You ever have one of those moments where you hear of somebody being cast in a role and you’re just, like, “I’m in. That sounds great?” Well, that’s precisely the response I had to the recent announcement from Deadline.com that actor Eddie Murphy is circling a brand new version of The Pink Panther, taking over the role of the seemingly-inept (but always successful) Inspector Clouseau from Peter Sellers and, then, Steve Martin.
I am genuinely a huge fan of the Pink Panther franchise, which so far has spanned 11 films over nearly 60 years beginning with 1964’s The Pink Panther, followed by that same year’s A Shot in the Dark, Inspector Clouseau (1968) — with, strangely, Alan Arkin replacing actor Peter Sellers — an experiment that didn’t work; The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and Revenge of the Pink Panther, all made prior to Sellers’ death in 1980. Less successful, not just for me, but pretty much everyone, were the films starring Sellers despite the fact he was dead: Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), both of which featured Sellers via outtakes. This was followed by the disastrous Son of the Pink Panther, a final gasp for a once venerable franchise.
But then Steve Martin was announced as the successor to Clouseau, which was definitely seen as a brilliant casting move. And his two films — The Pink Panther (2006) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009) — were fairly successful and it certainly seemed like Martin could carry on for several more films, but the gods of the box office deemed that not to be.
Which brings us back to Eddie Murphy, and his version of The Pink Panther about which absolutely nothing is known. But at this stage, it almost doesn’t matter. Not when your mind can instantly have an image of Murphy in the role and you start to laugh. When he’s on, the man is absolutely riveting and hysterical and one could easily picture him as a Haitian Clouseau, having a ball with the accent and the character’s inherent clumsiness. Now Murphy has not always been the greatest judge of material; when I’d had the chance to ask him a question at the press conference for Beverly Hills Cop 2, I immediately jumped on the fact that he was seriously attached at one point to the fourth Star Trek feature film, 1986’s The Voyage Home (“The one with the whales”).
“I’m a Trekkie,” Murphy noted to me in response. “I’ve always loved Star Trek and have wanted to do one of those films. I wanted to be in Star Trek and that’s where they got the idea of coming back in time to Earth in 1986. The script was developed, but we eventually dropped the idea. Golden Child came along and I decided to do that film instead, because I thought it would be better for my career. In retrospect, I think I might have been better off doing Star Trek IV.” A decision, one could say, was both right (for fans of Star Trek) and wrong (for Murphy).
And that’s where we’re at in terms of The Pink Panther. Murphy’s not a lock at this point, but we do know that Sonic the Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler will be helming things, while the script is written by Chris Bremer. Producers will include Dan Lin, Julie Andrews (widower of Blake Edwards, who directed seven of the original film series), Larry Mirisch and Jonathan Eirich.
“Murphy,” offers the site, “takes on the Clouseau role that Sellers originated in the ’60s. A source close to Murphy described the project as a natural fit for the actor, who has long admired the comedic performances of Sellers.”
A natural fit? We’ll be the judge of that, but the gut feeling is that he’ll be great, providing plenty of minkey business for fans of the good inspector.