Sylvester Stallone was the first choice to play Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop - but his determination to make it violent saw him replaced by Eddie Murphy. This is what happened next... he made Cobra. And it was a disaster.
You might think Sylvester Stallone can’t ‘do’ comedy. There is every chance this opinion was formed after watching Stop! Or My Mum Will Shoot, but you could have learnt this way earlier, in 1984 to be precise.
It blew my mind that Sylvester Stallone was the first choice to star as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, the role that went on to be made iconic by Eddie Murphy.
In fact I was so dubious that I cross referenced Wikipedia with more reliable sources - and there was even more to it.
Last year a book about the inner workings of Hollywood powerhouse Creative Artists Agency lifted the lid on how Sly came to get the role.
Sly’s agent, Ron Meyer, really wanted him to take the lead part, explaining: “I called a group together at Sly’s house with all the people who were close to him. His inner circle.
“I have an offer for Sly for a movie I think he should do. I think it’s an important film for him to do in every way.
“I don’t want someone else to do it, because it’s going to be a huge hit. I have a copy of the script for each of you to read, and I’m going to call you all in the morning, but I want the answer to be yes.
“I don’t want any second-guessing. The next morning, everybody said, ‘Yes.’”
However, Sly was dropped from the movie after he added a few “edits” to the script, removing all the comedic elements of Beverly Hills Cop - a comedy film - and replacing them with violence. His amends, he said, were to better ‘suit his skillset’.
He also wanted Axel Foley to be called “Cobretti”, which sounds like something you’d call a plate of spaghetti in order to trick a reptile-loving toddler to eat their dinner.
Needless to say Paramount dropped him from the project, claiming the film he wanted to make was way out of their budget. They brought on Eddie Murphy and the rest is history.
However, just two years later, Stallone released his ultra-violent cop movie, Cobra.
He’s at his humourless best in the film, playing Lieutenant Marion (wait for it...) Cobretti, a bad ass cop who is part of his force’s elite Zombie Squad.
He takes on an extremist group of “social Darwinist radicals” led by a mysterious baddie called The Night Stalker.
It's packed full of brilliant one-liners, including one clapback to a crazed gunman: "You're the disease, and I'm the cure."
The film was a financial success but panned by critics who said it relied too heavily on genre tropes, but would they have liked it more if it was passed by the censors uncut? Unlikely as they also blasted the film’s levels of gratuitous violence.
A whopping 52 deaths occur during the film, 41 of whom are killed by Cobra.
This is what they *could* have seen… a woman having her hands severed; an extended autopsy scene, including lingering shots of naked and mutilated bodies; a longer death scene for one doomed character, including a shot of him slipping on his own blood while trying to escape; more random deaths; and an innocent bystander getting hit in the face with an axe.
The film not only underwent extreme edits to drop it from an X to R rating, but also to take on its main box office threat, Top Gun. A shorter running length meant that cinemas could have more daily showings, giving it a better chance against Tom Cruise’s camp as Christmas Air Force adventure.
Sly decreed that basically all scenes but his were removed, meaning huge chunks of plot are missing and there are enormous continuity errors. He also called for the many slow motion scenes to be sped up to claw back precious seconds.
There is a legend of a bootlegged version of a longer version of the film doing the rounds.m Viewers claim it contains an extra 40 minutes of bloody footage that was originally deemed too much for general viewing.
But the drama around Cobra didn’t just start and end in the editing suite, either. Apparently the making of the film was a complete shit show.
Stallone ordered no lesser actors or crew to speak to him on set. He had a go at the cinematographer for not getting the film done quick enough - he bravely hit back that actually Stallone was causing the most delays.
He told him that if he took his “hands off Brigitte Nielsen's ass and stops showing off to his bodyguards, maybe they wouldn't have problems with time."
There were also reports that for some scenes, Stallone was too busy watching sports on TV to be on set, so children were used as stand-ins for him in non-important scenes... and he STILL wants you to believe he's 5"9 eh? Must have been some freakishly tall kids...
All in all, Cobra is a cult classic for a reason, and if you’ve not seen it, make sure you do before the launch of the new Robert Rodriguez adaption, which will probably be even more watered down than Sly’s original vision...