The saying goes “never meet your heroes,” but the cast of “Dolemite Is My Name” did just that when acting opposite Eddie Murphy in the biopic about the comedy legend’s idol Rudy Ray Moore.
“I finally got a chance to work with one of my heroes. I’ve been trying to do it for over three decades,” Wesley Snipes told Variety at the film’s premiere Saturday night in Westwood. “It was a realization like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually here doing a dramatic scene with the comedic master.’”
Keegan-Michael Key also admitted it was hard to stay calm before meeting Murphy for the first time. “I was really having a dialogue with myself. I’m like, ‘You got to get it together. You gotta breathe. You’re in wardrobe, just get into character,’” he recalled.
“Once we sat down and they were setting up the cameras, Craig Robinson really broke the ice and asked Eddie a question about ‘SNL’ and Eddie was so gracious to answer it and give us so much detail and then I could breathe,” Key continued. “You want your heroes to be everything that you imagined them to be. And [Eddie] was; he was in a completely different way.”
The roar from fans as Murphy hit the orange carpet outside the Regency Village Theatre solidified the feeling that the comedian and actor is back, with a vengeance. For the Los Angeles premiere, guests were transported to the ’70s and treated to a live performance by The O’Jays. Stars like Tracy Morgan, Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Kattan joined the cast – including Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Epps, Snoop Dogg, Bob Odenkirk, Luenell and Tituss Burgess — in celebrating Murphy’s return to the big screen.
Murphy has shied away from the spotlight in recent years (last appearing in 2012’s “A Thousand Words” and 2016’s “Mr. Church), but “Dolemite Is My Name” has long been a passion project for the actor. Murphy was such a big fan of the blaxploitation star that he reached out to Moore about making the biopic before he died in 2008.
“[It’s been] a rewarding experience to do a movie and for it to all come together,” Murphy told Variety. “Most movies don’t work and most TV shows don’t work. Most records you never hear. So, when you do one that comes together, it’s really rewarding because nobody set out to do a bad movie.”
Of what he thinks Moore would make of the tribute, he added, “He would love it because it’s so well-made…he’d be over the moon.”
Like Murphy, Moore was a legend in his own right — a pioneering standup comedian considered by many to be the original “Godfather of Rap.” But when Moore decided to turn his comedic success to the big screen, he was largely on his own — betting on the talents of those around him to make the film a success. When “Dolemite” was released in 1975, the film made $12 million on an $100,000 budget.
But unlike Moore, who struggled to make it in Hollywood, Murphy admits he’s had a much easier time in show business. “I kinda had like a charmed run. I auditioned for ‘Saturday Night Live’ when I was 18 — that’s kind of like the only audition I ever had. I starred in my first movie when I was 20,” Murphy told Variety. “I didn’t have the resistance Rudy Ray Moore had to put up with. I was really lucky.”
Since the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Murphy has been fielding questions about earning his second Oscar nomination for the performance, brushing it off with a humble response. “It’s nice when that happens, but I don’t obsess about that stuff.”
And for all the buzz around him, Murphy has a narrower focus, quipping “I’m excited about getting back to the couch…So I’m gonna do couple of movies [including the upcoming ‘Coming 2 America’ sequel], go on the road, do some standup, then get back to the couch.”
“Dolemite Is My Name” is in select theaters on Oct. 4 and begins streaming on Netflix Oct. 25.