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Eddie Murphy stars in “Beverly Hills Cop”

Eddie Murphy stars in “Beverly Hills Cop”



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Eddie Murphy stars as the wisecracking Detective Axel Foley in the action-comedy Beverly Hills Cop, released in theaters on December 5, 1984. The movie marked the first major starring role for Murphy, who went on to become one of the top-grossing actors in Hollywood.

Murphy was born on April 3, 1961, in Brooklyn, New York, and rose to fame in the early 1980s on the TV sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. As a regular cast member of the show from 1980 to 1984, Murphy became known for such memorable characters as Buckwheat, Gumby and an inner-city Mr. Rogers, as well as for his impersonations of celebrities, including Stevie Wonder. In 1982, Murphy made his big-screen debut in the hit action-comedy 48 Hrs., co-starring Nick Nolte, which was followed by another popular comedy, Trading Places (1983), featuring fellow SNLer Dan Aykroyd, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche.

It was the huge box-office success of 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, however, that propelled Murphy to worldwide fame. In the film, Murphy played a police detective from Detroit who winds up in Beverly Hills, where he tracks a man believed responsible for the death of his friend. Beverly Hills Cop earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and featured a soundtrack with such chart-toppers as “New Attitude” by Patti LaBelle and “The Heat is On” by Glenn Frey. The film spawned the hit sequels Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994).

In 1989, Murphy made his directorial debut with Harlem Nights, which he also wrote and co-starred in, opposite Richard Pryor. The film was panned by critics and Murphy’s career slumped as he went on to appear in a series of box-office duds. Things rebounded for the actor in the mid-1990s, when he starred in such family-friendly box-office hits as The Nutty Professor (1996), in which he played multiple characters, and Dr. Doolittle (1998), in which he played the title role. Murphy scored yet another massive hit when he voiced the character of a donkey in 2001’s animated feature Shrek and its sequels, Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010). He starred in Dolemite Is My Name in 2019, considered his "comeback" to film.


‘Cobra’ Would Have Been ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ if Sylvester Stallone Had His Way

This article is part of our One Perfect Archive project, a series of deep dives that explore the filmmaking craft behind some of our favorite shots. In this entry, we look back at Cobra’s journey to the screen.

Cobra isn’t one of Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone’s most popular movies, but it’s undoubtedly one of his best, especially if you’re a fan of ridiculously entertaining action flicks with an edge. The film was savaged by critics when it was released in 1986, but Stallone has always had an affinity for his maligned baby and has even toyed with the idea of making a sequel. These days, however, Sly seems more interested in rebooting the underappreciated actioner as a series for a streaming service. Let’s hope he presses ahead with bringing Cobra back to our screens in some capacity because the movie really is one of the shiniest gems in the treasure chest that is Stallone’s filmography.

Loosely based on the novel A Running Duck by Paula Gosling, but clearly inspired by Dirty Harry, Cobra sees Stallone play Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a take-no-prisoners law enforcer who must protect a witness (Brigitte Nielsen) from a gang of deranged cultists. He’s the kind of detective who shoots first and asks questions later. He’s also so badass that he chews on a matchstick and cuts his pizza slices with scissors. If he runs out of bullets, he’ll impale a bad guy on a giant meathook. Crime is a disease, and Cobretti is the cure. Plain and simple.

Stallone created Cobra as a vehicle for himself during his commercial peak. However, the genesis of the film can be traced back to the development of Beverly Hills Cop. Before Eddie Murphy portrayed the wisecracking detective Axel Foley, the part was Stallone’s for the taking. Back then, Sly’s agent, Ron Meyer, felt the project would have been a positive career move for the actor. Not only did he feel confident that the movie would be a massive hit, but he also wanted his client to showcase his comedic side.

Meyer recalled the events in James A. Miller’s Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency:

“I called a group together at Sly’s house with all the people who were close to him — his inner circle. I said, “I have an offer for Sly for a movie I think he should do. I think it’s an important film for him to do in every way. I don’t want someone else to do it, because it’s going to be a huge hit.” And I said, “I have a copy of the script for each of you to read, and I’m going to call you all in the morning, but I want the answer to be yes. I don’t want any second-guessing.” The next morning, everybody said, “Yes.”

Unfortunately, Stallone didn’t want to make audiences laugh. He was too used to playing tough guys and didn’t feel the movie in its original iteration was right for him. Naturally, instead of rejecting the gig, Stallone took it upon himself to rewrite the screenplay to suit his own macho sensibilities. In Sly’s version of Beverly Hills Cop, the main character’s name was changed from Foley to Cobretti, and the comedy was replaced with action set-pieces and hard-edged violence. If Paramount pressed ahead with Stallone’s script, the film would have cost even more to make. Unable to see eye to eye with their star, the producers replaced him with Murphy. The decision to ditch Stallone paid off too, as Beverly Hills Cop was a huge hit.

Afterward, Stallone repurposed his Beverly Hills Cop ideas and Cobra was born. The Cannon Group — which was probably the only studio that would happily give Stallone $25 million to make a violent vanity project — stepped up to the plate and supported his vision. George P. Cosmatos was hired to direct the film, but it’s believed that Stallone was the real captain of the ship. Of course, that rumor is hardly surprising considering that Stallone has a history of overseeing his own projects. Whoever really helmed Cobra did a great job.

Upon release, Cobra was a box office hit, grossing $160 million worldwide. And while the film’s critical lampooning and subsequent Razzie Award nominations effectively killed any interest in a sequel right away, a ZX Spectrum game was released to coincide with the film. The game bears little resemblance to the movie, but it’s a fun little romp all the same. However, if you want to see a movie that exists because of Cobra, I highly recommend Black Cobra starring Fred Williamson. Unlike Stallone’s gem, Black Cobra spawned three sequels.

Still, it’s a shame that Stallone’s renegade detective didn’t receive further cinematic outings. Cobretti is a great action hero, and Stallone is clearly a fan of the character. Rocky Balboa and John Rambo are his golden geese, but Cobretti was the hero with franchise potential that got away. I’m sure he has no regrets about turning down Beverly Hills Cop, though — the actor is still kicking ass to this day. Furthermore, Stallone being fired from the other 󈨔s classic led to two great movies being made as a result. In the end, fans of action cinema were spoiled.


Eddie Murphy - Axel Foley

Eddie Murphy was already a comedy phenomenon by the time Beverly Hills Cop rolled around, thanks to his star-making four-year stint on Saturday Night Live, his stand-up comedy, and roles in hits like Trading Places and 48 Hrs. The role of Axel Foley only helped to bolster his rise. It was, in many ways, the beginning of the movie star era of Murphy's career, as the film was released the same year that his SNL run ended.

From there, Murphy continued to prove himself one of the most bankable movie stars of the 1980s and the '90s, racking up hit after hit, including Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, Mulan, and Shrek, nearly all of which generated sequels. Though the 2000s were something of a mixed bag for Murphy — an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls on one hand, flops like The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Meet Dave on the other — he's enjoying a major renaissance of late, including an upcoming Coming to America sequel and the launch of the acclaimed Rudy Ray Moore biopic Dolemite Is My Name.


7 Tony Scott Had Affair With Brigitte Nielsen (Beverly Hills Cop II)

Following the smashing success of the first film, Paramount decided to hire the late Tony Scott to helm the sequel based on the good job he did on Top Gun the year before. Perhaps there's a reason he wasn't invited back for the third film.

According to star Brigitte Nielsen, she and Scott had an affair while filming Beverly Hills Cop II. Nielsen was married to Sylvester Stallone at the time, who turned down the original film to make Cobra instead. In Billy's apartment, a poster for Cobra can be seen on the wall.


He Was Cast As Axel Foley In Beverly Hills Cop

Back in the 80s, Sylvester Stallone was mega star thanks to a string of successful action films. He had seen and done it all, but more importantly, he was a bankable star that studios knew could elevate a project to success. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that he was tabbed to play Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop.

Prior to being cast in the role, Stallone had already appeared in action films like Rocky and First Blood, meaning that he was in the midst of his two biggest franchises. His name value alone was immense, and it goes without saying that Beverly Hills Cop would have been a huge change in tone for the action star.

Stallone’s Agent, Ron Meyer, opened up about the star getting the call to star in the film.

“I called a group together at Sly’s house with all the people who were close to him — his inner circle. I said, “I have an offer for Sly for a movie I think he should do. I think it’s an important film for him to do in every way. I don’t want someone else to do it, because it’s going to be a huge hit.” And I said, “I have a copy of the script for each of you to read, and I’m going to call you all in the morning, but I want the answer to be yes. I don’t want any second-guessing.” The next morning, everybody said, “Yes,” he wrote in James A. Miller’s book.

Stallone was on board, but things would not work out so smoothly for the folks involved with the project.


2 Career Resurgence

Throughout Eddie Murphy's career, it seemed that it was over several times. Of course, he comes back each time stronger than before. In 2019, Murphy starred in the critically acclaimed Netflix movie Dolemite Is My Name. In December, Murphy returned to Saturday Night Live for the first time since 1986 to host. Also, Murphy stars in two highly anticipated upcoming sequels Coming 2 America and Beverly Hills Cop IV. Plus, Netflix paid Murphy $70 million for a series of comedy specials.


Eddie Murphy: ‘Beverly Hills Cop 3’ Was “Garbage”

The actor explains why the CBS pilot based on the franchise didn't work.

Ryan Gajewski

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Eddie Murphy doesn’t have particularly fond memories of the most recent film in what is perhaps his signature franchise.

In a Playboy interview, the Saturday Night Live alum said he isn’t proud of the 1994 action-comedy Beverly Hills Cop 3. “The third Beverly Hills Cop was garbage,” Murphy said of the film, which grossed just $42 million domestically.

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He was asked about rumors that a fourth film might start filming next month. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in March, but it is going to be in Detroit,” he said. “And before it happens, they&rsquove got to get that script right. That movie has to be right.”

Murphy feels that the Beverly Hills Cop franchise is integral to his legacy. “Those movies, when I travel overseas, people say, [in a foreign accent] ‘Hey, Beverly Hills Cop! Axel Foley!’ They call me that shit. All the movies I’ve done, and they call me that. If we do that movie, it has to be right. Not just thrown together to get a big check. I don’t need any more of those.”

The actor also was asked about what happened with the failed 2013 CBS pilot based on the films, and he said the network balked when Murphy decided he wasn’t willing to recur in the project. “I’m not going to do Beverly Hills Cop on TV,” he explained.


Marcus Graham

Murphy didn&rsquot act in many romantic comedies. There may be a racial component to that, unfortunately, but whatever the reason he didn&rsquot go down that road in his career. Murphy did give it a chance, though, with &ldquoBoomerang.&rdquo Over time, the reputation of &ldquoBoomerang&rdquo has improved, however, and now Murphy&rsquos turn as Marcus Graham gets more love.


Eddie Murphy to Star in Remake of ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

The studio has enlisted actor Eddie Murphy to reprise his role as Axel Foley, and they’ve set writers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec to pen the script.

The series began in 1984, designed for Murphy as the slick-talking Detroit cop who was an outsider and excoriated by authority, but who was the smartest cop on the block.

Martin Brest directed the first film, Beverly Hills Cop Tony Scott helmed Beverly Hills Cop II, and Beverly Hills Cop III was directed by John Landis in 1994. Back when Murphy was one of the studio’s biggest stars, the series grossed near $750 million collectively.

The interest to remake a “Beverly Hills Cop” movie was sparked by a pilot test CBS conducted for a TV show they were considering.

The show, written by Shawn Ryan and executive produced by Murphy and Ryan, ignited a debate over whether “Beverly Hills Cop” should be made for television or the movies.

Murphy had scene-stealing performance in the TV pilot that sealed the deal and Paramount decided to move forward with a feature length film.


He Dated A Spice Girl

After his divorce from Mitchell was finalized in April 2006, Murphy began dating former Spice Girl Melanie Brown, who became pregnant and said the baby was Murphy’s.

Murphy, who by this point was dating businesswoman Tracey Edmonds, publicly questioned the baby’s paternity, saying on a Dutch TV show, “We’re not together anymore. And I don’t know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, sir.”

Mel B recently said Murphy would always be the love of her life.

“We had something special that I’ve never really truly felt with anybody else,” she told Piers Morgan.


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