When you look at Eddie Murphy’s career, it’s hard to see how it could have been much better. He is one of the most heralded stand-up comics of all time and as an actor he has been in classics like Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours and Trading Places, animated hits like Mulan and the Shrek franchise and he even got an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls. But there is one hit movie that Eddie Murphy still feels like ‘an idiot’ for turning down: Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Yes, Eddie Murphy could have been in Disney’s 1988 live-action/animation hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit. While appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Eddie Murphy talked about his career and some of the folklore surrounding it. The actor confirmed that he turned down a chance to be one of the original Ghostbusters, but doesn’t regret the decision because his schedule wouldn’t have allowed for him to do that film and Beverly Hills Cop.
Eddie Murphy then revealed that the only role he ever turned down that wound up becoming a big hit was Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The actor and comedian was apparently offered the lead role of Eddie Valiant in the film, which eventually went to the late Bob Hoskins. Eddie Murphy knows he messed up too by turning down Who Framed Roger Rabbit, saying:
Now, every time I see it, I feel like an idiot
Hey, you can’t win them all. Who Framed Roger Rabbit of course wound up becoming a true classic and a hit at the box office. Director Robert Zemeckis’ film cost $70 million and made $156.4 million domestic and $329.8 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, and that’s in 1988 money. Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant is also now a classic character in a classic film.
So why did Eddie Murphy turn down Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Well, unlike Ghostbusters, it wasn’t a scheduling conflict. No, he turned it down because the pitch didn’t sound appealing to him as the actor tells Jimmy Fallon, saying:
I was like, ‘What? Animation and people, that just sound like bullshit to me.'
Fantastic. You can’t really blame Eddie Murphy for turning down Who Framed Roger Rabbit if it sounded like bullshit to him. Taking roles that sound like bullshit is probably not the best career strategy. Of course, Roger Rabbit was not bullshit, but hindsight is 20/20 and you live and you learn.
Honestly Eddie Murphy’s reaction to Who Framed Roger Rabbit reminds me a lot of another great ‘What if’ bit of casting: Will Smith’s Neo in The Matrix. Will Smith too didn’t really get the pitch for what wound up being a visionary film because it sounded ridiculous.
But hey, Eddie Murphy has still done pretty well even though he didn’t play Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And while this is a fun casting ‘What if’, as great as Eddie Murphy is, it’s hard to imagine Roger Rabbit without Bob Hoskins.