The story of the many attempts to make Beverly Hills Cop 4 – from discussions with Jerry Bruckheimer to the present-day plans at Netflix.
Belated sequels, remakes of sequels, sequels of remakes – nothing is sacred, especially if you’re a Hollywood IP. But even in this saturated market, the fact that Beverly Hills Cop 4 hasn’t yet materialized really is remarkable. Indeed, it was only last year that Eddie Murphy finally brought the long in gestation sequel to another of his gargantuan eighties hits to the screen, in the form of Coming 2 America. Pandemic notwithstanding, the film did good business, commercially if not critically, and brought Murphy to the forefront of a filmic discourse he had been absent from for some time. 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name established Murphy as a critically acclaimed dramatic actor, but arguably his last truly great comic performance was his dual role as Kit and Jiff Ramsey in 1999’s wonderful Bowfinger.
In 1984, Murphy was on something of a winning streak. Riding high after the huge critical and commercial success of Trading Places, he was given his own starring vehicle – Beverly Hills Cop. The film was originally built around Mickey Rourke, but when this fell through, Sylvester Stallone rewrote it as a much more serious, hard edged action film. However, disagreements with Paramount forced Stallone to pull out, and he repurposed the concept for his 1986 film Cobra.
The film follows motormouth cop Axel Foley who, with the help of Judge Reinhold’s Detective Billy Rosewood and John Ashton’s Sergeant John Taggart, sets out to investigate the murder of his childhood friend.
Beverly Hills Cop remains Murphy’s highest grossing film (or, at least, the highest grossing film with him as the star), making over $300 million on a budget of just $13 million and earning its writers – Daniel Petrie Jr and Danilo Bach – an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. A sequel was rushed into production and Beverly Hills Cop 2 arrived just a year after the first, in 1987.
It took a little longer for the third film to reach cinemas. Asked about the third instalment in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview, Murphy somewhat unceremoniously observed that “The only reason to do a Cop III is to beat the bank, and Paramount ain’t gonna write me no check as big as I want to do something like that. In fact, if I do a Cop III, you can safely say, ‘Ooh, he must have got a lot of money!”.
By this point, Murphy could pick and choose his roles and, to his credit, the late eighties and early nineties house an eclectic range of projects, from his unfairly overlooked directorial debut Harlem Nights, for which he also wrote the script, to Jonathan Lynn’s The Distinguished Gentlemen. However, by 1994, Murphy’s star was no longer in the ascent and so he returned to his most bankable franchise, reuniting with Trading Places director John Landis.
Though again commercially successful, it got something of a critical drubbing, with even Murphy decrying his involvement in later interviews. Despite this, talks about a fourth film were quick off the mark, with Murphy hoping to make the film through his own production company, Eddie Murphy Productions. However, nothing came of this and talks stalled until 2006, when hitmaker Jerry Bruckheimer began discussions. Once again, these fell through and it wasn’t until 2008 that things began to get serious, when Rush Hour helmer Brett Ratner became the first director officially attached to the project.
Though Ratner and Murphy would eventually collaborate on 2011’s Tower Heist, Beverly Hills Cop 4 hit setback after setback, mainly due to the ever changing screenplay. By now, the script had been rewritten by an impressive roster of writers, perhaps most notably Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, who that year scripted the gleefully over the top shoot em up Wanted. Progress seemed steady, with Ratner telling Empire magazine that “I’m working very hard on the fourth. It’s very difficult, especially since there were three before. We’re trying to figure out some important things, like where do we start? Is Axel retired? Is he in Beverly Hills? Is he on vacation? Does Judge Reinhold return as the loveable Billy Rosewood? Many questions to figure out, but I’m hoping to have a script before the film disappears from our existence.”.
As ever, progress stalled but as is always the case with these things, the studio simply wouldn’t let it lie. They did, however, begin to reimagine the format the next instalment might take. This eventually led to the commissioning of a pilot for a television version in which Murphy would take on a supporting role, the series instead focusing on Foley’s son Aaron. It was shot in 2013, helmed by Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld, but as of 2022 it has never been aired or commercially released. In 2014, the film received a huge financial boost after the state of Michigan put up over thirteen million dollars in the hope of creating more than three hundred jobs for local residents. However, once again, script concerns put paid to the project for the time being.
After that there was radio silence on the project, with Murphy only making three films between 2013 and 2022. More recently, Murphy has been vocal about his desire to return to his roots and work up a new stand-up comedy set, and despite Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah being attached to the film for some time, they eventually left to focus on developing the upcoming Batgirl. With the recent confirmation that Mark Molloy is to helm Beverly Hills Cop 4 for Netflix, it looks like the film will finally go before the cameras at some point in the very near future, but as of yet there are no details of dates, plot or whether regulars like Judge Reinhold will return.
Whether the latest iteration of the project goes the same way as the others remains to be seen, but as they now have the backing of Netflix, with whom Murphy already has a working relationship, it is the strongest indicator yet that Beverly Hills Cop 4 will finally emerge from development hell and into cinemas (or, more likely, onto streaming services) soon.
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