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Eddie Murphy's highly acclaimed and award-winning Netflix movie Dolemite Is My Name introduced millions of new fans to filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. Real- life comedian/actor/musician/producer Moore played the character of Dolemite in stand-up routines and several blaxploitation films starting in the 1970s. Today, Murphy says we have our own modern Rudy Ray Moore in Tyler Perry.
Here's what Eddie Murphy said when asked what today’s generation of black filmmakers can learn from Rudy Ray Moore:
Today, Rudy Ray Moore would be Tyler Perry. On the surface, [Perry] looks like he just popped up, but he was making these plays and doing Madea all around, so he had a grassroots following. That’s what Rudy did when he went, 'Hey, I got this thing, I know what’s good, I believe in it and I’m going to go and work and sell it out of my trunk and get it going.' Your belief and your volition gets you whatever you want. He doesn’t have any of this stuff that’s supposed to make you. He’s got a pot belly, and he’s not a good-looking guy. He’s got nothing and his stuff is super crude. And he went and got his act from homeless people in the alley.
I can definitely see how Tyler Perry is today's Rudy Ray Moore. Just in case it isn't clear, he's talking about Moore there at the end of that quote to IndieWire. Dolemite Is My Name shows Moore getting his act from the streets. And the guy wasn't exactly Brad Pitt on the physical front. But, as Eddie Murphy told CinemaBlend, Rudy Ray Moore "turned shit into lemonade." He was ambitious and made a whole mini industry out of nothing. It impressed him.
As for Tyler Perry? He is definitely known for his hard work ethic. He raised some of the money for his first movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, in part from ticket sales from his own stage shows. He created the character of Madea and performed the role through multiple movies that weren't exactly embraced by critics but definitely found a loyal fan base. Now he's one of the highest-paid entertainers in the world, and his first non-Madea movie will be heading to Netflix.
IndieWire argued you could draw a direct line from Oscar Micheaux to Rudy Ray Moore, and then to Tyler Perry and beyond -- with Micheaux considered the first major African-American filmmaker. Eddie Murphy was a big fan of that direct line:
Fuck, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about, man. History and connections to history that we don’t make enough of.
Eddie Murphy's Dolemite Is My Name covers the making of Moore's first movie, Dolemite, which came out in 1975. The 2019 comedy was a passion project for Murphy, who is one of the Netflix movie's producers. While there was once a stigma about making movies for Netflix, that seems to have changed in the past couple of years. Murphy said Netflix was the ideal place for his movie:
They were perfect because they are forward thinkers and risk takers, not like the traditional studios. And they are obviously interested in diverse content. Back then, we were going around trying to get Dolemite made, in a world where studio people didn’t know who Rudy Ray Moore was at all. Literally, they had no idea who he was. I was at a couple of meetings with studios and a lot of people didn’t even know James Brown, and I was like, 'How the fuck you don’t know James Brown?' We got all these people that love Rudy Ray Moore. I heard some guy was talking with some studio dude that was like, 'Oh, we would have made this movie in a second.' When you look at it now you go, 'Okay, yeah.' But on paper they wouldn’t make it, so shut the fuck up. Now they’re like, 'Oh yeah, sure we would have did that.' Get outta here.
Gotta love how candid Eddie Murphy can be! Good for Netflix, though, for seeing the potential in this movie. And good for fans for watching it. Murphy quoted a figure of 40 million views for the movie after two weeks. It's considered one of the best movies of the year, comedy or otherwise.
Dolemite Is My Name and Eddie Murphy are nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, so be sure to watch tonight's (Sunday, January 6) show on NBC to see if the team wins.