Eddie Murphy would’ve been fantastic in Star Trek but not in the role offered to him.
Eddie Murphy was almost in Star Trek at the height of his popularity, and it would’ve been a huge deal. Murphy, who was at the apex of his popularity in the mid-to-late 1980s, was offered a role in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The film came out right after 48 Hours, Trading Places, and the first Beverly Hills Cop film, and right before he hit superstardom with his comedy special Raw.
Considering his stature and talent as a performer, he would’ve been a nice addition to the Star Trek crew, specifically as a member of the ship’s crew, but that wasn’t the role he was offered, nor was it the one he deserved.
While appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Murphy went on to speak about the role he was offered;
"Yeah, you know which one it was? It was the one where they go to San Francisco and they get the whales. I was going to be the one that they met when they got to San Francisco, and I was like, ‘No, I want to go and beam up and be on the ship,’ so I didn’t do it… Yeah, they had me like talking jive to Spock."
Eddie Murphy’s involvement in Star Trek IV would’ve mirrored that of Richard Pryor in Superman III
While Murphy was just finding his legs as an A-lister, Richard Pryor was already a known commodity in the world of comedy. That’s why it made it so interesting that in a film franchise that was pretty serious, Superman III would not only be far more comedic but would also have Pryor have a significant amount of screen time. He was clearly a huge addition to the cast and the trailer and marketing made it clear that he was on equal billing to Christopher Reeve.
The film was a tonal shift for the franchise, especially from the second film in the franchise, where Zod and his minions battled Superman to the death. Likewise, Star Trek IV was going to be a film with a much softer touch, as the second and third films dealt with a lot of death, making Murphy’s involvement all the more intriguing considering the more humorous nature of the plot.
Had Murphy been in the film, it’s likely he would have ended up getting a larger part, considering the success of Beverly Hills Cop, and likely would’ve been front and center with the advertising. The difference is, Pryor’s role was a comedic villain, who was also a genius. It was layered and deep. Even if Superman III didn’t always hit the right notes.
Murphy describes a role that was pretty insensitive, even for the 80s, and considering all he wanted was to do a scene or two on the Enterprise and he couldn’t even get that, it makes sense that he passed on the film. It’s likely the best move for him and the film in the long run.
Murphy wouldn’t be hampered by having such a lackluster role and Star Trek IV doesn’t have to be known for what it almost was.