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Dirk Libbey

Why Sylvester Stallone Walked Away From Lead Role In Beverly Hills Cop Before Eddie Murphy Was Cast, According To The Director

Stallone in Cobra, Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop is the movie that made Eddie Murphy a movie star, and it also launched a franchise so successful that we’re set to get a Beverly Hills Cop 4 more than three decades after the last film in the series. It’s almost impossible to see any other actor playing Axel Foley today, in the same way that imagining Will Smith in The Matrix just seems weird. But as with that near casting, it very nearly happened. And Sylvester Stallone was once set to play the role.

Seeing a movie role go from Sylvester Stallone to Eddie Murphy may sound crazy, the two stars have never made the same sort of films, but Beverly Hills Cop was once going to be a very different movie. As the movie’s director Martin Brest recently told Variety, when he signed on to the film it was to direct Stallone, not Murphy. He explained… 

No, it was Stallone. I was fired off ‘WarGames,’ and I went through a very dark personal period. I felt my nascent career was over. And Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer wanted me to do this movie starring Sylvester Stallone. For some reason, while no one else in the business would recognize me at all, they really pursued me. And I still turned it down, but because they really kept badgering me, I said, ‘I’m going to flip a coin.’ I flipped the coin and it was heads and I was terrified, but I committed to doing it with Sylvester Stallone as the Axel character.

The original script for Beverly Hills Cop wasn't exactly the movie we saw, but it apparently did have some strong comedic elements, which would have been something a bit new from Sylvester Stallone at the time. It would be a few years before he gave comedy a try, with mixed results. It sounds like the Rocky star wasn’t that excited about the idea, so Stallone actually gave the script a rewrite into a more serious action drama.

However, the studio apparently wasn’t into Stallone’s version of the film, and they turned it down. This resulted in Stallone leaving the project, and taking his script with him to go make it under a different name. Brest explains what happened, and how that meant they basically wrote the script as they filmed once Eddie Murphy came on board. Brest continued…

My conception of it at the time was to do something with Stallone that nobody had ever seen before. It had some comedic elements by virtue of the fish out of water, but he wrote this thing that was a straight-out action drama. That’s not what the studio really was looking to do, so he went off and he took that script and it became ‘Cobra.’ So we wound up getting Eddie Murphy a few weeks before shooting. The nature of Eddie’s talent and the theme that I would like to bring up and the tone that I would love to make this movie about, it was perfect. And we restructured the whole story in a couple of weeks, and went into production with basically an outline, writing as we went.

In the end, it probably worked out for the best. Stallone made Cobra which was a hit in its own right, and Murphy made Beverly Hills Cop and became a breakout star. Still, it makes one wonder what Stallone would have been like if they’d gone with him and the lighter tone original script. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out. Maybe we were robbed of an even better version of the film.

Based on what we know about Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley, as Beverly Hills Cop 4 is currently known, most of the core cast of the franchise will be back. It might be fun if they'd found a small role for Stallone considering what almost happened.

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