Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F director Mark Molloy will never forget the moment that Eddie Murphy became Axel Foley again. "We were doing the camera test, and Eddie put the Axel jacket on, put the sunglasses on, and he turned to camera," Molloy recalls, "and that's all he had to do! The way he did that, I was just like, 'Axel Foley is back!'"

It only took three decades! In 1984, a 23-year-old Murphy solidified his movie star status with Beverly Hills Cop, in which he originated the character of Alexander "Axel" Foley, a Detroit detective who brings his street smarts and signature wisecracks to the poshest neighborhood in Los Angeles. As a kid in Australia, Molloy fell in love with Beverly Hills Cop and 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II. (To this day, he still hasn't seen 1994's much-panned Beverly Hills Cop III). For the long-time commercial director, the chance to direct the next chapter in his favorite franchise was a dream come true.

"It's been 40 years since the original, so we definitely wanted to bring back the nostalgia and the essence of Beverly Hills Cop, but Eddie had a very keen radar on where to push the nostalgia and when not to," Molloy tells A.frame. "It's not just about going back and doing jokes we've done before. It's about going, 'Okay, we know that scene, the audience knows that scene, but how do we find a different angle on it?' Eddie had a very acute sense of how to do that."

In Axel F, Murphy's Foley returns to Beverly Hills when his estranged daughter, defense attorney Jane (Taylour Paige), finds herself caught up in a case involving dirty cops. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kevin Bacon are among the franchise's new recruits, but Molloy made it a priority to reunite Murphy with OG co-stars Judge Reinhold (aka Billy Rosewood), John Ashton (Chief John Taggart), Paul Reiser (Captain Jeffrey Friedman) and Bronson Pinchot (Serge). "They are Beverly Hills Cop," Molloy declares. "To see the chemistry after all those years, they hadn't lost anything."

A.frame: Your feature debut is Beverly Hills Cop 4 — has that sunk in? That's a big deal, especially when you think of the directors who preceded you.

Mark Molloy: I don't know whether that'll ever sink in. There's some big and very humbling shoes there. And not just to step into their shoes, but to be given the inspiration that those two filmmakers gave me in very different ways — in what Martin [Brest] did in Beverly Hills Cop and what Tony [Scott] did in Beverly Hills Cop II. They were real points of inspiration for me. I was just so lucky.

Early in the movie, one of the other cops gleefully announces, "I'm chasing bad guys with Axel Foley, hell yeah!" As that line came up, I thought, "I wonder if this was how Mark felt." Like, "I'm directing Axel Foley as he chases bad guys, hell yeah!"

Totally! Obviously, I was very in the moment then — I think we were rolling seven cameras on that, so I was a little bit stressed — but there were moments of that. [Laughs] Yeah, I pinched myself a million times during this whole experience. I'm sitting there and Eddie's Axel Foley! I remember very vividly watching that film as a young kid in Australia, and to think I'd be handed the keys to Beverly Hills Cop, I would never have dreamt it. I'm very glad it happened, though!

Various different writers and directors have spent decades trying to get a fourth Beverly Hills Cop film off the ground. When and how did you get in the mix?

I got a call from Jerry [Bruckheimer] quite a few years ago, and he said he really loved what I was doing and that he'd love to make a movie together. I was like, "Wow, Jerry! I would love to make a movie with you, too!" He actually sent me quite a few scripts that I said no to — which is probably stupid, but I said no to them because they just didn't feel right. And then he sent me this, and I think I was 20 pages in when I was like, "Oh, man, I'm really into this." It was so confident in the DNA of what a Beverly Hills Cop film is, and I instantly saw the film as I was reading it with that Beverly Hills Cop lens on.

I wonder if Jerry is someone who appreciates that you didn't jump at the first opportunity — you made him work for it!

Maybe! Or maybe I'm just stupid, I don't know! When he sent this to me, I was like, "I'm not going to do it just because it's Beverly Hills Cop." For me, it was, "Why are we going to make this film?" And I found my angle: the father-daughter relationship that's at the heart of the film. Inside Axel's character, I saw a vulnerability that we've never seen from him. Yes, it was a Beverly Hills Cop film — that got my juices going — but finding my take on the film and what I was going to bring really drew me in. I wanted to give the audience everything they wanted from a Beverly Hills Cop film, but I also wanted to surprise them with something they didn't expect.


Like I mentioned, this fourth film has been decades in the making, and Eddie himself has nixed plenty of scripts and ideas for another sequel. What were your early conversations with him like?

I had to really sell Eddie on my vision for the film and the character at this point in his life. This was before Top Gun had come out, and I felt like you weren't seeing a lot of films like Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop II, so I wanted to go back to the well. I wanted to make it feel like a modern film but have the essence of an '80s action-comedy and build the action around the characters. Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hill Cop II were gritty films, they were really honest, and I wanted to make a film that had a bit of that grit, that felt really honest, and had real stakes.

In films these days, I think that the spectacle can often outweigh the story, and I wanted to ground this film, like those first two films were. I wanted to shoot all the action in camera. Actually, I wanted to shoot everything in camera. I wanted to go back and make some mistakes like they used to! I wanted there to be a heightened sense of realism and a sense of danger. But Eddie is so dialed into Axel. It was actually astounding how dialed in he was to the character. Especially coming back to that character after 30 years, he had such a keen sense of how Axel would see everything. It was really inspiring be a part of that with him.

It has been 30 years, so it would be understand if Eddie needed some time to find Axel again or tap back into that character. But it sounds like that was not the case.

Eddie is incredible. He's still got it on so many levels. I remember we were doing the camera test, and Eddie put the Axel jacket on, put the sunglasses on, and he turned to camera, and I just stood back — that's all he had to do. Just the way he did that, I was just like, "Axel Foley is back!" And to sit there with a front row seat to the Eddie Murphy show was incredible for me. Obviously, he's a comedic genius — maybe the best comedian in my eyes — but he's such a brilliant dramatic actor. I don't think he gets recognized for that enough. There were so many small, in-between lines where I'd be like, "How's he going to handle that? What's going to happen there?" And he's just on. I'm honored to have worked with him.

Taylour Paige, Eddie Murphy and director Mark Molloy on the set of 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.'

Was there any world in which Axel F happens without the whole gang back together? John Ashton wasn't in Beverly Hills Cop III, and as much as Eddie is the star here, his chemistry with Judge, John, Paul and Bronson is part of the special sauce of this thing.

From the moment I came on, I was like, "They are Beverly Hills Cop." It's about their relationship with Axel, and that chemistry between all of them is what makes Beverly Hills Cop — and also, it's what makes so much of the comedy. Revisiting these characters after 40 years, how their lives have evolved, how their relationships have evolved, that's the fun! So, I was adamant that they all come back. One of the very first things I did was sit down with the original cast and tell them my vision and really bring them in early, because they're such a key part of it. That moment where you've got Taggart and Rosewood in the car and Axel jumps in the back, I just knew that the audience wanted that image. When we were shooting that, Eddie jumped in the back, and I took a moment and I looked around at the crew. That's what we wanted. To see the chemistry after all those years, they hadn't lost anything.

You talked about the father-daughter relationship being the hook for you, and it reminded me that a decade ago, they tried to make Beverly Hills Cop into a TV series that centered on Axel's son. Here, you go in a different direction. What appealed to you about introducing Taylour Paige as Jane?

The last time we saw Axel, he was this 20-year-old without a care in the world. When you're coming back to a franchise 40 years later, I love that he's still the Axel we know, but what's happened in those years? I think the beauty of the father-daughter relationship is that we see that the stakes are different this time. The other thing I really liked is, we've seen Axel Foley deal with all these bad guys, but he's actually met his match in his daughter. Because his daughter doesn't stand for any of the bulls--t. She's lived with it her whole life, and she's like, "Uh-uh, your Axel Foley-isms don't work around here!" So, not only did that story gives us the emotional heartbeat of the film, but it is also a fish out of water in a whole different way.

Traditionally, the July 4th weekend is when some of summer's biggest blockbusters are released in theaters. You’re playing in a different sandbox with Netflix, but watching Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley on the Fourth of July just sounds right. How are you feeling about Axel's pivot to streaming?

It sounds right to me too! I am just so excited. It's one of those feel-good movies that just has a great feeling of escapism. It gives me great pleasure that on July 4th, it's going to be sent out into the world.


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