Eddie Murphy Can Thank Sylvester Stallone for His Breakout Role in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

Eddie Murphy is one of the world’s biggest stars, a comedian and actor who has appeared in movies like Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, and Dreamgirls. An award-winning voice actor, Murphy is known to many of his younger fans as the voice of Donkey from the Shrek franchise, and as Mushu from Disney’s Mulan. Murphy originally rose to fame thanks to his work as a comedian on Saturday Night Live, and after a few years on the show, he was looking for opportunities to transition to moviemaking. His first big break came from an unlikely source, however — a movie project that had been recently abandoned by one of Hollywood’s grittiest action stars. 

Sylvester Stallone was originally attached to star in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

As many pop culture fans know, Murphy became a huge star after he appeared in the hit action-comedy Beverly Hills Cop in 1984. But while the film served as Murphy’s vehicle to international superstardom, a far different actor was originally set to appear in the movie.

According to Mental Floss, the initial script for Beverly Hills Cop went through several iterations and went to a few different actors before it ended up on the doorstep of famed Hollywood action hero Sylvester Stallone. At the time, Stallone was fresh from the success of his Rocky movies, and showrunners thought that he would be perfect for the role of Axel Foley.

Stallone did some rewrites on the script, making it more action-oriented, but ended up abandoning the project two weeks before filming was set to start. Reportedly, Stallone left the film due to disagreements over the film’s budget, which had grown to be astronomical after the script rewrites.  

Eddie Murphy became a star after he appeared in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in 'Beverly Hills Cop' makes the okay sign with his hand while holding a gun
Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ makes the okay sign with his hand while holding a gun | CBS via Getty Images

After Stallone dropped out of Beverly Hills Cop, producers scrambled to find an actor who could inhabit the character of Axel Foley. They settled on Murphy, who was best known at the time for his work as a comedian, and who had expressed his interest in the project previously. Once Murphy signed on, however, production was delayed even further, with director Martin Brest later recalling “‘The whole thing was in flux every day.”

The making of Beverly Hills Cop might have been a nightmare, but when it was released in 1983, audiences loved the film — and they especially loved Murphy’s fresh, funny take on the character of Axel. Murphy went on to become one of the world’s biggest stars by the mid-80s, with everything that he touched turning into box-office gold.

Murphy even reprised the role of Axel in several sequels to Beverly Hills Cop, one released in 1987 and one released in 1994. These days, rumors are swirling about the possibility of Murphy tackling the part of Axel Foley one more time, in a thus-far-unconfirmed fourth movie

Sylvester Stallone went on to craft the action classic ‘Cobra’

Stallone, of course, went on to even greater stardom after he left Beverly Hills Cop. In fact, Stallone immediately started work on the action film Cobra, taking bits and pieces of the script that he had created for Beverly Hills Cop and crafting a movie that perfectly showcased his action movie chops.

Cobra was released in 1986, and although the film had its fair share of cheesy one-liners, it is considered to this day to be one of Stallone’s most enjoyable hits — and a movie that can still be watched and enjoyed by anyone who loves a good ’80s chase scene.

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