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How Much Will Eddie Murphy's Oscar Exit Hurt His Career? (Analysis)

Eddie Murphy
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"It was a career mistake," says one senior member of the Academy. "What the hell was he thinking?"

In his recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Eddie Murphy described himself as “a semi-retired gentleman of leisure,” adding, "I only want to do what I really want to do, otherwise I'm content to sit here and play my guitar all day."

That may be just as well.

By pulling out of his gig hosting the Academy Awards following the exit of Brett Ratner as producer, some top industry insiders say Murphy has not done himself any favors when it comes to securing future movies. “It was a career mistake,” says one senior member of the Academy. “What the hell was he thinking?”

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Another Academy member concurred: "This is like a big middle-finger to the Academy and to the industry."

One top producer says Murphy had an opportunity to help himself by staying with the show despite the exit of Ratner, his Tower Heist director who brought him on board. “He could have been a big hero here,” this person says. “He could have turned this into a big plus.” Instead, he wonders about Murphy’s future. “He certainly doesn’t have any kind of profile, particularly foreign,” he says. “What movie is he perfect for?”

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This is not the first time that Murphy has shown disrespect for the Academy: He infamously walked out of the awards show in 2007 as soon as Alan Arkin won best supporting actor for Little Miss Sunshine. (Murphy was nominated and had been considered a strong contender for Dreamgirls.)

Murphy’s balk comes just after Tower Heist opened to a lower-than-anticipated $24 million. After a string of failed comedies (Meet Dave, Imagine That), the film was supposed to represent Murphy’s return to the type of action/caper role that pleased audiences in the Beverly Hills Cop series.

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Still, a top studio executive says Murphy's exit is understandable considering his connection to the job was through Ratner, who had personally asked Murphy to take on the job.

"I think for Brett it's a train wreck," this executive says. "[But] for Eddie, it's that the guy who hired you is no longer doing it. . . . He's saying the new producer might have a different point of view and a different direction where he wants to take the show."

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According to a Hollywood Reporter poll, the Academy Awards audience was eager to see Murphy as host, with 74 percent planning to watch as opposed to 66 percent who had intended to watch last year’s ceremony hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. But those polled said they expected the show to be less “stylish” and “classy.”

That view wasn’t restricted to those in the television audience. A top agent says with the departure of Murphy and Ratner, “I think the Academy dodged a bullet.”

Email: Kim.Masters@thr.com

Twitter: @KimMasters