Eddie Murphy exploded into Hollywood in his early 20s with 48 Hrs (1982), Trading Places (1983), and Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – quickly becoming a major star. But Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, which really cemented Murphy’s star status at the age of 23 (!), almost went to Sylvester Stallone, of all people. Director Martin Brest recently explained how he persuaded the producers to cast Murphy.
Brest – who is fairly reclusive and doesn’t give many interviews these days – recently told Variety; “when we decided we wanted Eddie and we had to make our case in front of the powers at Paramount, there was some concern as to whether or not he could carry a movie on his own, because he had been, I put this in air quotes, ‘second banana.’ For certain people, the idea of him being the lead was a leap for them. To me, it was clear as a bell.”
Murphy had co-starred with Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places, and Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. Beverly Hills Cop would be his first solo lead.
Brest explained that he used a specific scene in 48 Hrs. to persuade the studio that Murphy was right for Beverly Hills Cop, which hadn’t been written as a comedy; “In fact, I told [48 Hrs. director] Walter Hill this, the scene in 48 Hrs. where Eddie’s in the bar and he uses Nick Nolte’s badge, when the notion of getting Eddie for the movie came up, I said to [legendary producers] Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, ‘Oh my God, we could have a full-length version of the bar scene.’ We didn’t even know the movie we were making three weeks ahead of time. Once we had Eddie, it just changed what we could do tonally.”
Beverly Hills Cop of course became one of the best comedy movies of all time, and one of the best 80s movies. Murphy is currently working on Beverly Hills Cop 4, but it’s unclear at what stage of development or production it’s in. He recently made Coming 2 America, a legacy sequel to his 1988 hit comedy movie.