Rensin, David. "Playboy Interview: Eddie Murphy." Playboy Feb. 1990.
PLAYBOY: You could have directed Coming to America but didn't. Why?
MURPHY: I wanted to help out [the director, John] Landis. I figured I'd give this guy a shot because his career was ****ed. But he wound up ****ing me.
PLAYBOY: What happened?
MURPHY: As it turned out, John always resented that I hadn't gone to his Twilight Zone trial. I never knew that; I though we were cool. But he'd been harboring it for a year. Every now and then, he would make little remarks, like, "You didn't help me out; you don't realize how close I was to going to jail." I never paid any mind.
PLAYBOY: Did you think he was guilty?
MURPHY: I don't want to say who was guilty or who was innocent. [Pauses] But if you're directing a movie and two kids get their heads chopped off at ****ing twelve o'clock at night when there ain't supposed to be kids working, and you said, "Action!" then you have some sort of responsibility. So my principles wouldn't let me go down there and sit in court. That's just the way I am. If somebody in my family was guilty of something, I wouldn't sit there for them in a courtroom and say, "You've got my support." **** that. The most it would be is, "Hey, you go work that out. I still love ya; I'm still your friend."
PLAYBOY: So you hired Landis out of friendship despite thinking he'd been irresponsible?
MURPHY: Yes. He'd done four ****ed-up movies in a row and I knew he'd spent a lot of money on his trial. I went to Paramount and said I wanted to use Landis. But they had reservations: His career was ****ed up. But I said, "I'm gonna use Landis." I liked the guy. I used to always say that the one fun experience I had with a director--and I've worked with directors I really liked: Marty Brest, Walter Hill, Tony Scott--was with Landis, because he plays around a lot on the set. I made Paramount hire him.
PLAYBOY: Was he grateful?
MURPHY: He came in demanding lots of money. Paramount was saying, "Hey, come on, Eddie, we're getting ****ed here," but I made them pay his money. They bent over backward. But after he got the job, he brought along an attitude. He came in with this "I'm a director" shit. I was thinking, Wait a second, I ****ing hired you, and now you're running around, going, "You have to remember: I'm the boss, I'm the director."
One of his favorite things was to tell me, "When I worked with Michael Jackson, everyone was afraid of Michael, but I'm the only one who would tell Michael, '**** you.' And I'm not afraid to tell you, '**** you.'" And sure enough, he was always telling me, "**** you, Eddie. Everybody at Paramount is afraid on you."
PLAYBOY: Is everybody afraid of you?
MURPHY: I don't know. But I still figured, Well, good! Because there's no way they're gonna respect me. They can't respect me. I was twenty-six years old. Imagine me in the office of a fifty-year-old guy in a suit. Naturally, he'd look at me, a kid, talking about "I want to do it this way," and he'd say, "Yeah, right. Sure, sure." Then on top of that, I'm this black man making demands. He'd look down his nose at me. So if I don't have his respect, at least let me have some fear. Let me have something.
PLAYBOY: But Landis just gave you grief?
MURPHY: It got worse and worse. What first put a bad taste in my mouth about him was when, after he hired [co-star] Shari Headley and all these other people, I said I wanted to take everybody to dinner. I didn't know anybody. But Landis grabbed Headley and said, "You stay away from Eddie. Don't go near him, because he's gonna **** you and ruin my movie. He just wants your pussy." I'm thinking, Wait, ooohhh, nooo, that has nothing to do with being a ****ing director. He's control freak. Just assuming that I was trying to get the pussy is one thing; and even if I was trying to get the pussy, for him to try to stop me from getting it because he was directing the movie.... He's got a lot of nerve. Plus, it wasn't even about pussy.
PLAYBOY: Did you confront him?
MURPHY: I kind of ignored it. But every day, it was a new "I told Michael, '**** you'" story.
Then, one day, I had these two writers who did the screenplay for Coming to America with me. They were writing a TV show called What's Alan Watching? that my company was producing. They were at our location in New York, and Landis was asking them, "Why are you guys here?" They said, "We're working on something for Eddie." And he said [strongly], "The production's not picking that up." And they said, "No, we're working through Eddie's company. Right now, we're waiting for the deal to go through." And Landis said, "So you're not being paid yet? That company should be paying you! Don't come to New York unless you're being paid."
The whole crew was standing around--extras and actors--and Landis started screaming. "Don't be afraid to ask Eddie Murphy for his money. You go up and ask for your ****ing money!" I walked in and he said, "Eddie! Your company is ****ing these guys out of their money! Guys, don't be afraid to go up to Eddie and say, '**** you!'" He's screaming about my deal making in front of the cast.
PLAYBOY: What did you do?
MURPHY: I playfully grabbed him around the throat, put my arm around him and I said to Fruity, one of my guys, "What happens when people put my business in the street?" And Fruity said, "they get ****ed up." I was kind of half joking. Landis reached down to grab my balls, like he also thought it was a joke--and I cut his wind off. He fell down, his face turned red, his eyes watered up like a bitch and he ran off the set. ****in' punk.
PLAYBOY: Did you go after him?
MURPHY: Nah. He came to my trailer later and made this big speech. His voice was trembling. And it all came out: that he didn't think I was talented, that the only reason he did Coming to America was for money, that he didn't respect me since I hadn't gone to his trial and all this bullshit. All this ****ed-up shit. Called me ignorant, an asshole.
PLAYBOY: How did you take it?
MURPHY: I'm sitting there shattered; I'm thinking, This ****ing guy. I bent over ****ing backward to get this guy a job. He probably won't even acknowledge what happened. He didn't realize that his ****ing career was washed up. So I told him, "The next time you **** around with me, I'm gonna whip your ass." His Hollywood shit came out then: "What do you mean, 'whip my ass'? That's not in our deal." So I said, "You're gonna have to give me either some fear or some respect. I want one of them, because this is my shit and you're working here. If the only way you can fear me is knowing that the next time you **** up, you're gonna get your ass whipped, fine." But Landis was ****ed up: "Is that a net or a true-gross ass whipping I'm gonna get? What kind of ass whipping is it?"
PLAYBOY: Would you have whipped his ass?
MURPHY: If he had ****ed up again, I would have beat the shit out of him.
PLAYBOY: Even considering the consequences of a lawsuit and criminal charges?
MURPHY: The thing about an assault charge is that if you're gonna do it, make it worth it. If it had come to that--me whipping his ass--there wouldn't have been some headline like "EDDIE MURPHY PUNCHES JOHN LANDIS IN THE FACE." I'd have beat the shit out of him, put him in the ****ing hospital, almost killed him. Then, when the headline read "EDDIE BEING SUED FOR ASSAULT," I'd have said [humbly], "Yeah, I did give him a horrible ass whipping; he deserves some sort of compensation, because I did beat the shit out of him."
Anyway, it worked. He was afraid of me. He'll probably never admit it, but the mother****er was on his ****ing toes for the rest of the show and didn't **** with me for the whole rest of the picture.