Beverly Hills Cop III came out 20 years ago this week. While it was a far cry from the original in terms of box office success and originality — it was a sequel to a sequel after all — it also marked the end of Eddie Murphy as an R-rated movie star. (Vampire in Brooklyn put the final nail in that coffin for good a year later.)
Despite this, it’s still part of the BHC franchise which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. From Crocodile Dundee storylines to Sylvester Stallone disputes, here are 20 facts about Axel Foley’s rise to 1980s box office king.
1. Improvising lines resulted in countless ruined takes. Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and especially Eddie Murphy, would improvise lines throughout the filming, resulting in countless ruined takes. During the first film’s “super cops scene” Ashton can be scene pinching his face and looking down to hide his laughter at Murphy’s monologue.
2. Sly Stallone dropped out of the original film because of orange juice. Sylvester Stallone was originally in the Axel Foley role, but reportedly pulled some diva behavior and dropped out weeks before production was to begin over a dispute about the particular brand of orange juice in his trailer.
3. Stallone wasn’t the only actor considered for the role. Before Eddie Murphy took over the role, actors Al Pacino, Mickey Rourke ,and James Caan were all considered for the part.
4. An early draft for the sequel involved Axel Foley posing as a rent-a-cop. The sequel’s first draft involved Axel going undercover as a security guard to help Rosewood and Taggart stop a corrupt security service run by a Detroit crimelord. The script also called for Axel to have a 20-something partner as his love interest.
5. Bronson Pinchot earned more screen time with his Serge character. Originally, the BHC script had two men working in the art gallery scene, with the dialogue split between them. Bronson Pinchot impressed director Martin Brest with his Serge character so much that Brest scaled back the other part to allow Pinchot more screen time.
6. Serge did not return for the sequel because of TGIF. Producers wanted Bronson Pinchot back for the sequel, but Pinchot didn’t want to put Perfect Strangers on hiatus to film the movie. As told to the A.V. Club, when Pinchot finally did return for the third film he filmed some of his scenes without ever acting alongside Eddie Murphy:
“And then when we did a scene, we were shooting, and he was so low-energy that John Landis sent him upstairs and said, “Just rest, Eddie, and I’ll do the scene with Bronson.” So whenever you see my face in the movie, I’m not really talking to Eddie, I’m talking to John Landis.”
7. The first BHC held onto a box office record for 20 years. The movie was the highest grossing R-rated film between 1984 and 2004, when it was eventually dethroned by The Passion of the Christ. It’s national success can largely be attributed to the fact that it was the first R-rated film to have a release in more than 2,000 theaters across the United States.
8. Crocodile Dundee could have been in the third film. One of the studio notes that was pushed for the film was a cross-over storyline involving Crocodile Dundee. As dumb as that idea sounds, it was pushed by then-Paramount Pictures chairman, Brandon Tartikoff, before being shot down by Eddie Murphy.
9. Beverly Hills Cop III could have had Sean Connery co-starring. Besides Crocodile Dundee, another idea that was on the table involved Axel heading over to London and teaming up with Sean Connery, who would play a Scotland Yard detective. The storyline was eventually scrapped because producers felt that it was too similar to the Michael Douglas film, Black Rain.
10. The producers had to take a guess what the Beverly Hills Police Department would look like. On the DVD commentary for the first film, director Martin Brest notes that they were unable to gain access to actually see the Beverly Hills Police Department, so they had to simply guess what it might look like inside. Brest says he wanted it too look as different from the Detroit set as possible and the set crew was told to make it look like “private security for rich people.”