Eddie Murphy

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"People associate me with comedy. I'm in the comedy business. I'm all about the laugh," says Hollywood funny man Eddie Murphy, who has carved out a niche for himself as a popular comic and inspiration for up-coming stars, clocking up a stream of box office smashes along the way.

Edward Regan Murphy was born in Brooklyn in 1961, and grew up in the New York suburb of Roosevelt Island. After his father died when Eddie was a child, the young actor was raised by his mother Lillian Murphy, a telephone company employee, and step-father Vernon Lynch, who worked in an ice-cream factory.

The youngster\'s comic talent was evident from an early age, and by 15 he was writing and performing his own routines at local venues. Discovering his ability to make people laugh, the young Eddie got voted most popular boy in school after he began flexing his joke-telling skills. Clever one-liners and a mean impression of Bugs Bunny and Jerry Lewis were just part of his repertoire, however. Dressed in a gold lame cape he would perform Elvis Live At Madison Square Garden in front of an imaginary audience until he was soaked in sweat. "Elvis was my idol then - still is. I thought he had more presence and charisma than anybody who ever existed," says the actor.

After a stint working as a stand-up comedian in the same club as Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie got his big break on US comedy show Saturday Night Live, where his dead-on impersonations led to him becoming a key player between 1981 and 1984. Parting ways with the small screen show, Eddie went on to find box office success and international fame with the phenomenally popular role of Axel Foley in the Beverly Hills Cop film series. It remains one of the all-time biggest domestic blockbusters in motion-picture history.

Eddie was on a roll, and the likes of Trading Places, Coming To America and The Golden Child helped secure the actor one of the last exclusive contracts with a studio - in this case, Paramount Pictures, the outfit behind all his early films. The actor celebrated by splashing out on jewellery, fast cars and a glitzy lifestyle.

In 1993 he married lawyer Nicole Mitchell, in an extravagent Harlem wedding ceremony. The couple went on to have five children, and when the star paid out £3.2 million for Cher\'s eight-bedroom, Moroccan-inspired mansion, complete with gym, cinema, swimming pool and moat, he was exactly where he thought he should be - at the top of the Hollywood Hills.

The subsequent years, which included a disappointing directorial debut with Harlem Nights and some of his less successful films, were challenging, however. While his professional life seemed to have lost some of its burnish, Eddie\'s personal relations were also in trouble and he and Nicole divorced in April 2006.

Just a few months later the Hollywood star was being linked to former Spice Girl Mel B. Although the couple\'s liaison was short lived, with Eddie calling quits on the Spice Girl at the beginning of December 2006, the news emerged that she was pregnant. While the actor first denied that Angel Iris - born on April 3 - was his, he later released a statement acknowledging he was the father of the little girl, after her mother filed paternity papers.

Eddie\'s work life took a turn for the better when he seemed to rediscover his niche with The Nutty Professor, which gave scope to the star\'s zany impersonations talent. Dr Dolittle and Shrek were also huge hits, tickling the ribs of a whole new generation of fans. Meanwhile while his Oscar-nominated performance in Beyonce Knowles\' Motown flick Dreamgirls and the romantic comedy Norbit seemed to seal his \'return\' to the Hollywood elite.
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