Judge Reinhold is an actor, a raconteur, and the subject of 2008 Empire feature Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged By Judge Reinhold, in which he turned the tables on his films' reviewers by critiquing their syntax and grammar. He's also, of course, the star of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, playing Axel Foley's loveable sidekick Billy Rosewood across three movies. When the news broke recently that CBS have greenlit a big-budget Beverly Hills Cop TV pilot, with Eddie Murphy and Reinhold returning, we rang up Judge to get his ruling...
Judge Reinhold (left) with John Ashton and Eddie Murphy on the set of Beverly Hills Cop II in 1987
You must be pretty stoked by the news... It was really, really fun last week. It felt like the whole world was excited when the news broke! The shoot starts on March 16 and goes on into April. I didn't find out until recently that Barry Sonnenfeld, who's a freaking legend, is directing. I can't wait. I really care about Billy Rosewood. He's my George Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life. Not to put Jimmy Stewart and me in the same league, but Billy's my man.
When did you find out the TV show was happening? A few months back. Eddie met with Shawn Ryan, who is the creator of The Shield. He's got a good track record and is a big fan of Beverly Hills Cop. When I met him, he said to me, "I just want to make the best pilot the world has ever seen, and we'll go from there." He's structured the show enough like the first movie that I think fans will get into it. It's genuinely funny, but it has a dark edge to it. The sinister element - the jeopardy - is essential. This is a return, not to an amusement park, but to something that is truly dangerous. The antagonist is really scary.
And this time it's Axel Foley's son, Aaron, who's centre-stage? Aaron is a liason between the Beverly Hills Cop police department and Detroit. He's basically taken over his dad's job. He's being played by an actor called Brandon T. Jackson, who's probably best known for being in Tropic Thunder. Aaron does a lot of talking himself into and out of situations, and Brandon is very funny. Eddie picked him personally. Incidentally, he's actually from Detroit.
Which other new characters will we meet? Christine Lahti is playing the chief of police. There's a department lawyer played by the hilarious Kevin Pollak - he's always representing the department in whatever damage Aaron creates. And then they have this couple of cops who I guess are the Billy and Taggart of the show. They join forces with Aaron. A really remarkable actress called Sheila Vand - she played the housekeeper in Argo who spoke only Farsi - and a guy called David Denman, from The Office.
Are you and Eddie making cameos, or will you be series regulars? I really don't know what the future holds for Billy. But what he does in the pilot is a fun twist. We want to keep that under wraps.
Have you kept in touch with Eddie since the third film?
"I really don't know what the future holds for Billy. But what he does in the pilot is a fun twist."
I hadn't seen him for a number of years, but he finally invited me to his house. It's a really cool, laidback place that he designed himself; it looks like a '30s Hollywood villa. We had a glass of wine and talked about our families. I've just had a baby, she's eight weeks old, so my wife was very pregnant at the time. Eddie was so concerned about her - it was really sweet. He has a bowling alley in his basement and Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson were down there having a game while I was there! It's funny, because I remember Chris Rock hanging around by the make-up trailer on the third movie, when he was a shy beanpole of a kid. I remember him saying that Beverly Hills Cop is a seminal movie for the black audience. I believe it because I get treated like Jackie Robinson's best friend. I've been in some nightclubs in Chicago that no white person's ever been in! I enjoy an honorary brotherhood.
What happened to the Beverly Hills Cop 4 movie, which Brett Ratner was supposed to direct? Eddie wasn't satisfied with what was happening. That's all I can say. But we've had a lot of scenarios over the years. Robert Towne pitched what I thought was cool: the Japanese literally take over Sony! But that didn't go. And then we had something in London. I don't know who was responsible for that, but I just saw Taggart and me in bobby hats. I don't mean to diss the force there, but that would have been funny. So there were scenarios that I thought were delightful, but for one reason or another they didn't get there. When you're dealing with big committees, it's easy for these things to fall through the cracks and splatter on the wall.
Which of the movies are you proudest of? Well, the first one transformed my life. Do you know how the director, Marty Brest, ended up doing it? He was this bratty kid from NYU film school who had done Going In Style, a wonderful character movie with Art Carney, George Burns and Lee Strasberg. It's about three retirees who are bored and decide to knock off a bank. Don Simpson knew that Marty was right for Beverly Hills Cop, because he wanted to balance this action movie with people. So he dogged Marty. He chased him down. He stalked him. Sometimes Marty would be in a restaurant and Don would just turn up there. Finally, he was so persistent - and of course it was flattering to have the guy who made Top Gun begging you to do a movie - that Marty said, "Okay, I have a quarter in my hand. I'm going to flip it. If I call it, you never talk to me again. If it's yours, I'll do the movie." Marty calls heads and it's tails, and that's how I got a career. A coin-toss. Honest to God, that's how it went down!
One last Beverly Hills Cop question: will the pilot feature a banana interfacing with a tailpipe? No banana. (Laughs) Shawn doesn't want to do a homage, any more than bringing me on to hang with Eddie some. He wants it to stand alone. Not a return, but a continuance.
And finally, we've long wanted to ask you about your demented dance scene with Nicolas Cage in the film Zandalee. What the heck is going on?
Nic was a terrible dance partner. (Laughs) He just didn't have the rhythm. So we had to have him keep his feet away from me - he kept stepping on my toes! Zandalee had a very adventurous writer, Mari Kornhauser. And the out-there scenes are what made me and Nic want to do it. We wanted to make a European film in America, about a woman who has to decide whether to embark on an erotic ride. It kind of turned into a tug of war between two guys, which wasn't really our intention. But it sure was fun to do.