Eddie Murphy, Sean Penn, and Susan Boyle were in the news this week

By Nicole Sperling
Updated June 19, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Eddie Murphy’s Imagine That fizzles. Can the comedian rebound?
The original title for Eddie Murphy‘s comedy Imagine That, which opened last weekend to a meager $5.5 million, was NowhereLand, a term more befitting the movie’s box office. Murphy’s status has fallen significantly in the last two years after his broad family films, such as 2008’s Meet Dave, failed to catch on. ”Nobody wants to see Eddie Murphy just being Eddie Murphy,” says a studio marketer. ”They want to see him in a fat suit, or in the form of a donkey [in Shrek], or as [Beverly Hills Cop‘s] Axel Foley.”

Murphy’s career was on the brink before, but he bounced back with an Oscar nomination for 2006’s Dreamgirls. What can he do this time? ”I guarantee you, if someone puts him in the right role, he’d have another hit,” says one insider. Though no one would comment on the record and Murphy’s reps declined to address anything specifically, several insiders agree it’s time for the actor to move on from the family genre. His next film, another high-concept comedy called A Thousand Words, is due early next year. More beneficial could be Beverly Hills Cop 4. A source tells EW that Murphy has rejected the latest draft of the BHC4 script, but Paramount denies this and says the project remains active. Edgier still could be Brett Ratner‘s as-yet-untitled heist film, with Murphy attached, potentially to costar opposite Chris Rock and Chris Tucker. Unfortunately, Murphy refused the edgiest material offered to him: He’ll no longer be playing his idol Richard Pryor in the biopic for Dreamgirls director Bill Condon. A source says Murphy left due to a dispute with Paramount chief Brad Grey. Paramount says the parties couldn’t come to terms on the creative elements.

Sean Penn says goodbye to Cartel, may leave The Three Stooges
Sean Penn has dropped out of the drama Cartel and might not star as Larry in the upcoming Farrelly brothers comedy The Three Stooges. A source tells EW that the actor wants to take time off to work on his marriage to actress Robin Wright Penn. Producers of Cartel will find a replacement. Sources close to The Three Stooges are hopeful that Penn will keep the role if the production can be pushed back. Penn’s rep says, ”If for whatever reason the start dates on these productions were to be postponed, Sean would happily remain involved.”

Piers Morgan dishes on America’s Got Talent
In a teleconference this week, judge Piers Morgan said the Susan Boyle phenomenon has been a boon to America’s Got Talent. The Britain’s Got Talent runner-up inspired more people to audition for the U.S. version, which returns to NBC on June 23. ”We have two or three acts that could have the same impact as Susan,” promises Morgan. ”America will want to see how we respond to the challenge.” Nothing beats an appearance by the chanteuse herself, though — which is why Morgan hopes to invite Boyle, who he thinks should have won in Britain. ”She was the standout act,” he insists. ”No one in the history of the show has prompted that kind of reaction.” — Lynette Rice