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.”
11. Finding a director for the film didn’t come easy. The original script was written seven years prior to the release in 1977. It was rewritten by a handful of people some 20 times over the next seven years, making directors leery about taking the project. Both Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg were offered the project, with Scorsese turning it down because he felt it was too similar to Coogan’s Bluff.
12. Directing the film came down to the flip of a quarter. When the project finally landed on director Martin Brest’s desk, he was unsure about the project and flipped a quarter to decide if he should do it. Brest later framed the quarter after the film’s success.
13. Beverly Hills Cop II was initially planned as a TV series. The first film was such a huge success that Paramount wanted to move forward with a television series. Eddie Murphy canned the idea of returning to television and they went ahead with the sequel instead.
14. Rosewood’s trunk arsenal in BHC II was a nod to co-producer Don Simpson. Rosewood pulling guns from his trunk before the big shootout was a nod to co-producer Don Simpson, who showed actor Judge Reinhold his gun collection in the trunk of his car prior to making the original film.
15. John Landis coming on to direct the third film was a shock to the industry. Eddie Murphy and John Landis had worked together before on the hugely successful Coming To America and Trading Places, but thw two didn’t particularly like one another with Murphy vowing never to work with him again. Other directors were reportedly hesitant to work with Murphy because of his entourage, and at the time Landis’ pay demand had fallen because of a few box office duds. Paramount executives convinced the two to reconcile, hoping Landis’ direction of Murphy would pay-off again.
16. There is a minor crossover between BHC II and True Romance. Besides Tony Scott directing both films, there’s another link between the two movies — Dick Ritchie. Michael Rappaport doesn’t show up in Beverly Hills Cop II, but the name of his True Romance character is listed in the credits as a member of the production crew.
17. It was supposed to be a potato, not a banana in the tailpipe. In BHC, Axel Foley was supposed to steal a potato from the kitchen to be placed in the car’s tailpipe, but scheduling conflicts arose and the kitchen scene was cut. Since a potato in the hotel lobby would be out of place, it was changed to Axel grabbing a banana off the buffet.
18. The song “Nasty Girl” playing at the strip club was a stripper suggestion. The song playing at the strip club that Axel, Rosewood, and Taggart visit was suggested by a dancer with the stage name “Mouse” who worked at the club and used “Nasty Girl” as her song.
19. The third film did terrible at the box office… by Beverly Hills Cop standards. The Beverly Hills Cop franchise quickly went the way of RoboCop, with each film doing considerably poorer than the previous. While the first film was the second highest-grossing film of 1984, pulling in $316,360,478 at the box office, its predecessors didn’t flourish as well. BH Cop II still came in as the #2 highest-grossing film internationally in 1987 with $299,965,036 at the box office, but BH Cop III only inched its way up to 14th place with $119,208,989.
20. The films’ electronic instrumental is one of the most recognizable movie soundtracks of the 1980s. The instrumental, “Axel F” was recorded by Harold Faltermeyer and reached the number 3 position on the US Billboard 200 in 1985 as well as the top 10 in much of Europe. It’s since been sampled and covered by everyone from T-Pain to Mastodon.