Joseph Gordon-Levitt remembers his brother through the film

Fourteen years after the unfortunate death of his brother Dan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt found a wonderful way to pay tribute to him — by starring in Eddie Murphy’s upcoming Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

The late Daniel Gordon-Levitt was a huge fan of Murphy’s work in SNL and movies such as Coming to America and the first Beverly Hills Cop, and introduced the flamboyant comedian’s work to the young Joseph.

“I had a very sweet conversation with Eddie about how Dan showed me a lot of his work, and it was great to connect with him on that level. Eddie also has a nice big family, and we are both dads… so he resonated with me.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Detective Bobby Abbott and Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’
| Photo Credit:
Melinda Sue Gordon

In the new film from Netflix, Eddie Murphy reprises his famed role of Axel Foley for the fourth time, and returns to the beat in Beverly Hills after his daughter’s life is threatened, teaming up with a new partner in detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to solve the mystery.

One more thing that the two on-screen cops bonded over off-camera was their shared love for music; Murphy has released three studio albums and several hit singles (who still jams to Party All the Time?) while Gordon-Levitt is known for his singing and live performances as well, even recently playing a guitarist in last year’s charming romance Flora and Son.

“We actually talked about music probably more than anything else on set!” exclaims the 500 Days of Summer actor, adding, “Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to jam or play music together though… which would have been cool. One day, I’ve got to do a full-on musical, maybe Eddie and I can star in it together.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt attends the world premiere of the film at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California, U.S
| Photo Credit:
AUDE GUERRUCCI

Gordon-Levitt playing the sidekick to a legendary movie character in Axel F does remind one of the last time he teamed up with another iconic fictional hero; in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 superhero outing The Dark Knight Rises. As John Blake/Robin, the actor was introduced as a young police officer who helps Batman (Christian Bale) save Gotham from Bane and Talia al Ghul. 

“Ah… of course, and they are both cops! Now I’ve got my Beverly Hills PD badge to go with my Gotham City PD badge, that I still treasure safely. It’s a fun commonality for sure, even though they are two very different movies and characters.”

It’s been 11 years since his directorial debut with Don Jon; does he have plans to helm a film again soon? “I do love making stuff and I hope to direct a feature soon. But just a couple of years ago, I made a television series titled Mr Corman on Apple TV+ that I’m very proud of; it’s an odd little beautiful show where I got to do everything I wanted to do artistically, in my own weird taste,” he smiles.

Eddie Murphy gets back to the basics

For the great Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F was all about finding a way to get back to the roots of what made the blockbuster franchise so beloved.

“The third film (1994) wasn’t as strong as the first two. But we weren’t looking at other movies from the genre and thinking stuff has changed. It wasn’t about sticking to the template per se, but more about getting back to it,” he explains.

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’
| Photo Credit:
Melinda Sue Gordon

It has been 40 years since the first film and 30 years since the third one, but Murphy is confident that the buddy cop-action-comedy genre that Beverly Hills Cop so successfully pioneered can still create the magic.

“If you do it right, the Beverly Hills Cop movies work for any generation! The last 10-15 years have seen several action films with lots of visual effects and superheroes. But Beverly Hills Cop is a cape-less hero; he’s not Superman, he’s an ‘everyman’ who rises to the occasion and doesn’t play by the rules. People relate to him, and he’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with,” he grins.

Another reason why the earlier films worked so well was that Murphy was still a relatively unknown entity then waiting for his big breakthrough, before the likes of Dr. Dolittle, The Nutty Professor, Daddy Day Care and other comedic roles catapulted him to global stardom.

Bronson Pinchot, Judge Reinhold, Eddie Murphy, John Ashton and Paul Reiser attend the world premiere of ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
| Photo Credit:
AUDE GUERRUCCI

“Of course I’m not the same person anymore! When I did the first movie, I had just turned a legal adult at 21. I wasn’t married, didn’t have any kids, and hadn’t travelled the world. So much has happened since then; now I’m in my 60s and have 10 kids, I’m even a grandfather. Whenever I see pictures or a scene from the first movie, it’s literally like reminiscing about high school for me… I was a baby!”

But one thing that has stayed the same is the camaraderie between Murphy and his earlier Beverly Hill Cop co-stars — Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, and Bronson Pinchot — who all return now for this fourth outing.

“We just got old (laughs)… But the cool thing is, all that stuff is reflected in the movie and script as well. Us getting older, having age-appropriate relationships, how we have changed now and are not the same anymore..”

Kevin Bacon attends the world premiere of ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’
| Photo Credit:
AUDE GUERRUCCI

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and then some

Hollywood veteran baddie Kevin Bacon also is part of the film as Captain Cade Grant, a police captain in the Beverly Hills Police Department. After 46 years in the industry and acclaimed performances in films such as Footloose, Mystic River and Taking Chance, Bacon now enters Murphy’s franchise for the first time.

Eddie Murphy said that they wanted a “leading man” to play the role of the antagonist while casting for the project so as to make the villain a really strong presence; what is your take on that?

That’s a really nice thing for him to say. If you are going to have a villain, might as well make him interesting, right? When I was signed on and brought into the conversation on how to make things interesting, there was definitely a level of collaboration with the director that gave me something fun to sink my teeth into. I really think of myself more as a character actor than a leading man, but I do go back and forth between both. It’s more about trying to find something new and fresh to do; not if the character is a good guy or bad guy.

Two of my favourite villainous roles played by you go by the same name; Sebastian Shaw in X Men: First Class and Dr. Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man. Do you have a favourite dark character you have essayed?

Wow, that’s right, I didn’t realise they were both Sebastians! Hmm… I like them both, but what comes to mind is my role in The River Wild opposite Meryl Streep; it was such a great showdown between our characters. I have really fond memories of taking on that role and working with an iconic star like Meryl.

Given the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon phenomenon (the assumption that anyone in Hollywood can be linked through their film roles to Bacon within six steps, due to his prolific career), how is it that you and Eddie Murphy hadn’t worked together yet?

(laughs) I’m sure our paths had probably crossed over the years, but I wonder if we ever discussed this. Having never worked with him earlier, he was on my bucket list… and the experience sure didn’t disappoint!

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, John Ashton as Chief John Taggart and Kevin Bacon as Captain Grant in ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F premieres July 3 on Netflix

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