Through the vehicle of Dolemite, we get a glimpse of the glory days of Eddie Murphy. At the Q&A after the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, every performer there recounted how much Murphy was a hero and inspiration to them, and how grateful they were to be making a film with him.
While all the performers sang the praises of Eddie Murphy, most didn’t say they knew a lot about Rudy Ray Moore or Dolemite. How then did they get the film made, with a relatively obscure figure at the center of it? At the screening, writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski mentioned that Eddie Murphy was a fan of Ed Wood, which they had written. These two white guys were huge fans of the Dolemite sequel, Human Tornado, having seen the trailer on a compilation so many times that they sought the full feature out and watched it. The three wanted to make a biopic 90s, but could never get it off the ground. More recently, after they made The People Vs. OJ Simpson, and it was a huge success, they got some newfound traction and revisited the dormant idea.
“A massive cast of comedians doing what they do best with a great script.”
There’s a scene in the film where the character Lady Reed, expresses gratitude at being given a big role in Dolemite, because she isn’t used to seeing big black women like herself on screen. In a touching moment at the Q&A, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, teared up while saying that scene wasn’t really acting at all, she was just saying that’s exactly how she herself felt to Eddie Murphy.
Curiously, Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad) is also a huge Dolemite fan, and when he found out about the film, he told the producers he’d do anything they wanted him to do — play the evil white guy — anything. They called him up on short notice and had him come in for a day and play a small but important role.
Dolemite Is My Name isn’t trying to be Best Picture. It is a straight descendant of the original—just a fun time at the movies, but with much higher production values. It is a massive cast of comedians doing what they do best with a great script. And that’s exactly what it should be.