Original ‘Coming to America’ Writers Enlisted by Paramount to Pen a Sequel

The 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America has had a long history of “maybe it could have a sequel” “a-bit-more-than-maybe there will be a sequel” “there will probably be a sequel” nostalgia-stoking: and another notch has just been added to that sequence, increasing the likelihood for the return of Prince Akeem Joffer — or at least, a storyline like his. (It should be said that that the Murphy nostalgia renaissance could soon be beginning regardless: there’s a Beverly Hills Cop 4 — with Murphy — in the works, and Murphy will also be in the upcoming Richard Pryor biopic.) In March, TMZ had reported that “sources” were saying that Murphy (who just yesterday was in the news for a very different, tragic reason — the death of his comedian brother, Charlie) was, indeed, beginning to work on a sequel. After that sequel rumoring, as Indiewire pointed out last month, Murphy tweeted, “Coming to America sequel?” before his whole account was deleted. Today, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, the writers of the original film (the story was Murphy’s idea, however), have been hired by Paramount to write the sequel. Kevin Misher (Public Enemies) is apparently attached to produce.

Murphy had spoken a while back with his Coming to America co-star Arsenio Hall about why a sequel had never been made, citing lawsuits surrounding the film. Indeed, one lawsuit — Buchwald v. Paramountclaiming the film idea had been stolen from a script treatment written by Art Buchwald — lost Paramount $900,000 (though that’s not much compared with the $288,752,301 the $39 million movie ended up making.)

The original movie, directed by Trading Places’ John Landis, followed Murphy as Prince Akeem Joffer of the very fictional African nation Zamunda, who, accompanied by his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall), comes to America after his King (James Earl Jones!) and Queen (Madge Sinclair) parents try to arrange his marriage. Akeem wants to find a woman to fall in love with — and to fall in love with him — for reasons beyond his royal status. A coin flip leads them to New York City, and they choose Queens — because, after all, he’s searching for a future Queen. He ends up working in a McDonald’s knockoff restaurant owned by a certain Cleo McDowell (John Amos), and falls in love with his daughter (Shari Headley), who’s an heiress in her own right (to the somewhat smaller McDowell’s fortune, that is.) The movie saw Murphy and Hall both portraying a number of characters, and as Zeba Blay pointed out in a piece on the original in Slant, this was Murphy’s first major attempt at “experiment[ing[ with makeup and prosthetics in the creation of multiple personae on screen.”

Of course, as with almost every single announcement of a “new movie,” while the idea of more Coming to America does strike that nostalgic chord, it also strikes the “please don’t damage the legacy of the thing that was good as it was, particularly since comedy sequels are often awful”-chord, as well as the “why can’t there just be a great, totally new movie with…a new story and stuff”-chord, on top of the “how will this translate temporally/culturally to 2017”-chord. So, many dissonant chords, many mixed feelings! They’d be a bit less mixed if some original cast members were guaranteed to return, but as of now nothing like that has been announced.