In the minds of screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, there was only one person who could possibly play blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore for their film “Dolemite Is My Name,” and that man was Eddie Murphy.
The two had first met Murphy 16 years ago, and they shared their mutual obsession with Moore, the ’70s film star and comedian who became famous for his cult character Dolemite. When the time came to finally write the script, they even went against one of their best instincts.
“When we were writing this script, we broke the cardinal rule, which is never write for a star. We said, ‘This script is only for Eddie,'” Alexander told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven at the Toronto International Film Festival. “We want Eddie to love it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If Eddie loves it, we get to make a movie. If Eddie doesn’t love it, then there is no movie.”
Alexander and Karaszewski, screenwriters famous for their work on “Ed Wood,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Man on the Moon” and others, first came to know Moore through a tape of obscure trailers for his movies playing Dolemite. They quickly became obsessed, and Alexander even drove to the film company’s headquarters to track down and purchase a tape for Alexander for his birthday, back in the days when finding obscure films was extremely difficult.
Years later they had a surprise meeting with Murphy, who quoted lines from “Ed Wood” before giving them a hell of a pitch:
“He looked at us and goes, ‘Do you guys know who Rudy Ray Moore is?'” Karaszewki recalled. “Instantly, he barely had to pitch anymore.”
Murphy even arranged a meeting between the two of them with Moore, who regaled them with stories of the good ‘ol days and said Murphy would be perfect to play him in a movie. But the project never came together, and it wasn’t until the duo’s success with 2016’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” that they had the caché to make their passion project about Moore. So they got in touch with Murphy.
“It was like trying to get the band back together,” Alexander said.
“He just responded ‘Hell yes, I’m so into it,'” Karaszewski added. “Within a week or so, we were at Netflix, they loved the idea, they got it, and for a movie that couldn’t get made, it became a very easy movie to get made.”
“Dolemite Is My Name” plays in theaters in limited release beginning Oct. 4, and then debuts on Netflix on Oct. 25.
Watch TheWrap’s interview with Alexander and Karaszewski above.