Paramount via Everett Collection
Anyone alive in 1984 — and many that weren’t — can instantly recognize the synthesizer strains of Beverly Hills Cop’s theme song “Axel F.” Eddie Murphy’s blockbuster comedy topped Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to be the year’s top grossing movie. With talk that another sequel to the film is in the works, it’s time to look back at what made the original such a smash. You might be able to hum along with the theme, but here are some fun facts that you might not know.
1. Sylvester Stallone was set to play Axel Foley right up until two weeks before filming was to begin, causing the production team to rewrite on the fly in order for Murphy to step into the role.
2. When director Martin Brest was offered the job by producer Jerry Bruckheimer he was lukewarm on the project, so he flipped a coin to decide whether or not to do it. When the film became a huge success, Brest had the quarter that he used framed.
3. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton did an improv bit during their joint audition that ended up in the movie. It’s the scene in the film where Reinhold’s Rosemont tells Ashton’s Taggart that the average American has “five pounds of undigested red meat in his bowels.”
4. The script bounced around Hollywood for a long time and was originally a more traditional, tense actioner. Among the directors that turned down the more serious script were Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg. Before Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Al Pacino, and James Caan were each attached to the Axel role at various times.
5. Even though Reinhold was only two years removed from playing a high school senior in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the actor is four years older than Murphy, who was only 23-years-old when Beverly Hills Cop was released.
6. The T-shirt that Murphy wears in the film is from a real Detroit area high school (Mumford), which was inundated with requests for the shirt. The section of the movie filmed in Detroit also featured Gil Hill, who actually did work for the city police department, as Murphy’s boss. Hill went on to be a city councilman in the Motor City.
7. The Beverly Hills police in the movie use something called a “satellite tracking system,” which the film team made up as a way to get around a sticky plot issue. The government’s first GPS didn’t become fully operational until 1995… 11 years after Beverly Hills Cop.
8. Harold Faltermeyer, who scored a Top 10 hit with the instrumental “Axel F,” also wrote Glenn Frey’s Top 10 hit from the soundtrack, “The Heat Is On.” The movie produced two other hits in The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude.”
9. Originally, the art museum where Axel goes to find his friend Jenny once he gets to Los Angeles was supposed to have two men working in it. When Bronson Pinchot — who would later star in the television show Perfect Strangers — auditioned with the weird Eastern European accent that his character Serge affects, Brest made the role bigger to allow more interaction between Pinchot and Murphy. The character was such a hit that Pinchot’s sitcom character used a variation of the same accent.
10. Stallone retained his affinity for the original script. His film Cobra was largely based on the ideas that he had for Beverly Hills Cop. That film, along with Beverly Hills Cop 2, co-starred Stallone’s one-time wife Brigitte Nielsen.
11. The film was the first comedy to open on over 2,000 screens upon its release. Its success helped set the stage for the “wide openings” that became the norm in later years.
12. The movie was the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all-time until The Hangover finally knocked it from its perch. It made over $230 million at the box office in the United States. Adjusted for inflation, however, that would translate to over $650 million now.