Many people of all ages consider themselves fans of the legendary comedian and actor Rudy Ray Moore, but not many can claim the title of “historical consultant” and official biographer. When Eddie Murphy produced and starred in Netflix’s biopic Dolemite is my Name, Mark Jason Murray was there to make sure that everything was accurate and pure Rudy.
Now Murray is attempting to create the quintessential authorized biography of the influential force of nature (which would naturally be characterized as a “tornado”) know as Rudy Ray Moore through a Kickstarter campaign. Conskipper spoke to Murray about the new Kickstarter campaign for Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself: The Authorized Biography of Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite (available for funding until April 15, 2021) and all things Rudy in this exclusive interview.
How did you first become aware of Rudy Ray Moore?
Mark Jason Murray: It’s a simple story. A friend of mine called, telling me I had to see a movie he just rented. This was 1991, I was 17 years old, and the film was Dolemite. I was blown away by it and it was one of the craziest things I had seen at that time. Most people have had a similar reaction to their first Rudy Ray Moore movie experience. It stays with you.
Where did the idea of a biography of Moore originate?
Murray: I’m curious by nature and when I discover something I like, I have to know everything about it. There was no information available on Rudy Ray Moore then outside of maybe a simple mention in a book or two. It felt like a mystery that I had to solve and I just kept my eyes open. Discovering he really was a comedian, had more movies and was even a singer gave way to such an amazing life and story.
What set Rudy apart from other comedians/actors of his day?
Murray: As a filmmaker, Moore was putting up his own money, peanuts to some studios, but it was every penny he had. I honestly can’t think of a film that was financed like that. Rudy had no outside investors. His comedy was rooted in verbal street tales and there was nothing commercially available like it, so he took that to an entirely different level, along with how explicit the language was. There was nothing like his records on the market when Eat Out More Often came out in 1970. Of course, some were quick to copy when they saw he was getting sales and not going to jail, but Moore’s albums were the blueprint that everyone else started following.
Rudy Ray Moore’s influence on the Hip Hop community helped bring him back into public consciousness. Did this cement his legacy?
Murray: It was great to see that Rudy wasn’t forgotten by the younger generation who had snuck listens to their parent’s records. His swagger had an influence on so many of the early rappers and as they started to gain momentum, their references to Moore and samples from his records were a great tribute and something that introduced him to a new audience. He’s one of the most sampled artists up there with James Brown and George Clinton – Parliament. While this is a part of his legacy, it’s just a piece. He has become a tremendous role model for believing in yourself, your product and making it a reality no matter what the challenges are.
Which of Moore’s films do you consider his finest?
Murray: Moore and myself like The Human Tornado the most. It’s definitely the wildest of his pictures with several of the most memorable scenes. You always want to start with Dolemite, but as a pseudo-sequel, Human Tornado is a better film.
In researching Moore’s life and career, what surprised you the most about him?
Murray: How much he had done throughout his life and how he just never gave up. His mission in life was his career and he kept pushing, trying to make whatever he was doing a success. His failures far outweigh his successes but that tenacity and drive is truly inspiring.
Thoughts on Kickstarter as a platform for getting the book published?
Murray: It’s definitely an uphill battle for sure and hopefully enough people will support to reach its goal as it’s “all or nothing.” I spent three decades working on this book and this special edition full color limited edition version is a true treat for the true hardcore fans.
What were your impressions of Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of Moore in Dolemite is My Name?
Murray: Eddie did a great job on the film. I was the historical consultant on the project and I am not lying when I say it came out so much better than I ever expected. There’s so much truth and heart to that film and it definitely did Moore’s memory justice. It also did something that I could never do with my book, make Rudy Ray Moore / Dolemite a household name, even if it was just for that exciting period when the movie had just come out. It’s the only real life character Murphy has ever portrayed and that says something about what the project meant to him as well. Rudy would be proud, but would probably say he’s better than Eddie!
Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself: The Authorized Biography of Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite is currently available for funding on Kickstarter until April 15, 2021.