'Fat Suit, Fat Suit, Fat Suit': Studios Stay In the Eddie Murphy Business


Remember the Eddie Murphy film that opened a couple weeks ago? The one that finished sixth at the box office and won't last through July at multiplexes where its sad, aromatic $12 million gross is overtaking the smell of the popcorn? Ring a bell? Either way, studios haven't forgotten Imagine That -- in fact, according to a new report, they can't wait to get back to even more pictures with Murphy. But why?

If you ask Jeff Katzenberg, as the NYT does today, it's because he "is explosive, given the right project, the right circumstances, the right concept, the right director." But don't get that quality confused with his Oscar-nominated work in Dreamgirls (which the Times's Brooks Barnes weirdly fails to even mention). This is really all about the Nutty Professor films and the $160 million-grossing Norbit, according to another observer:

"The challenge with Eddie is that you have to put his brand on the right tin can," said the consultant James Ulmer, who compiles the biannual report The Ulmer Scale, which rates the global bankability of actors. "His audiences are very straitjacketed in their expectations of him, and by that I mostly mean fat suit, fat suit, fat suit."

In other words, Axel Foley just gained 100 pounds on the way to a Beverly Hills Cop 4 greenlight. Excited yet?

· Despite Flops, Studios Want Eddie Murphy [NYT]