Martin Scorsese Almost Directed One of Eddie Murphy’s Biggest Comedies

And it probably would have been nearly four hours long
Martin Scorsese Almost Directed One of Eddie Murphy’s Biggest Comedies

There are a lot of what-ifs and could-have-beens on Martin Scorsese’s cinematic resume. At one point, he was attached to Schindler’s List (better off in Spielberg’s hands) and The Joker (which Todd Phillips directed as a Scorsese homage anyway). But one of the strangest near misses came when Scorsese turned down the chance to direct Eddie Murphy’s first solo break-out comedy, Beverly Hills Cop

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The decision was probably the right one. Even though Scorsese would soon direct one of his only comedies, the Griffin Dunne-led After Hours, it’s likely that his take on Beverly Hills Cop would have been darker and less funny than the Martin Brest version. The clue: Scorsese passed on Beverly Hills Cop because he believed the screenplay’s plot was too similar to Clint Eastwood’s 1968 crime thriller Coogan’s Bluff

Watch the trailer and it’s easy to see the surface similarities — a fish-out-of-water lawman arrives in the big city to solve a murder. But it’s also hard to imagine that anyone would watch Beverly Hills Cop and make the connection to the movie from fifteen years earlier. If nothing else, Eastwood and Murphy bring such different vibes to the big screen that casting alone would have made the two movies distinct. Scorsese disagreed — and he didn’t want people thinking he was ripping off old Eastwood hits.

There’s an entire multiverse of alternate Beverly Hills Cop movies that never saw the light of day. Body-horror master David Cronenberg was also offered the flick — he turned it down before he got the chance to make Judge Reinhold’s skull explode. And before Murphy came on board, the part of Axel Foley was attached to a weird assortment of ‘80s stars, including 9 ½ Weeks era Mickey Rourke (who signed a $400,000 holding contract to do the film) and Sylvester Stallone, who rewrote the comedy into something entirely unrecognizable. The producers kicked Stallone to the curb and he turned his new script into action dud Cobra (“Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.”). 

More alternate universe Foleys: Richard Pryor. Al Pacino. James Caan. Harrison Ford. It’s no wonder that a rough script wasn’t finished for Murphy’s version until the day production began. The lack of a polished screenplay turned out to be a feature, not a bug — the hasty rewrites to rework the concept for Murphy gave him permission to improvise and riff to his heart’s content. Would Scorsese would have allowed Murphy that kind of freedom? Beverly Hills Cop was better off without him.


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