During Shadow And Act’s latest Live Facebook Q&A, Locked Down with Robert Townsend, the writer/actor/director gave some behind-the-scenes stories about his career with Eddie Murphy.
For instance, one of the scenes Townsend wrote for Hollywood Shuffle is the scene that caused Murphy to ask him to direct Murphy’s comedy special Eddie Murphy: Raw.
The scene, Townsend said, involved his character dreaming about Hollywood executives tell him that all they’re interested in is an
“Eddie Murphy-type,” leading to Townsend’s character being surrounded by men in blackface and leather jackets doing Murphy’s iconic laugh. The scene caused a creative argument between Townsend and Keenen-Ivory Wayans, Townsend’s co-writer, about whether to keep it in the film, but Townsend, as the director, decided to keep it.
“And then the movie becomes a big hit,…Keenen and I go to France…and when I come back there’s a message from my answering machine from Eddie Murphy,” said Townsend, adding that Murphy wanted to see the film after hearing so much buzz surrounding it. During the screening, Murphy and his entourage get to the scene poking fun at Murphy and no one laughs at first.
“Then all of a sudden, Eddie starts laughing,” said Townsend, adding that after the film was over and Townsend apologized for the scene, Murphy said the opposite.
“‘Rob. What you guys did here is brilliant. This is some classic shit,'” Townsend recounted Murphy saying. After this, Murphy asked him to direct Raw.
Before Hollywood Shuffle, though, Murphy and Townsend’s careers were intertwined without the two even fully realizing it when they both auditioned for Saturday Night Live in 1984.
After the audition, Townsend said, “my agent doesn’t hear anything, nobody hears anything…then somebody says this comedian from Long Island or from Roosevelt Island, Eddie Murphy, got it.”
“But,” Townsend said, “six years ago a book came out about Saturday Night Live and there’s a chapter in the book, Jean Doumanian says that there was a big fight over Robert Townsend, a lot of people wanted Robert Townsend, then Eddie came in and the rest is history.”
From Harlem to Hollywood, get the Black entertainment news you need in your inbox daily.