While Eddie Murphy was seeing his fame grow during the late 1970s and early 1980s with a blossoming standup comedy career and a successful stint on Saturday Night Live, it really wasn’t until Beverly Hill Cop hit the big screen in 1984 that his star shot into the stratosphere. And while it likely would have happened in some other way with some other project, Murphy might have Sylvester Stallone to thank for being able to land this role. That’s because Stallone apparently was one of the studio’s first choices for the project and was pretty darn close to starring in the film before a last-minute pivot to Eddie Murphy.
Look, the history of Hollywood is filled with what-ifs and close calls with nearly every movie having a timeline that could have seen it go in dramatically different directions in terms of casting and story. But Beverly Hills Cop is a particularly interesting intersection of fame and talent considering the wide range of outcomes this movie could have had and where it landed a couple of stars. According to CBR, Eddie Murphy wasn’t the first choice for the film. That was Sylvester Stallone and the actor was attached to star in the film almost right up until production started.
As has been documented in the past, Sylvester Stallone had a much different idea for the film. He took over the script and turned it well away from a comedy and into an action film. Instead of Axel Foley from Detroit, Stallone’s character would have been coming to LA but as Axel Cobretti from Pittsburgh. The movie would have been light on laughs and heavy on killing, more of the style Stallone was trending towards at the time considering these were the years leading into Rambo. And does Cobretti sound familiar? It should because Marion Cobretti was the lead character in Cobra, a movie that Stallone’s rewrites on Beverly Hills Cop eventually turned into when he walked from the initial project.
Sylvester Stallone walking away from Beverly Hills Cop ended up happening only a few weeks before the start of planned production with the actor and studio disagreeing over the tone of the film and the cost associated with making a lot more things blow up. When Sylvester Stallone walked it was Eddie Murphy time and the script got an overhaul once again, probably for the best. It went the comedy-action route with Murphy’s Foley coming from Detroit, sticking bananas in tailpipes, and busting a major drug ring with the help of Rosewood and Taggart.
While it seems like this movie could be some kind of Hollywood inflection point with two major stars attached to a movie that ended up going in a different direction because of the lead, it’s important to know that these kinds of things happen all the time. Sure, it’s not always right at the last second, but folks like Sylvester Stallone and Eddie Murphy were going to have their talent rise to the top almost no matter what. It’s just funny to think just how different this movie could have been. And we can be grateful that Murphy landed this one because of how great it ended up turning out.