Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) smiles as he arrives in Queens in Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy has starred in a number of famous films over the course of his illustrious career, ranging from 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop to Dreamgirls and Dolemite Is My Name. Of course, one movie that has truly stood the test of time is Coming to America. The film was perfect not only because it included massive stars like Arsenio Hall and James Earl Jones but also because it was a true fairytale that included romance and a fish out of water story. But with such a fun concept, you have to wonder how the idea came together. While discussing the movie amid the arrival of Coming 2 America, Murphy revealed what sparked the initial idea for the ‘80s classic.

In many cases, creatives are able to mine ideas from personal experiences and, in many cases, this can make for some compelling film and TV. This was exactly the case for Eddie Murphy, who explained to The New York Times that it was his love life that helped to inspire the initial idea for Coming to America:

This was at the height of when I first got in the business. I was on tour and had just broke up with a girlfriend, and a conversation started on the tour bus about wanting to meet a girl that didn’t know I was this dude and just liked me for me.

Coming to America’s story truly kicks off when Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem resolves to find a woman who loves him for himself and not because he’s a prince. From there, he and Arsenio Hall’s Semmi embark on their adventure to New York to find a suitable bride. With that in mind, most would agree that the film is one that (at its core) is driven by romance, and it’s cool that we can thank Murphy for that.

The love story between Akeem and Lisa McDowell is one of the things fans love most about the original film. As with any film, it’s a romance filled with ups and downs, which makes it that much sweeter when viewers see the two end up together. One has to imagine that seeing them on screen had to be pretty refreshing since at that time, it was actually rare that audiences were able to see a Black couple in a massive, mainstream rom-com.

Eddie Murphy is well aware of Coming to America’s legacy and why it still matters to people decades later. What the actor and comedian has stressed the most is that unlike a number of films with predominantly Black casts, the movie didn’t focus on heavy subject matter. Instead, it provided Black audiences with a form of escape and an opportunity to see themselves on the big screen like never before.

Coming to America is certainly a gem, and film buffs owe a great deal to Eddie Murphy and the cast and crew for crafting a fantastical film that many can still relate to even today. I think most would agree that we’ll be enjoying the comedy for years to come.

Coming to America and Coming 2 America are available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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