10 Fun Facts About Coming to America

Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment

Is there an Eddie Murphy role that isn’t memorable? Hell, even Norbit was nominated for an Oscar. From Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live to Dr. Doolittle, the veteran comedian has embodied some of the most beloved characters to ever hit the screen—not the least of which is Coming to America’s Prince Akeem. As an African prince who relocates to Queens, New York to find the perfect woman to hold down the throne, Murphy’s hilarious performance(s) turned a silly little film into a certified comedy classic. On the 30th anniversary of the film's release, here are 10 things you might not know about Coming to America.

1. PAULA ABDUL CHOREOGRAPHED THE OPENING DANCE SCENE AT THE PALACE IN ZAMUNDA.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, the Laker Girl-turned-pop star listed her Coming to America scene as one of the top moments of her choreography career. “This was one of my moments of having to really prove myself, because I was still pretty new in my career as a choreographer,” Abdul said. “John Landis, the director, wanted the person that choreographed Janet Jackson. I was still a Laker Girl. I went in and he looked at me and said, 'What are you, a teenager?' And I said, 'Yes, I am!' He basically was telling me, 'What do you know about African dancing?' And this is my whole thing when becoming a choreographer: 'I'll just tell everyone yes, I know exactly what I'm doing, and then I'll figure it out later.'”

2. THE NAME “ZAMUNDA” IS AN ALTERED VERSION OF A FAMOUS WRITER’S NAME.

As noted in the DVD commentary of the film, screenwriters Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield named the kingdom of “Zamunda” after Bob Zmuda, Andy Kaufman’s writing partner and close friend.

3. DIRECTOR JOHN LANDIS AND EDDIE MURPHY CLASHED ON SET.

Despite working together previously on Trading Places, director John Landis and Murphy had a less than amiable professional relationship. “On Coming to America, we clashed quite a bit because he was such a pig; he was so rude to people,” Landis told Collider. “We had a good working relationship, but our personal relationship changed because he just felt that he was a superstar and that everyone had to kiss his ass. He was a jerk. But great—in fact, one of the greatest performances he’s ever given.”

4. IN 1989, CBS FILMED A PILOT FOR A TV VERSION OF THE MOVIE, STARRING TOMMY DAVIDSON.

However, according to a report by Fusion, it never aired because it was “terrible.” Other cast members included Paul Bates and John Hancock.

5. MCDOWELL’S WAS ACTUALLY A WENDY’S IN QUEENS.

The real-life location of the McDowell’s is along Queens Boulevard, where a Wendy’s used to be located (it’s since been demolished). In fact, McDowell’s even has its own Yelp page.

6. TOBE HOOPER MAKES A CAMEO AT THE MCDOWELLS’ PARTY.

Only true horror fans might’ve spotted this: Tobe Hooper, the late horror director behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—and a dear friend of Landis’s—appeared in the McDowells’ party scene.

7. IT WAS CUBA GOODING JR.’S FIRST FILM.

According to IMDb, his character is known as “Boy Getting Haircut” in the famous barbershop scene.

8. JAMES EARL JONES AND MADGE SINCLAIR, THE KING AND QUEEN OF ZAMUNDA, ALSO VOICED THE KING AND QUEEN IN THE LION KING.

The duo must’ve truly impressed Disney, because the on-screen couple landed the coveted gig of voicing Mufasa and Sarabi, respectively, in the 1994 animated masterpiece.

9. DON AMECHE AND RALPH BELLAMY CAMEO AS THE HOMELESS MEN AKEEM GIVES MONEY TO.

As a tribute to Landis’s Trading Places (1983), the movie that put Murphy on Hollywood's map, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy reprised their Trading Places characters for Coming to America.

10. THE FILM PAYS TRIBUTE TO ROOTS WITH A “KUNTE KINTE” REFERENCE.

In the barbershop scene, the Jewish man calls Akeem “Kunta Kinte,” a reference to Roots. In fact, John Amos, the actor who starred in Coming to America as Lisa’s father Cleo, played the adult version of Kunta Kinte in the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries.

Friends's Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc Once Pitched the Idea of a Phoebe and Joey Romance

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's hard not to get sucked into all the romantic relationships that Ross, Chandler, Monica, Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe had on the hit '90s sitcom Friends. And if you're a devout fan of the show, you probably have some opinions of your own on the various love interests seen throughout the 10 seasons. Or you may even have rooted to see relationships play out that never happened. For those viewers who ever hoped to see Phoebe and Joey get together: you're not alone. That was one romance Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc pushed for, too.

During a joint interview with Entertainment Weekly back in 2016 (per Insider), Kudrow and LeBlanc, who played Phoebe and Joey, respectively, revealed that they had pitched a secret affair between their characters at one point in the show. When asked why the pair never got together, LeBlanc explained:

"Towards the end we actually pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had been having casual sex the entire time. We’d go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognizes, there’s Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together. But they were like, 'Nah.'"

While the idea sounds like it was shot down pretty quickly, imagine the Central Perk crew finding out that Joey and Phoebe had been having an affair all along. But for now, this reveal from the actors is all just a "moo point" at the end of the day.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

You Could Get Paid to Watch Disney+ While Social Distancing

She’s excited to belt out both parts of Aladdin and Jasmine’s "A Whole New World."
She’s excited to belt out both parts of Aladdin and Jasmine’s "A Whole New World."
demaerre/iStock via Getty Images

In October 2019, Reviews.org chose five lucky couch potatoes for its “Disney+ Dream Job,” a position that paid people $1000 and gave them a year-long Disney+ subscription to watch 30 Disney programs in 30 days.

Now, the technology review site is accepting applicants for a similar (albeit less time-consuming) role: 10 people will receive a $200 Visa gift card and a free year of Disney+ to watch one single Disney film. Since most Disney movies are around 90 minutes long, your one-time wage works out to about $133 per hour.

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to giveaways@reviews.org with “Dream Job” in the subject line and your name and the title of your favorite Disney film in the body of the email. Winners will be selected at random, so you don’t have to worry about trying to pick the “right” movie or explaining why you’re the right person for the job. You do, however, have to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen. Submissions will be accepted through Thursday, April 10, and winners will be notified by email on the following Monday, April 13.

While October’s dream job was more about drumming up excitement for Disney+, which was a brand-new platform at the time, this one is all about encouraging social distancing and supporting people through the coronavirus crisis. With Disney+’s wide array of entertainment at your disposal—from National Geographic animal documentaries to animated classics you loved as a kid—you might feel a little less bored while you’re camped out on your couch.

If you want to check out Disney+ for yourself, head here to learn how to get a free seven-day trial.

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