“Beverly Hills Cop” was clearly a vehicle for the comedy styling of Eddie Murphy, so it may come as a shock to learn that the role of Axel Foley was originally intended to go to Sylvester Stallone. The story of “Beverly Hills Cop,” by the way, is about a Detroit cop (Murphy) who claims to be taking a vacation to Beverly Hills, but who is instead investigating the death of a friend. Axel is flip, down-to-earth, and bemused by the “soft” yuppie culture he encounters in L.A.
When asked about the origins of “Beverly Hills Cop,” Brest recalls that he had just lost a high-profile job and was in a funk:
“I was fired off ‘WarGames,’ and I went through a very dark personal period. I felt my nascent career was over. And Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer wanted me to do this movie starring Sylvester Stallone. For some reason, while no one else in the business would recognize me at all, they really pursued me. And I still turned it down. But because they really kept badgering me, I said, ‘I’m going to flip a coin.’ I flipped the coin and it was heads and I was terrified, but I committed to doing it with Sylvester Stallone as the Axel character.”
“WarGames” came out in 1983, incidentally, and was credited to John Badham. Brest, as he revealed in a biography, shot “WarGames” for 12 days before having a beef with the producers and getting fired. Brest wanted a darker, more sinister movie. Badham claims to be the one to have brightened the movie and made the teenage leads more affable. In other words, he did with “WarGames” what Brest did with “Beverly Hills Cop.”