Louie Anderson Details How An Act Of Kindness Landed His Role In Coming To America (Video)
Twenty nine years ago, Eddie Murphy struck gold when he made Coming To America. The romantic comedy has endured as a classic, thanks to a number of roles taken on by Murphy. One of Hollywood’s top earners and top draws of the day, Eddie was surrounded by a cast of comedians including Arsenio Hall, John Amos and Frankie Faison. Many actors would make early, memorable appearances in the film, including Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Eriq La Salle, as well as Louie Anderson.
Anderson played “Maurice,” who worked at McDowell’s fast food restaurant alongside “Akeem” (Murphy) and “Semmi” (Hall). A down-on-his-luck burger flipper who can’t get his life in order (let alone serve a strawberry milkshake to a customer), Anderson delivers a memorable line: “Hey, I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. But now… now I’m washing lettuce. Soon, I’ll be on fries; then the grill. In a year or two, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”
Appearing on Sway In The Morning this week, the Emmy Award-winning comedian and actor remembered his big break, and the unusual circumstance that landed him the role. “That was a big movie in my life, [my] first big thing…first big job! I was in The Comedy Store; I know Eddie [Murphy] from The Comedy Store. I’d always go, ‘Eddie, you’re too dirty on stage. You could be funnier being clean, you’ll just do twice the business.’ He’d just look at me…he liked me, he thought I was funny, I think, anyways.” At the time in the 1980s, both Louie Anderson and Eddie Murphy were stand-up comedians, one far more successful than the other.
By 1988, while eating, Louie encountered his old friend from the comedy club. “[I was] at The Ivy, which is a restaurant in Beverly Hills, where you [go to] think you’re famous. So you hang out there to hope you’ll see somebody who will go, ‘Hey, you’re funny.’ I used to like the peppered shrimp in there.” Anderson had hosted specials on Showtime and made small appearances in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Perfect Strangers. “So I’m at Ivy’s, sitting there, eating the shrimp. Eddie comes in with his entourage, probably six, eight, 10 people, ’cause Eddie was ‘Eddie’ [at the peak]. I said to the waiter, I go, ‘Listen, put Eddie’s bill on my [credit] card, but don’t tell him ’til after I leave. I’m not doin’ it to be a big shot, I’m doin’ it ’cause I’m from the Midwest, and that’s how we would do.’ So I did it, ’cause nobody ever buys Eddie’s [meals], I think. That’s the kinda thing I like to do. So the next day I get a call from [Eddie] to thank me…He goes, ‘Nobody ever bought me [anything]. I’m doing this little movie called Coming To America; I’m gonna put a part in it for you.”
Touched by the gesture, Murphy cast Louie Anderson as “Maurice” which gave him his most screen time to date. Moreover, the film landed him in front of a comedy-savvy audience, thanks to Eddie. “I’m serious. Because of that, I got that part. I didn’t have to audition for it, I just got that part. I don’t know if it was already in, and somebody lost the part. That’s life, isn’t it? It was the best $660 I ever spent,” Anderson tells Sway and Heather B.
Anderson also hints that Coming To America may get a modernized update. “Kevin Hart, I heard, was gonna do a remake of [Coming To America]. I said, I got to get the part again, still working there. ‘Cause that’d be really funny if ‘Maurice’ was still working [at McDowell’s].” According to the former Family Feud host and creator of Life With Louie, director John Landis has had discussions about the remake. “That’s where I met John Landis; he just asked about me recently, great director.” Part of the 1988 film, Louie Anderson admits he is also understanding of fan push-back. “I know there’s people who wouldn’t like it if he remade it, ’cause it’s almost a sacrilegious thing.”
Notably, Eddie Murphy (who wrote the story to Coming To America) remade a previously famous film, The Nutty Professor.
Louie Anderson now stars in FX series Baskets. He discusses that show in the interview, as well as some quips about “lean,” Ice-T’s Geico ad, and which of Eddie Murphy’s films are perceived as “Black” and which ones are perceived as “White.”
#BonusBeat: Some late-1980s Louie Anderson stand-up:
This is from Mom! Louie’s Looking At Me Again!.