In a reported deal, Eddie Murphy could be offered up to $70 million to return to host a standup special. The famously reclusive comic has been off the radar for a while but the New York Post reports that he is currently in talks with Netflix about an upcoming project. To get the figure in perspective, consider that Robert Downey Jr. earned $75 million for Avengers: Endgame — and, well, the numbers speak for themselves.
While Murphy might be best known for his roles on the big screen, his career took off with his standup. In the early 1980s he was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live before working on specials Raw and Delirious, playing off other contemporary comics like George Carlin. These gleefully uncensored shows were divisive to say the least, but despite (or maybe because of) their controversy, they thrust him in the spotlight.
Appearing in numerous films over the next three decades, Murphy forged a prolific career largely from comic roles, including in The Nutty Professor and Dreamgirls, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Appearing alongside Jerry Seinfeld in an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Murphy talked about a possible return to standup comedy, and it seems as if he was making a serious point.
The lucrative deal is just one of many investments Netflix has used its deep pockets to fund. In a spate of recent specials, the studio has offered the crème de la crème of standup comics. From Chris Rock to Ali Wong, Amy Schumer to Dave Chappelle, Bo Burnham to Katherine Ryan — it has no shortage of high-calibre comedy on offer.
Generous, too, is the streaming giant with its paychecks: Chappelle received $20m apiece for his three shows and Rock came in a close second with a $40m for two shows (including Tamborine). Ellen DeGeneres received a $20 payout, while Amy Schumer, following in their footsteps, negotiated an $11m deal for her special, although it was much less of a critical success.
The $70m deal is a hefty sum indeed, but considering falling subscription figures Netflix revealed in their last report, it’s clearly an incentive to attract audiences in the US and internationally. Netflix haven’t commented further on the financial deals of the contract negotiations, but the move suggests forward-thinking.
Predicting an increase of 5 million subscribers in the last quarter, Netflix missed a key target and attracted only 2.7 million subscribers. While it’s always striving to bring out fresh content in the form of series and specials, the loss of shows like The Office and Friends, gobbled up by other streaming services, means that it will pay out to keep its audience.
No time frame has been allotted to the show as of yet, but we can expect Netflix to be working closely with the comedian and to ensure that fans and subscribers are informed well in advance of its new content. I for one hope that it pays off: with comic films often likely to bomb at the box office, it’s becoming a much more serious business.