The best way to get to know producer Don Murphy, if you can't meet him in person, is to read the book Killer Instinct, by his producing partner Jane Hamsher (ex-punk editor of San Francisco's Damage fanzine) about their experience on Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.
Hamsher describes Murphy as "the impending horror...stoked on caffeinated diet Coke and Froot Loops, loaded down with magazines and comic books, action toys and pretzels and Pez, ready to tear the head off Hollywood." (pg. 1)
Don's father was an affluent Long Island ad man. He did his undergraduate work at Georgetown University as film critic for the student paper and head of the campus film program. He avoided Georgetown Law School and entered the USC graduate film program. After teaming up with Hamsher, they found a script by the undiscovered Quentin Tarantino that led them to Oliver Stone, who directed Natural Born Killers with a $35 million budget.
Jane met Don at USC film school in the fall of 1987. Don wanted to be a director-writer. Most of his peers thought of him as a goofball. He dressed like a slob. "...[O]ne of Don's great gifts is complete obliviousness to what anyone thinks about him." (pg. 9)
Don came from Long Island. He seems to know everything about Twilight Zone and comic books. He loves junk food and '70s bubble-gum music, Nintendo and pinball. Don doesn't drink or smoke or take drugs. (pg. 10)
In her book Killer Instinct, Jane Hamser writes: "...[E]veryone... comes to Hollywood...to get laid by a better class of people. ...Hollywood belonged not to the deep, penetrating, provocative thinkers; it belonged to the cantankerous sons of bitches who were willing to risk any humiliation, broach any authority, get on the phone and scream until they got what they wanted. ...[L]ine up the top producers in Hollywood, one next to the other, and you will find each more aggravating, more exasperating, more stubborn and willful than the one before." (pg. 11)
Because Hamsher is not like that, she decided to partner up with someone who was - Don Murphy.
Murphy got into a celebrated bar fight with director Quentin Tarantino in October of 1997 at Ago on Melrose.
"He's a comic-book junkie from way early on," says Apt Pupil/X-Men director Bryan Singer, a friend since USC in the late '80s. "He understood the film industry early on too, but he never lost his -- for want of a better word -- geek status." (LA Weekly, 11/14/02)
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg says: "Don's a throwback to the old days of the bombastic, bellicose, belligerent producer. Takes no shit from anybody. Does not suffer fools gladly. But at the same time, he has this incredible taste for the most out-there, insane stuff. There's not a whole hell of a lot of mavericks in this day and age." (LA Weekly)
"The one thing I have learned," Murphy says, "is the value of the long-term. Should I kill this guy now, or should I just wait until it presents itself later, when it's less overt? Should I get upset about this or," in the words of Charles Manson, "realize that what goes around comes around?" (LA Weekly)
Murphy has a well-deserved reputation as a hothead and loose cannon. There are plenty of examples on producer Chris Hanley's website musefilm.com:
Don_Murphy@spe.sony.com wrote Robert [who? Pfeffer?]: "1- I am not your boy, you are my bitch... YOU ARE A HIRED GLORIFIED ACCOUNTANT WHO DOES NOT KNOW HIS PLACE."
Don Murphy writes actor Vincent Gallo 8/29/01 (Gallo's original comments presumably are in small letters and Don's reply is in capital letters):
it will be fun to hear people talk about your crap movie one day.THE GOOD NEWS IS THEY WILL TALK ABOUT IT - I DON'T GIVE A SHIT WHAT THEY SAY, THEY WILL TALK ABOUT IT
rick ruben had you pegged all along. THAT FAT SMELLY RUDE LATE FUCK HASN'T GOT ME PEGGED AT ALL. HE HASN'T SEEN HIS FEET MUCH LESS HIS DICK IN 15 YEARS. YOU WERE THE ONE ALL TORN UP ABOUT "LOSING HIS FRIENDSHIP" - TALK ABOUT MAINSTREAM, HE'S YOUR FRIEND AND ABOUT AS EDGY AS A GLOBE. RICK RUBEN COULDN'T PEG THE SIDE OF A BARN WITH A BAZOOKA.
DON MURPHY IS INDUSTRY POINT MAN for the geek Zeitgeist. Walk into his office on the Sony lot, and you're overwhelmed by toys and tchotchkes: Gigantor, a life-size Astroboy, Iron Man and Spawn and Star Wars figurines. Accompany him to Meltdown Comics on Melrose, and it's like Elizabeth Taylor strolling into Harry Winston -- staff and management stiffen and enthuse, clearly in the presence of a preferred customer.
So it should come as little surprise that following a string of outsider opuses chronicling opera-buffo mass murderers, comical junkies and dueling Nazis (Natural Born Killers, Permanent Midnight and Apt Pupil, all with former partner Jane Hamsher), his current slate should be focused almost entirely on the worlds of comics, horror, science fiction and cult cinema. His last film, the Jack the Ripper story From Hell, and his next, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a Victorian sci-fi opus, are based on graphic novels by Alan Moore. Meanwhile, he and "partner in crime" Susan Montford are producing an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness with Guillermo del Toro, and an update of the Lee Madden biker saga Hell's Angels '69, called Speed Tribes, re-purposed for the phenomenon of Japan's underground motorcycle culture.
At his most manic, he seems like a cross between Richie Rich and Godzilla -- a precocious 12-year-old irradiated into city-crushing leviathan.
I got a call from Don Murphy. He objected to my publishing numerous emails of his that I found on Chris Hanley's website www.musefilm.com. Don has copyright on his own emails so he respectfully reminded me that I did not have his permission to publish his emails. Don was a complete gentleman about the whole thing, not the wild and crazy and bullying person I expected. I immediately went along with his request and removed 95% of the emails from my site. You can read them all at musefilm.com.