Judge Reinhold was thrilled. For a while.
He was set to return as aw-shucks cop Billy Rosewood to Eddie Murphy’s naughty-but-nice Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop III, the threequel to 1984’s $234 million-grossing Beverly Hills Cop. Reinhold’s representatives sat down with Paramount executives to hammer out the details. Then things got ugly.
“They hate giving me a raise,” says the 37-year-old Delaware native, whose round, rimless spectacles, ’30s-vintage silk tie, and baggy khakis make him look like a hip teaching assistant at a small New England college. “They f—ing hate it. In their minds, I don’t sell the tickets… I know who sells the tickets, Eddie sells the tickets. But it’s my movie too… It’s like (the studio) forgot — no, this is too bitter,” he says, pausing for a moment to wring his large hands before picking up right where he left off. “Well, it was kind of like they’d never seen the work I’d done. And they were relieved when they saw my first dailies. ‘Ah, he’s good.’ …The first few days we had to get over a lot of crap.”
In the end Reinhold was able to secure a percentage of the gross for the first time in his career. He still had to confront other troubles that come with playing The Sidekick for a third time. “Sometimes I felt like I was trying to put on pants that were too tight,” says Reinhold, who is quick to point out that he admires both Cop III director John Landis (“He has a certain irreverence”) and Murphy (“We kind of watched each other grow up”). “Some of the situations called on me to be kind of goofy or silly, and I just didn’t see Billy as being that naive anymore. It just seemed a little pass´ for me because I’d grown up so much.”
Could it be that the Cop series has gotten old? Though 1987’s Cop II went on to make $153 million, even Reinhold isn’t sure if audiences will buy the notion of Axel — with a dutiful Billy in tow — dodging semiautomatic firepower in the bowels of a Disneyland-like amusement park. “Personally, I feel that if you shoot off 200,000 rounds and your lead character pulls out a pistol and never gets hit, there’s a sense of jeopardy that’s lost,” admits Reinhold. “It becomes a little less exciting when things don’t make sense.”
And if he’s asked to bring Billy back for a Beverly Hills Cop IV?
“Sure, I’d do it,” says Reinhold, a lawyer’s son whose idealism is tempered by his pragmatism. “It facilitates a lot of other things.”