On New Year Eve’s in 1990, 24-year old Eric Edwards got the call for his Hollywood debut. The casting director for Problem Child 2 confirmed Edwards (not to be confused for the veteran porn star) for the role of Murph, an obese bully who terrorizes the titular Junior (Michael Oliver) to hilarity and, in the process, performs one of the most epic roundhouse kicks ever committed to celluloid. “The role wasn’t written for a big guy. He was supposed to be kind of wiry like the bully from A Christmas Story,” Edwards recently told me on his cell phone in between auditions. “I’m the only guy they saw for Murph. Once I walked into the room, they literally went oh my god, we can do something funny with him.”
Back then the 250-pound Kansas transplant was still getting his bearings on Hollywood, sans agent or any industry connections. Over time, he landed several gigs in lowbrow slapstick titles, from National Lampoon’s Senior Trip to Sgt. Bilko (clocking in at 375 lbs) to dual roles as Murph and his sister Bertha in Problem Child 3, and, along the way, gained a modicum of confidence and craft. (His weight also dropped to around 170.)
At the time of PC2, however, chips were stacked against the pork chop. Edwards had little to nothing to go on in order to develop this hateful character in a forgettable sequel, opening the same summer weekend as Terminator 2.
“When you don’t know what you’re doing, it gives you a lot of freedom,” he said. “I remember telling myself, I need to be the most obnoxious, angriest, dumbest guy and need to be mad at everything [Junior] does … I kinda threw myself into it. They had me dress like a cartoon, and my instinct was that I’d be a human cartoon. I still have that shirt somewhere.”
As for that roundhouse kick, those were skills brought with him from back home. A black belt in karate, the movie newbie suggested to director Brian Levant (Jingle All the Way) that he’d destroy the carnival sign, Slushee in hand, in the most absurd possible way. Audiences would just have to suspend disbelief. “Once you buy the guy in his 20s is actually in the sixth grade,” he laughed. “It was just the idea of being really, really excessive.”