Yes, Beverly Hills Cop was Eddie Murphy’s highest-grossing movie. And his dramatic portrayal of drug-addled singer James “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls was his most critically-acclaimed role, by far, earning a Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination. But it was the immortal classic Coming to America, the story of an insanely rich African prince who finds the love of his life in America, that is Murphy’s most beloved film in urban America, by far.
Coming to America saw Murphy at his comedic and theatrical best, matching his incomparable comedic wits with the timeless story of a man searching for and finding romance with a beautiful woman. It proved to be an irresistibly powerful combination with urbanites and the overall box office as it became one of the highest-grossing movies of the year and of Murphy’s career.
The film opened at the end of June 1988. Ronald Reagan was about to hand the reigns of power over to his VP, George H.W. Bush. Michael Jackson’s Bad and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet dominated the charts. And Edward Regan Murphy of New York City, who mocked and made fun of Michael Jackson often during his standup comedy classics Delirious and Raw, used many of Jackson’s principle collaborators to make the seminal Coming to America. The film was directed by John Landis, the man who directed the greatest video of all time, Jackson’s “Thriller,” and the movie was edited by the cantankerous genius George Fosley Jr. who also edited MJ’s memorable 15-minute video that pretty much sealed Jackson’s legend forever.
We remember how Murphy and his close friend at the time, Arsenio Hall, teamed up for theatrical magic, each playing multiple characters in the film that made your liver quiver. We remember the antagonist in the film, the jeri curled Afro man, Eriq La Salle, who was heir to the Soul Glo fortune and who was the hated boyfriend of the gorgeous Lisa McDowell. We remember the formidable King Jaffa Joffer, ruler of Zamunda and his booming bass baritone and that sweet lion-hide overcoat. We remember Akeem’s butler, Oha, who sang that awful song during Akeem’s aborted wedding in the beginning of Coming to America. We remember the barbershop scenes, the hilarious church scene where Akeem first eyes Lisa McDowell and the scenes at McDowell’s. And we could go on and on about this priceless movie.
So, whatever became of the principle players in Coming to America in the past quarter century? Let’s find out.