The real reason you don't hear from Eddie Murphy anymore

Although he's been a fixture in Hollywood since his days on Saturday Night Live in the '80s, Eddie Murphy hasn't really done all that much in the last handful of years. Where has he been? And what has he been up to? As it turns out, he's been living life like the rest of us.

He made a whole bunch of flops

Murphy's big-screen career has always been a bit of a roller coaster, from huge hits like Beverly Hills Cop to The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which remains one of Hollywood's biggest bombs. Still, the last decade has been especially unkind to Murphy, thanks to starring roles in a number of back-to-back flops including 2007's Norbit, for which he "won" three Razzie Awards. He followed Norbit with a string of Razzie-nominated turns in films like Meet Dave, Imagine That and A Thousand Words, all of which made his Oscar-nominated comeback in 2006's Dreamgirls feel like a squandered opportunity. Even his biggest hit of the bunch, Tower Heist, underwhelmed, compared to some of Murphy's previous successes.

To his credit, Murphy has become a bit more reflective in recent years, going so far to admit that some of his career choices may not have been pitch-perfect. "The [paycheck] movies are over for me," he told The Washington Post in 2015.

He dropped out of hosting the Oscars

Murphy made headlines in November 2011 when he announced he would no longer be hosting the 84th annual Academy Awards, set to air the following February. His decision didn't exactly come as a surprise; it was announced a day after that Brett Ratner, the director of Tower Heist, had dropped out as the telecast's producer after making anti-gay remarks and discussing his sex life on Howard Stern. Still, Murphy's decision to quit the Oscars didn't sit well with everyone, especially among members of the Academy. "It was a career mistake," one member told The Hollywood Reporter. "What the hell was he thinking?" "This is like a big middle finger to the Academy and to the industry," said another. Of course, considering how tepid his replacement Billy Crystal's reviews turned out to be, perhaps he dodged a bullet after all.

Mr. Church was too built up

There was significant buzz surrounding Murphy's return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus with the indie flick Mr. Church. The Hollywood Reporter even stated that Murphy would be "promoted for awards consideration in the category of best supporting actor." He ultimately wasn't nominated, and the movie came and went with a whimper, garnering zero love from any of the major awards shows.

However, the critics didn't leap at the chance to lay the blame Murphy's feet. In fact, The Los Angeles Times even gushed that Murphy delivered "a meticulously composed performance." So what was the problem? According to Richard Brody of The New Yorker, the film was "repugnant for its dehumanizing view (however unintentionally so) of a black man, and repugnant for its emptying-out of one of the great black performers of the time into a sanitized symbol of acceptable blackness."

But perhaps the most telling thing about Mr. Church—the hype surrounding it as well as the criticism of it—is how Murphy himself felt about the movie. In Brody's review, he quotes an interview Murphy did with The New York Times in which he said of Mr. Church, "It was like a really easy movie to go do, and everybody was really cool, so I just went and did it, then I went back to the hammock in the back yard." In other words: Murphy isn't taking his acting career too seriously anymore, and neither should anyone else.

He actually doesn't care if his movies bomb

In November 2016, Eddie Murphy gave an interview to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, offering an amazing insight into the comedy legend's thoughts on his career and future motivations. To put it bluntly, he really doesn't have many. While he somehow still comes off as affable, Murphy laughs at the concept of almost every question he's asked, and gives vague, shallow answers like, "I don't have a process," to a group of aspiring actors who just want to know how he prepares for roles.

His possibly least-surprising answer—given his lengthy string of critical bombs—came when he was asked if he had any regrets. "I used to joke about movies that flopped," Murphy replied, adding, "I don't even say I have movies that flopped anymore, I'm like, anything that you got to do— they actually put it on the screen and they gave you some paper, that's a f***in' hit." He continued, "…sitting around talking s*** about Pluto Nash—I'm like, in my house we have Pluto Nash week. We celebrate Pluto Nash. We don't have Halloween in my house, we have Vampire in Brooklyn night."

Is that a hilarious take on the muddled pedigree of his film career? Absolutely. Is it also the kind of attitude that's led to a few decades of questionable role choices and the reluctance of quality collaborators who felt that his heart was never really in it in the first place? Possibly.

He's hinted at retirement for awhile

Although fans may be confused by Murphy's recent absence from the big screen, the superstar comedian has actually been laying the groundwork for retirement for years. Speaking to the Today show in 2008, Murphy, then 47, revealed he even had a target date for his exit. "I'm planning to make movies until I am 50," he said. "That's two years and eight months [from now]. Then I'm going back to the stage."

Since then, Murphy has mostly lived up to his word. His last major star vehicle, Tower Heist, hit theaters a few months after his 50th birthday. He's since appeared in only two other movies: the underwhelming A Thousand Words, in 2012; and the aforementioned and disappointing Mr. Church, in 2016. Meanwhile, he did a bit of standup for the first time in almost three decades while accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2015.

He (briefly) returned to Saturday Night Live

Murphy was one of many famous faces who took part in Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special in February 2015. But despite his high-profile appearance, Murphy left many fans underwhelmed when he gave what amounted to a barely one-minute speech. What kept him from doing more? According to the Washington Post, SNL wanted him to play Bill Cosby. The idea didn't sit well with Murphy at the time, given that Cosby was facing accusations that he had sexually assaulted dozens upon dozens of women throughout his career. "I totally understood [why SNL wanted to do it]," Murphy said. "It was the biggest thing in the news at the time. I can see why they thought it would be funny, and the sketch that Norm [Macdonald] wrote was hysterical."

"[But the story is] horrible," he continued. "There's nothing funny about it. If you get up there and you crack jokes about him, you're just hurting people. You're hurting him. You're hurting his accusers. I was like, 'Hey, I'm coming back to SNL for the anniversary, I'm not turning my moment on the show into this other thing.'"

Ironically, Murphy wound up impersonating Cosby while accepting his Mark Twain Award that October.

He recently expanded his family

Murphy's preference for being a chill dad over a Hollywood megastar was confirmed in May 2016 when he and his girlfriend, Paige Butcher, welcomed their first child together, Izzy Oona Murphy. Of course, Izzy's birth was hardly a "first" for Murphy; he has eight other children with four other women, including a daughter with former Spice Girl Melanie "Mel B" brown. "She's doing wonderfully," he told Extra of his latest bundle of joy in August 2016. "She started sleeping through the night."

Still, Murphy's commitment to domestic bliss only goes so far. "I don't change diapers," he added. "'Cause I would be horrible at it and that's not fair to the child."

He's not really interested in Hollywood right now

At the Los Angeles premiere of Mr. Church in September 2016, Murphy told reporters he's pretty content with his life outside the spotlight these days. "My stuff is on TV all the time for anyone checking for it," he said in an interview with Variety. "When do they think they'll hear me say something funny [in the future]? I don't know, because from here, I'm going back to the backyard to chill."

Murphy offered the same sentiment while talking to Rolling Stone a few years prior. "I only want to do what I really want to do, otherwise I'm content to sit here and play my guitar all day," he said in 2011. "I always tell people now that I'm a semiretired gentleman of leisure, and occasionally I'll go do some work to break the boredom up. … My whole s— revolves around having this peace of mind. It's peaceful, quiet, that's my day-to-day. I play my guitar, hang out with my girl. My kids went to their mom's this week. I'm chilling, no stress. After all these years, I've done well and I'm cool. I feel comfortable in my skin, I've saved some paper, everybody's healthy, my kids are beautiful and smart, doing different things, it's all good. I'm trying to maintain my s— like this, and do a fun project every now and then."

He's getting pickier about his scripts

At this point, Murphy's weakness for choosing doomed scripts has come to overshadow a film career that started brilliantly—and he's no longer willing to keep adding to that streak of failure. Speaking to Ellen DeGeneres about the delays dogging Beverly Hills Cop 4 in 2013, Murphy explained he and others were still fine-tuning the script in an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

"We have a script that's kind of pretty much there; [we're trying to] get it perfect," he said. "If we can get the script just right, it's something that we'll do. … But this'll be perfect, because I don't wanna do anything else that sucks ever again. I don't wanna suck no more." Something tells us his fans are on the same page.

He has a few projects in the works

Although you may not see much of Murphy these days, that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be gone forever. In fact, the actor, now 55, has a number of projects in development, including a role playing Richard Pryor's father in a movie for Lee Daniels and the long-gestating fourth installment in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. In December 2016, Murphy told the Los Angeles Times that the Cop project was "actually closer than it's ever been," expressing satisfaction with a script turned in by "the guys who did the last Mission Impossible movie"—presumably a reference to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol writers André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum—and adding that he may also team up with Tracy Morgan for his screenplay The Jenkins Brothers Fabulous Mystical Magical Right-On Circus.

He could come full circle

Before he made his big splash on Saturday Night Live, Murphy honed his standup act in the clubs, developing the brilliant stage rapport that made his 1982 concert film Delirious (and, to a lesser extent, 1987's Raw) an all-time comedy classic. He's been off the road for years, although he's occasionally made a little noise about returning to standup—and these days, taking the mic is apparently on his mind once more, albeit with a few caveats.

"I think about it," Murphy said when asked about resuming his standup career during a 2016 interview. "Eventually I will. But it won't just be standup. It'll be music. It'll be comedy. It'll be stuff from my movies…I've just got to figure out a way to put a show together. Because me just coming out on stage and doing standup, I can't see myself doing just that. I can see having some of that, and then doing everything else. We'll see."

Murphy fans have long fantasized about the prospect of a second act for his standup career, and although it's hard to imagine he'd be anywhere near as hungry for laughs as he was at his legendary peak, the fact that he walked away from live comedy at such a high level—and has been missing in action for so long—would arguably make a tour the most high-profile project he could conceivably take on, even if it wasn't strictly a standup show. With retirement weighing on Murphy's mind, it could also be a wonderful way of bringing his career full circle.