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Murphy, Paramount Contract Extended : Movies: The actor will star in four films, including 'Beverly Hills Cop III'--subject to script approval.

September 24, 1991|ELAINE DUTKA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paramount Pictures has announced the extension of its relationship with Eddie Murphy with whom they have been associated since the actor's 1982 motion picture debut in "48 HRS." Under the terms of the agreement, he will continue to produce in television as well as feature films and star in four films for the studio--two of which he owed Paramount under terms of his existing deal plus two additional movies.

The first project, a comedy entitled "Boomerang," will feature Murphy as a ladies' man who finally meets his match. Getting under way in November for a summer 1992 release, it will be produced by Brian Grazer and Warrington Hudlin ("House Party") and directed by Reginald Hudlin from a screenplay written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield based on a story by Murphy.

Murphy will do the second, "Beverly Hills Cop III," subject to script approval. Sources say that the actor, who received $12 million for his last film "Another 48 HRS.," has asked $15 million as an advance against the gross for the "Cop" sequel. Talks are being conducted with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, producers of the first two installments. The producing duo recently departed Paramount for Disney, but insiders say "Cops III" will proceed whether or not they come aboard.

Over the years, Murphy's films have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide for Paramount, but in the wake of such critical flops as "Another 48 HRS." and "Harlem Nights"--as well as the much publicized "Coming to America" lawsuit brought by writer Art Buchwald--the Paramount-Murphy relationship reportedly became strained.

When other studios, most notably Disney, were seen courting Murphy, speculation abounded that the actor would jump ship.

David Kirkpatrick, president of Paramount's motion picture group, chalks such talk up to the Hollywood rumor mill. "I can't think of any other star-studio relationship that has been this successful," he says, "and the arrival of Brandon Tartikoff from NBC with whom Eddie has a terrific relationship dating back to his 'Saturday Night Live' days no doubt provided him with an additional comfort level. The real issue, as we see it, isn't discord but how to dig up the projects that will be best for Eddie creatively. He's at the same moment in his career that Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen were when they embarked on 'The Kid' and 'Annie Hall,' respectively. They'd done wonderful comedies but wanted to stretch their genius.

"We've come up with 12 projects in the past year that we think will bring texture and depth to Eddie's stardom and help him redefine himself for the 1990s. And, in any case, Eddie wasn't free to sign with anyone else until he fulfilled his obligations to us. Reports of his signing with Disney were erroneous. "

Murphy, however, may well be embarking on a project with Disney as part of an agreement worked out with Paramount, which granted him the right to do one outside film in addition to it's own slate. The picture, "Distinguished Gentleman," would star Murphy in a modern version of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Written by Marty Kaplan and produced by Kaplan and Leonard Goldberg, it would begin production after Murphy completes "Boomerang."

Some studio insiders believe that Murphy's exploration of new turf may have worked to Paramount's advantage. Commented one executive: "I don't think it hurt us that Eddie went out and saw what was out there. He'd been with us for a decade and had to come to the realization that, though the grass seemed greener on the other side, it wasn't necessarily a better home."

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