Posted by Kevin Hunter
During my Film Production days, I was contracted to work on back to back films to the point that I didn’t have any time off. I’d finish one film and then immediately start another one. I agreed to do an Eddie Murphy film called, Dr. Dolittle 2, for 20th Century Fox. That particular studio was close to home and I wanted a short commute.
Many of the crew started a week before I got there because I was backed up on another film. I wrapped The Perfect Storm for Warner Bros. and quickly started Harry Potter for the same studio immediately afterwards. I was detained a week longer than expected, so I couldn’t transfer to Fox for the Dr. Dolittle 2 production.
When I started Dr. Dolittle 2, without delay I carried out endless changes and orders the minute I marched in. By the second half of the first day I had a construction crew already hammering and erecting barriers all over the studio spaces because I was not happy with the layout. One of my P.A.’s who was becoming comfortable around me said, “When we first got here the Producers said, “Don’t bother starting anything because once Kevin gets here he’s going to change everything and you’re not going to get away with anything.” I made a snarling face when I heard that, “Who said that? Where are they?” I’m also a notorious germophobe. One of the Producers arrived to set and noticed crew de-sanitizing everything. The Producer said curiously with a smile, “What’s going on?” A crew member answered, “Kevin is having us wipe everything down because people keep getting the flu.” The Producer said, “Oh, that’s a good idea, do my area too.” I’m a pill and that wasn’t all I did.
When everyone kept getting the flu during the winter season, I ordered a Doctor to the set and had the Doctor give every single cast and crew member a Vitamin B shot in the ass. There was no way out of that. Everyone had to do it. That week they were flying on energy and worked so hard since Vitamin B shots have that effect.
Whenever I took a film gig, I refused to work more than 12 hours during filming days. This was made known before I was hired, so it’s not like it was a surprise. I give 110% and my all during that time, but once the clock strikes a certain hour, I go on strike and refuse to do anything. I remember one day during Pre-Production, the clock struck that final hour and I put my sunglasses on and held my keys facing forward like a rock not impressed. The Producer slightly afraid of me calmly said, “Okay, let’s go home.” I hopped up, “Bye.”
Before I started work on Dr. Dolittle 2, I was warned that the Producers were notorious screamers, and that they filter through crew like water, and that the lead actor Eddie Murphy was extremely difficult and not terribly nice. I said, “If it’s that bad I’ll just quit.” I tend to get along with those that other people hate or are afraid of. It’s always been like that, but I’m also known to be supremely difficult and I don’t tolerate any form of disrespect. I’m invited to parties by people saying, “I really want you there. You have to come.” Then there is a pause, “But don’t bring…” Don’t bring one of the worst people on the planet that I have no problem hanging around?
Incidentally, the Producers and Eddie were nothing like the horrible depiction I was previously given. I found the Producers to be incredibly warm, fun, and wonderful with me. I never heard them scream or do or say anything that I found personally out of line. They did seem to filter through a few assistants though, so I came to the conclusion that it must be the personal assistants that have a difficult time with them. The Producers ended up forever recommending me on numerous gigs, and offering me films to work with them on, and other gigs after that. They were amazing and respectful, and we are still in touch today.
As for Eddie Murphy, he couldn’t be more awesome, pleasant, and giving. He’s very shy, guarded, and keeps to himself, yet very friendly when you communicate with him. Eddie had the largest entourage of all of the stars I’ve worked with. He employs his family and close friends. For example, his cousin is his costumer, another cousin is his driver who is married to Eddie’s assistant. On the last week of the shoot, I was walking onto set to find one gift a day being handed to me from Eddie. He was as giving as Antonio Banderas was a few years before that.
Antonio had flowers sent to me on the last day of wrap on Crazy in Alabama. He also gave me all of his flowers in his office. These aren’t just any flowers, these are massive arrangements that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for each of them. With both Eddie and Antonio, it’s not so much that they can easily charge this stuff on their gold card, but that it would even occur to them to do so to begin with was what struck me.
Eddie Murphy doesn’t work with animals. One would immediately say, “Why agree to a $20 million dollar pay or play deal in a film where many of your co-stars are animals then?” Animals are not always predictable including the trained ones. Eddie has to worry about his own performance and being on the mark and can’t get concerned that the raccoon is not in the mood to film.
All of the animals in the film were real. They were shot separately from Eddie. Eddie’s scenes were on one sound stage, while an animal was shot on another. Then the filmmakers would merge the two so that it would look like Eddie was in the same room with them.
There were two extremely huge bears on set. One of them is called Tank. On those days, crew couldn’t be wearing strong perfume or cologne scents. Deodorant couldn’t have a scent either. And if a woman was menstruating, she wouldn’t be able to be on that particular sound stage if Tank was being filmed. He was the largest animal I had seen that close. There was a gate on the sound stage where I walked in. The trainer just happened to be walking Tank in front of me with a gate between us. He was about four times the size of me. Lynn, one of the trainers, came to hang with me one day and said, “Tanky sick. He’s been throwing up all day. He got into the ice cream.”
We primarily shot Dr. Dolittle 2 on the sound stages at 20th Century Fox, but we also spent a week up at Big Bear, California which was the best time. Gorgeous mountain-esque scenery. http://www.bigbear.com/
Big Bear had an awesome brewery up there that I would hit up with a few of my colleague friends after filming. It was the best beer I’ve ever tasted in my life. You have one sip and fall over.
Neil Machlis was one of the Producers who also Produced, Grease. I remember he was going to the MTV studios to be one of the many guests for some anniversary thing for Grease. I was hanging in his office as he was all dolled up and camera ready. I asked, “So did you know at the time that what you were making was going to be one of the most remembered film classics of all time?” He exclaimed he had no idea. They knew they were making a good film, but didn’t know it would be so widely loved. He remembered when they were shooting a scene at Venice High School where Olivia Newton-John was walking around set in the leather costume for the climatic scene. He said she was hanging around in the crowd waiting for camera roll and no one recognized that it was her.