‘Beverly Hills Cop III’ Nearly Found Eddie Murphy and John Cleese Taking Down Real-Life Mobsters

It sure would have been better than what we got
‘Beverly Hills Cop III’ Nearly Found Eddie Murphy and John Cleese Taking Down Real-Life Mobsters

While the last movie Eddie Murphy made for a streaming service was a sanity-taxing Christmas-themed fever dream, some of us are still cautiously optimistic that Netflix’s upcoming Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F — the fourth film in the Beverly Hills Cop saga — will be good.

At the very least, it has to be better than the last entry in the franchise; Beverly Hills Cop III, the famously disappointing threequel that found Axel Foley busting a counterfeiting ring in an amusement park that definitely wasn’t Disneyland, or any other legally-actionable real-life location. And when it comes to cinematic spectacle, things don’t get much more exciting than Eddie Murphy cutting a line and mildly inconveniencing George Lucas. 

But this wasn’t always the plan for Beverly Hills Cop III. A number of different ideas were floated for the movie Murphy once said there was “no reason to do.” One was a pitch from Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne “in which Axel Foley has to deal with his celebrity cop status.” While producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer of Top Gun and cocaine fame were happy with the idea, the deal with the studio fell through and the project collapsed (the producers still got to walk away with “a million-dollar payout”).

Then, the head of Paramount at the time, Brandon Tartikoff, came up with a unique proposal: The third Beverly Hills Cop and the third Crocodile Dundee film could be the same movie. Yeah, Axel Foley would crossover with Dundee, played by Paul Hogan. While that idea ultimately didn’t pan out, Crocodile Dundee did eventually make his way to Los Angeles in a movie, and it was a total disaster. 

A more promising suggestion was for Alex Foley to travel to England and partner with a Scotland Yard detective, which would retain the “fish out of water” framework that made the original so popular. At one point the new English character was going to be played by Sean Connery. Another plan, it seems, was to have Murphy “teaming up with John Cleese to take down the Kray brothers” — or at least gangster characters inspired by the Kray Brothers. 

Come to think of it, Cleese did know a thing or two about getting laughs with fictional characters based on Reginald and Ronald Kray.

The specifics of these various pitches are all pretty murky, but seemingly the U.K.-based story ideas fell by the wayside when Die Hard screenwriter Steven De Souza was hired, and shifted the action to a California theme park. While it would have been exciting to see a young Murphy share the screen with a post-Fawlty Towers, pre-hacky senior citizen Cleese, the pair did work together eventually: Both actors lent their voices to multiple Shrek movies and Cleese played the holographic chauffeur in The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

On second thought, maybe Murphy and Cleese should just stay the hell away from each other. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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