After six weeks of negotiations, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer have turned down Paramount's offer to produce "Beverly Hills Cop III." The studio had hoped to get the project off the ground next summer with Eddie Murphy--who last week extended his long-term deal with Paramount--in the starring role.
It was unclear what impact the development will have on the future of the project. Hiring Simpson and Bruckheimer has never been a prerequisite of Murphy's participation. But through his agent, ICM Chairman Jeff Berg, the actor has repeatedly made it clear to Paramount that he was anxious to work with the team that produced the first two "Cop" films.
The original is the second-highest-grossing comedy of all time, after "Home Alone," while the sequel grossed more than $150 million in the United States and Canada alone.
"The movie won't happen unless Eddie Murphy wants it to," said one source close to the negotiations. "Eddie likes and respects Don and Jerry. They're good in script development and understand how he works, so things would probably go quicker and better with both of them aboard. Eddie may decide to bring in other producers at this point. But it's not a movie yet--just an idea. Who's going to take the creative lead in the project right now?"
"Cop III" has been a gleam in the eye of Paramount for a long time and a more distinct possibility ever since Stanley Jaffe and Brandon Tartikoff took over the positions of president of Paramount Communications and chairman of Paramount Pictures, respectively. Jaffe ingratiated himself with Murphy by permitting the actor, who was dissatisfied with the films Paramount had generated for him, to do one film outside the studio. Tartikoff, the top programming executive at NBC through last June, has shared a warm relationship with Murphy ever since the comedian's "Saturday Night Live" days.
An August meeting between Simpson, Bruckheimer, Jaffe and Tartikoff ended on an optimistic note and, shortly thereafter, Tartikoff expressed interest in moving ahead. In an announcement issued last week, the studio tentatively included "Cop III" as one of the four pictures Murphy would be doing with the studio.
After weeks of proposals and counterproposals, however, the two sides were unable to come to terms.
Paramount's final offer, delivered to the producers last Thursday, was said to be less than the one Simpson and Bruckheimer cut for their last movie, "Days of Thunder," or for their current arrangement with Disney, where they headed after leaving Paramount in the fall of 1990. Less than an hour after receiving the offer, the producing duo had their lawyer call Paramount to inform the studio that they were rejecting it.
"Don and Jerry are very rich guys," noted one Simpson and Bruckheimer intimate. "They don't need this. 'Cop III' is a closed chapter as far as they're concerned. They'll just make their movies elsewhere. Life goes on."
Though Simpson and Bruckheimer will receive a cut of "Cop III" anyway, they acknowledged that severing the emotional ties will be tough.
"Jerry and I feel as though we're sending one of our very own out into the cold, cruel world," Simpson said. "It's our fervent hope that they'll do well by it."