Tearaway producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer cemented a new sort of film with Beverly Hills Cop. A ‘high concept’ movie is one with a plot that can be summed up in a single sentence. In this case, the storyline ran like so – ‘tough urban cop comes to urbane LA to solve his best friend’s murder’.
At the time the most profitable movie ever to feature a black star, it’s now impossible to imagine anyone other than Eddie Murphy playing the wise-crackin’, butt-kickin’ Axel Foley. Talk to Jerry Bruckheimer, however, and he’ll tell you the Saturday Night Live star was the last person on his mind when he cast the role.
“Beverly Hills Cop was originally a Mickey Rourke project,” says the producer of such high octane movies as Top Gun, The Rock and Black Hawk Down. “Mickey was very hot at the time – everyone was excited about his work in Body Heat and Diner – so, for a huge sum of money [$400,000], we secured his services.” As someone with hatred of LA that would become Hollywood legend, no one was that shocked when Rourke chose not to make a picture set in the town he so detested.
It was then that the biggest action star of the day entered the picture. “The screenplay was re-written specifically for Sylvester Stallone,” Bruckheimer continues. “Sly was coming off the back of Rocky III and First Blood – everything he touched turned to gold – and we broke our backs retooling the film for him.” But instead of making Beverly Hills Cop, Stallone walked off the picture a fortnight before filming, taking with him storyline ideas that would provide the basis for a rather different cop movie, Cobra.
With Rocky Balboa also out of the running, Bruckheimer sought out someone new to the industry. “Eddie Murphy had just started to make the transfer from TV to movies – he’d been excellent in 48 Hrs. and Trading Places. Of course, hiring Eddie meant rewriting the whole movie – there weren’t many laughs in the Stallone version of Beverly Hills Cop. But if it was a big job, it was well worth it.”
Indeed, with Murphy at his freewheelin’ best, Beverly Hills Cop took over $200 million at the box-office. Little wonder then that if you ask Jerry Bruckheimer whether he regrets the near misses with Rourke and Stallone, he collapses into laughter. “Not at all! We got the right guy. It just took a while to find him.”