Poor Eddie Murphy. His last few movies (Another 48 Hours, Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman) have consistently grossed somewhere in the dollars 40-70m area, yet they're considered flops.

This seems mad, but there's a Hollywood logic to the numbers. Eddie Murphy vehicles are very expensive to produce - and for that Eddie has only himself to blame. When his films (48 Hours, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) were grossing over the dollars 100m mark, Murphy announced he was underpaid. Which was true. He was then getting around dollars 4-5m per picture, a pittance given his box-office power. He renegotiated with Paramount, jacking up his asking price and cut of the profits, the studio agreeing to pay him over dollars 100m (and still not landing exclusive rights to his services).

It looked like a golden deal. It was a trap. That fee demanded production budgets to match, meaning an Eddie movie was automatically a costly operation. Paramount was gambling that the comic would continue to deliver mega-figures, thus offsetting the outlay.

He hasn't. No sooner was the ink dry than Murphy began to slip. His overweening 1989 directorial debut, Harlem Nights, turned audiences off and provoked a wave of critical attacks that suggested the brash, bullying, in-your-face performer was purely an Eighties phenomenon - and the Eighties were drawing to a close.

1994: will Beverly Hills Cop III (below) save Eddie's bacon? Hardly. Paramount slashed costs from dollars 75m to around dollars 45m, hoping to recoup on their investment. In four weeks in the US, Cop III made dollars 35,790,483. Another flop. As a wag said, maybe Paramount should consider burning him down and collecting on the insurance. . .

(Photograph omitted)