TV MAKES YOU CRAZY: A man named Daryl Murphy climbed a 26-storey scaffold on a building near Chicago’s Loop on Wednesday morning, apparently protesting the dismissal of a lawsuit in which he’d implicated Oprah Winfrey in a conspiracy to steal his intellectual property. He was talked down from the scaffolding and taken into custody for mental evaluation as it wasn’t the first time he’d attempted such a stunt.
According to a Chicago Sun-Times story, Murphy filed his lawsuit in 2004, claiming that a film he’d made about life in a housing project on the South Side of Chicago had been appropriated by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and eventually sent along to Eddie Murphy, who used it as the basis for an animated TV series, The PJs, which ran on Fox and the WB between 1999 and 2001.
Murphy claims he sent the film to Winfrey in 1998, hoping for publicity or a break in the business, and a year after filing the suit he climbed a construction crane on the site of the Trump Tower Chicago, threatening to jump. A bit of Googling reveals that Tally Collier, a janitor who appeared in Murphy’s film, also filed a suit against Eddie Murphy in 2002, claiming he was the basis for the character Sanchez in The PJs, and that Daryl Murphy had asked Winfrey to pass the tape on to showbiz pals such as Ron Howard, Spike Lee, Tom Hanks, Quincy Jones, and Fred Williamson. Like Sanchez, Collier noted, he had a voice box and walked with a cane.
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In an interview with the Sun-Times a year before he climbed the crane on the Trump Tower site, Murphy said he was being taunted by friends for “selling out his neighbourhood,” since The PJs started airing. Both Collier and Murphy asked for $10 million US in damages in their suits, and Collier’s suit was dismissed by the courts in 2003.
These incidents, separated by a few years, and documented as brief glimpses on the web, suggest the sort of story that could be played as either tragedy or comedy, depending on how they were written up. As the former, they could be a Charlie Kauffman-esque film about the tenuous bonds that hold us to our identity and sanity, full of celebrity cameos and laced with black comedy but heading steadily for an unhappy ending; as the latter, they’d make for a PG-13 film full of foul language and slapstick, culminating in the scene on the crane or the scaffolding. And the only person who could probably star in either film would probably be Eddie Murphy.