By Nicole Sperling
Updated October 13, 2010 at 08:45 PM EDT

In an ironic twist that illustrates just how long development cycles in Hollywood last, Eddie Murphy has signed on to play opposite Ben Stiller in Tower Heist, the crime caper that he was originally going to star in when the project was first conceived back in 2005. In fact, as lore goes, the original idea of an African-American Ocean’s Eleven was hatched in a conversation between producer Brian Grazer and Murphy. Fast-forward six years — and a slew of different screenwriters — and Murphy is joining Stiller, who, as an overworked manager of a Manhattan luxury high-rise, teams up with his operation and maintenance workers to stage a heist of its penthouse tenant, a Wall Street capitalist, played by Alan Alda, who defrauded the staff of their pensions. Brett Ratner is directing and production is set to begin by the end of the year.

Jeff Nathanson (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) is currently rewriting the latest draft of the screenplay by Ocean’s Eleven scribe Ted Griffin. Grazer is producing and Murphy is executive producing.