Coming to America (1988) Poster


The "McDowell's" restaurant was actually a Wendy's on Queens Blvd. that was scheduled to be closed for a complete renovation. Although the production had approval from McDonald's corporate headquarters, they apparently didn't pass the word down to their local outlets. On the day the "McDowell's" sign was erected, the manager of the McDonald's 1/2 mile further up the road arrived with his lawyer and proceeded to take photographs while telling the set dressing crew they were going to be sued for everything they were worth.
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This film marks the first time Eddie Murphy played multiple characters in the same film. Something which has gone on to be a trademark of his.
The name of the fictional African country the main characters are from is called "Zamunda". This name was taken from a Richard Pryor routine where he referred to a fictional African tribe of the same name.
All characters in the barber shop (including the Caucasians) are played by Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Clint Smith, and Cuba Gooding Jr.
The homeless men that receive the money from Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) drops are the "Duke Brothers" (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) from Trading Places (1983) (also directed by John Landis). In that movie, Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) was responsible for The Dukes losing their fortune.
Director John Landis and Eddie Murphy did not get along and Murphy vowed to never work with Landis again. However, the two later reconciled and Eddie personally asked John to direct Beverly Hills Cop III (1994).
Most of the dance that's performed by the royal dancers before presenting Prince Akeem's queen-to-be is a high-tempo rendition of the dance from Michael Jackson's Michael Jackson: Thriller (1983) (also directed by John Landis).
Cuba Gooding Jr. shot a scene in which his character (Boy Getting Haircut) tells Clarence that he does not have money to pay for his haircut. Clarence responds by cutting a big chunk out of the boy's hair. But to Gooding's disappointment, the scene was deleted.
According to John Landis, it was his idea to have Eddie Murphy wear makeup to play a Jewish man as a sort of payback for Jewish comedians wearing blackface in the early 1900's.
In the credits, the fictitious Zamundun Film Commission is thanked.
Cuba Gooding Jr., an Oscar winner, and Vondie Curtis-Hall, an Emmy/SAG Award nominee, made their first on-screen appearances in this film.
The barbers call Akeem "Kunta Kinte", a reference to Roots (1977). John Amos, who plays Cleo McDowell (Lisa's father), played the adult Kunta Kinte in Roots. Madge Sinclair (Queen Aoleon), played Kunta Kinte's wife and James Earl Jones (King Jaffe Joffer) played Alex Haley Jr. in Roots: The Next Generations (1979).
Airport scenes in Into the Night (1985) and Coming to America (1988) have a call over the PA system for a "Mr. Frank Oznowicz" to pick up the white courtesy phone. This is Frank Oz's real name.
Sidney Poitier was originally considered for the role of King Jaffe Joffer.
A television pilot of a weekly sitcom version of the film was produced for CBS following this film's successful release. The series starred Tommy Davidson as Prince Tariq, and Paul Bates reprised his role as Oha. The pilot went unsold, but was televised on July 4, 1989 as an episode of CBS Summer Playhouse (1987).
The £100 banknote issued by the Bank of Zamunda and featuring Prince Akeem's portrait, is derived from the Bank of England £1 Series C design, in use in England and Wales from 1960 to 1979. Akeem's portrait is in the place of Queen Elizabeth II's, and the crest of Zamunda covers the vignette of Britannia. Everything else (apart from "Bank of Zamunda" and the amount) from the intricate background, the curlicues, the diamond shape underlying "I Promise to pay the Bearer", to the position of the serial numbers, is exactly the same as the British note.
The song that plays in the background, "I Got It", when Semmi and Akeem walk in the club, is actually sung by Eddie Murphy.
Vanessa Williams was originally considered for the role of Lisa McDowell.
When King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) visits New York to bring Akeem back home, he wears a lion skin sash. Years later Jones would portray the voice of the lion king Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King (1994). Madge Sinclair (Queen Aoleon) would also star alongside Jones in The Lion King as Mufasa's wife, the lioness queen Serabi.
The vocals in the Soul Glo Commercials were sung by Christopher Max.
The game that Akeem mentions to McDowell at the restaurant, between the Giants and Packers, actually happened. It was a 23-20 win by the Packers on September 15, 1985.
Prince Akeem calls one of his pet elephants "Babar." Babar the Elephant is a popular children's book character.
Eddie Murphy's demands for appearing in the film included $1,500 a week for his personal trainer, a round-the-clock chauffeur service, a valet and $1,000 a week for his brother to appear as his stand-in.
Akeem's apartment building is supposed to be in Queens, but it's actually located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at S. 5th Street and Hooper.
When arriving in Queens, in the taxi cab, the cab driver is driving down the wrong way on a one way street. All the cars are facing the other direction.
F. Gary Gray, director of the movies, Friday (1995), Set It Off (1996) and The Negotiator (1998), is in the front row of the Black Awareness Program, seated in front of Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Clint Smith.
After the makeup and clothing was applied for the Yiddish character Saul, Eddie Murphy wanted to test the makeup and costume out. He got a golf cart and drove from one studio department to another in Paramount Studios. He would get out of the cart and say in his regular voice, "Hi. I'm Eddie Murphy." No one believed him.
Louie Anderson's character, Maurice, has a little monologue at McDowell's that would later be referenced in the 2005 song "Gold Digger" from Kanye West where the lyrics say, "He got that ambition, baby, look in his eyes. This week he mopping floors, next week it's the fries."
During the McDowell party, they show a painting on the wall of a woman. This is a spoof on Édouard Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère".
The predatory woman in the bar was played by Arsenio Hall.
The college basketball game that the lead characters attend was a real one, the Dec 1987 match at Madison Square Garden between St John's and Marist.
The instrumental song playing while Prince Akeem is having his royal penis cleaned was sampled into "That's That Sh!t" performed by Snoop Dogg feat. R. Kelly in 2006.
The Mercedes that the King, Queen, and their staff travel in around New York City has U.S. diplomatic plates (red, white, and blue) on them, implying that they are cars from the (ficticious) Embassy of Zamunda. However, the numbers on the plates have been slightly blurred/unfocused in post production to make the letters and digits (which can identify the type of UN/Diplomat and their country) illegible.
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The South African band that sang during the opening credits was Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the same band that sang with Paul Simon a few years earlier on the tracks "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," and "Homeless," featured on his Grammy Award winning album "Graceland."
A scene featured in this movie's theatrical trailer but was cut from the final film shows Cleo McDowell, Akeem, and Semmi walking into Cleo's office where he asks them if either of them have had any fast food work experience, to which Semmi quizzically responds "Certainly not!". Akeem then proceeds to lightly nudge Semmi and then responds to Cleo telling him that this is their first job in the United States.
Associate Producer and First Assistant Director David Sosna appeared as 'Cartier Delivery Man.'
LOGO GIMMICK: After the stars circle around the Paramount mountain and "Paramount" and "A Gulf+Western Company" appear, the sky becomes sunnier (pink to yellow) and the camera zooms in over the mountain summit. We then see a valley/terrain and the opening credits begin.
John Landis was handpicked by Eddie Murphy to direct this film. The pair had previously worked together on Trading Places (1983), which was inspired by 1930s social comedies. Similarly, Landis modeled Coming to America after 1930s romantic comedies. Reprising their roles from Trading Places, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy played fallen millionaire brothers Mortimer and Randolph Duke, in a scene that showed them panhandling on a New York City street.
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The first time Eddie Murphy and makeup artist Rick Baker worked together. They would reteam on Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), The Nutty Professor (1996), Life (1999), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), and Norbit (2007).
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When Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) goes to sit with the King and Queen at the breakfast table, the King is surprised to find out that Akeem had grown a mustache. In Beverly Hills Cop (1984), when Axel (also played by Murphy) visits Jenny Summers at the art gallery where she works, she is just as surprised to find out that he grew a mustache.
The working title of this film was "The Quest".
The IND Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station in Brooklyn was used for the scenes at Sutphin Blvd.
All the scenes filmed in New York City were completed in Feb 1988, production then moved to Los Angeles, CA. There, shooting took place on Stage 18 at Paramount Pictures studios, where Prince Akeem's palace, bedroom, bath and dressing rooms were built. Production for this movie was on schedule and on budget, with production costing roughly $30 million.
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Arsenio Hall voiced the character Winston Zeddemore on The Real Ghostbusters (1986), a role originally written in the film for Eddie Murphy.
Pre-production began in fall 1987, with a principal photography start date of 4 Jan 1988 in New York City, where production was plagued by "intermittent blizzards" during five weeks of filming. New York City locations included an apartment exterior in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Madison Square Garden, the Van Wyck Expressway, a car wash in Queens, near the Brooklyn Bridge, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and a Wendy's fast food restaurant on Queens Boulevard that doubled as "McDowell's Restaurant". The brown-tinted windows that wrapped around three sides of the Wendy's restaurant were replaced with neutral density plastic for filming. The subway scene between Murphy's "Prince Akeem" and Shari Headley's "Lisa McDowell" took place on a rented "four-car train on the IND line", which operated on one of the two unused tracks at Brooklyn's Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street station.
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Shown briefly as Akeem journeys over to America is a shot of concorde, the only commercial plane capable of flight exceeding Mach 2. Tickets were largely expensive for flights on it. The plane was retired in 2003.
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In the scene at the Black Awareness Week rally (in the gym), the characters Reverend Brown and Randy Watson are also being played by Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy, respectively.
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Murphy and his co-star Arsenio Hall played multiple cameo roles, undergoing "three to four-hour make-up sessions" for their various cameo characters. During pre-production, make-up artist Rick Baker made "life casts" of the actors' faces, then constructed clay facial sculptures onto which he molded foam rubber appliances that the actors wore, in addition to hand-woven hair, eyebrow, and mustache pieces. Over 500 costumes were designed by Deborah Nadoolman, who was inspired by the early 1950s "new look" of fashion designer Christian Dior, as well as everyday styles from Ivory Coast, Gambia, and Senegal. Jewelry was created by Katherine Post, a costume jeweler, in Thailand. For the design of Zamunda's royal palace, Landis took inspiration from England's Brighton Pavilion and Henri Rousseau's 19th century jungle paintings.
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The McDowell's home address is 2432 Derby Avenue, Jamaica Estates. Cleo gives the King his home address on the phone when he calls the King to let him know Akeem is at the house.
Principal photography for this movie lasted eighty-three days. Editing began while filming was underway, and six weeks of post-production were scheduled.
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Samuel L. Jackson portrays a robber knocking off a fast food joint (McDowell's) and calls one of the employees (Louie Anderson) "fatboy". In Pulp Fiction (1994) he calls a a restaurant employee "fatman" while it's being robbed.
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Homeless Mortimer and Randolph Duke are characters from the Eddie Murphy movie, Trading Places. They lost their fortune trying to corner the market while ruining Dan Akroid's character for a one dollar bet.
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Morris, the character played by Arsenio Hall, eats or drinks something in every scene he is in.
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Michael Tadross: the Unit Production Manager as Taxi Driver

Director Cameo 

Tobe Hooper: to the right of Arsenio Hall (Reverend Brown) and Shari Headley, listening to Brown's non-stop preaching during the McDowell party.

Director Trademark 

John Landis: [SYNW] on a movie poster in the subway station (the movie claims to star Jamie Lee Curtis, who appeared in Landis' Trading Places (1983)).
John Landis: [See you next Wednesday] The poster in the subway that reads "See you next Wednesday". This statement is displayed in all John Landis movies, and originated from the film '2001: A Space Odyssey'.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) meets Lisa's father in the restaurant, he warns him to keep his presence secret from Akeem. As King Joffer leaves the restaurant, he says, "Do not alert him to my presence. I'll deal with him myself," similar to lines Jones delivered as Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
John Landis: [look to camera] When Patrice tells Daryl he needs to take off his wet clothes after he tells her that Lisa dumped him, he looks directly into the camera. Also, at the Mcdowells house when Cleo's daughter Patrice says "Why does she always get the good ones?", the dog does the same thing.

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