For every shitty Eddie Murphy movie that comes out, I hear stories around Hollywood about how Eddie was about to make another R-rated comedy or how he was about to take a really great, challenging role but then he punked out and made the safe, shitty family movie instead. Again and again. In fact, I heard that Murphy had to be pulled kicking and screaming into Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls, where he gave a great performance and earned an Oscar nod (although his Academy snub did make him leave the Kodak Theater early).

Earlier this year we heard that Condon would again get Eddie in a challenging role, this time playing Richard Pryor in a biopic about the genius comedian. It seemed like a ballsy move, especially because Pryor is so well known. But it also seemed great, because Pryor had so influenced Murphy. It was intriguing casting, and the idea of Condon and Murphy working together again was exciting.

But we should have known that being excited was premature. Murphy has dropped out of the film, and he’s been replaced by Marlon Wayans. What’s funny is that this is probably better for the movie – Wayans is younger, and I can better imagine him disappearing into the role in a way Murphy never could. And while many will scoff, I think Wayans has done enough strong work (rare though it is) to show that he could pull off the necessary dramatic bits of Pryor’s troubled life as well as do the comedy.

While it’s possibly good news that Wayans is stepping in, it’s just sad news that Murphy is definitely out. It feels like Eddie has closed the door on his career in a way that bums me out. I grew up on Eddie Murphy’s comedy, sharing headphones with a friend to listen to his stand-up tapes. His films were huge for me, and I really feel that Eddie Murphy is one of the geniuses of our time. To see him squander his talent over the last decade and change has been painful. This must have been how Elvis fans felt during the King’s fat period.

Hitfix has more on the story, including how Adam Sandler (!) is involved. Click here to read it all.