first mic drop is Randy Watson from ‘Coming to America.’”

Coming to America has certainly performed a singular position in tradition since 1988. Real-life McDowell’s fast-food eating places — the McDonald’s knockoff from the film — have briefly popped up in Los Angeles and Chicago. Beyoncé and Jay-Z as soon as dressed up as characters from the movie for Halloween.

But the John Landis-directed film was additionally an enormous success on launch. It was the second-highest grossing movie domestically in 1988 with $128.2 million in tickets bought — almost double what Die Hard made that yr. Globally, it grossed $288.8 million, or greater than $630 million adjusted for inflation.

To Murphy, that’s the film’s legacy.

“‘Coming to America’ is the first movie in the history of the movies that had an all-Black cast that traveled all around the world,” says Murphy. “They don’t give a s— about Selma and Martin Luther King and civil injustice, no matter our story is in America. They don’t give a s— about that all over the world.

“It’s not about being Black. It’s about love and family and tradition and doing the right thing,” Murphy provides. “If ‘Black Panther’ was about the hood, people wouldn’t have seen ‘Black Panther’ all around the world.”

The connections between Coming to America and Black Panther — each uncommon depictions of Black royalty and a mythic Africa — are many. Before making Black Panther, Murphy has stated Ryan Coogler approached him a few Coming to America sequel. During manufacturing on Black Panther, Lupita Nyong’o (as soon as not a fan of Coming to America for its cliched depiction of Africans) and different solid members threw a Coming to America birthday celebration. Ruth E. Carter designed the costumes of each Black Panther and Coming 2 America. Both had been shot in Atlanta.

“I’ve had people say, ‘Now Zamunda isn’t a real place, right?’” says Brewer. “And I say, ‘No, it’s definitely a real place. I believe it’s just northeast of Wakanda.’”

The script for Coming 2 America was labored on for 4 years however taking pictures began rapidly. Murphy first recommended Brewer direct Coming 2 America throughout a dinner with John Singleton after a take a look at screening of My Name Is Dolemite, the Rudy Ray Moore biopic that helped spur a revival for the 59-year-old Murphy.

“‘Coming to America’ was one of my favorite movies as a teenager,” says Brewer, talking from his dwelling in Memphis, Tenn. “I couldn’t help but just say ‘Yes!’ immediately. Then it became clear to me that this is going to go, like, now.”

Coming 2 America additionally rekindles the good comedic chemistry between Murphy and Hall. Murphy estimates the shut mates have seen one another two or thrice per week for 40 years. But they went a long time earlier than speaking a few sequel.

“All of a sudden I’m reading this script that I love and I realize this movie that we thought we never were going to do a sequel to, we’re about to head to Atlanta — which is America’s Africa,” says Hall.

The shoot passed off on the Tyler Perry Studio sound phases, with Rick Ross’ close by mansion serving because the Zamunda palace. The film reunites many of the unique solid — together with James Earl Jones, John Amos and Shari Headley — and brings in lots of others, too, together with Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan. Hall, who had been doing stand-up with Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, sensed everybody wished in.

“One day in the dressing room, Dave is like, ‘I heard ya’ll are doing ‘Coming to America 2.’ I said, ‘Yeah, man.’ He said, ‘I want to be in that,’” recollects Hall. (A scheduling battle interfered and the versatile Hall, who has 4 roles within the film, ended up enjoying the witch physician half Chappelle may need.)

Some issues have modified with time. This Coming to America is rated PG-13. Murphy was simply 27 when he made Coming to America. Now, he has 10 youngsters and a grandchild. His daughter, Bella, has a small position within the movie.

“He joked about it on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ about him versus Cosby and who’s America’s favorite dad now. But there’s something to that,” says Brewer. (*2*)

Family life figures prominently in Murphy’s newer stand-up materials. An extended-awaited return to performing in 2020 had been his intention earlier than the pandemic hit. Those plans haven’t been canceled; when dwell efficiency returns, Murphy says, “then we’ll do stand-up.” Until then, Murphy, a proud homebody, has discovered himself again the place he began.

“I had gotten off the couch to go to work. I said, ‘OK, let me get off this couch I’ve been on for eight years. Let me go do some work,’” Murphy says. “And we were rolling. We did everything we set out to do. The big thing was going back to ‘Saturday Night Live.’ We was on a high. ‘Coming 2 America’ was in the can. Then the whole world fell apart.”

“I was all ready to go,” Murphy says, grinning, “and then I had to go sit back on the couch.”


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