Three years after director Walter Hill made the cult classic “The Warriors” he popularized the buddy-cop movie with the hugely successful “48 Hrs” (1982), which is responsible for exploding the genre to this day.
The movie stars Nick Nolte as a hard-nosed cop who has to team with a convict, played by Eddie Murphy, to solve a case. The movie is fueled by the love-hate relationship between Nolte and Murphy’s characters.
Thinking back on the movie, Hill says the thing that stands out most was watching the evolution of Murphy from popular “Saturday Night Live” cast member to movie star, more or less overnight.
“I thought he was sensational and I thought it might work,” Hill recently told Business Insider, while promoting his new movie “The Assignment” (in theaters).
Hill had watched footage of Murphy on “SNL” while thinking over casting for “48 Hrs.”
“I sent it up to the powers that be at the studio saying I would go with Eddie if they would go,” he said.
At first, Hill admits, he had a different actor in mind.
A few years before Paramount pulled the trigger on the movie, Hill wrote a draft of the script and suggested that the studio should hire Richard Pryor to play the wise-cracking convict. Hill said that by the time he was hired to direct the movie, Pryor had become too big of a star for the role.
By the end of shooting “48 Hrs.,” Hill said he knew that Murphy would be as big of a star as Pryor. But leading up to production, he only saw Murphy as a gifted comic who had never acted in a movie before, and that led to him giving his more polished actor Nolte a harsh direction.
“I came back from New York, I had met Eddie, he couldn’t come to LA because he was so busy on the show, and I said to Nick, ‘Look, he’s a great talent but he’s not a trained actor so Nick buddy this is the way it’s going to be, it’s going to be like working with a little kid or a dog — the one take that’s good we’re going to have to print it. So that means you have to be good every take,'” Hill told us with a laugh.
“Oh, that’s not fair, Walt, goddammit,” Nolte responded, according to Hill.
“And I said, ‘I know you shouldn’t have to but that’s the way it’s going to be,'” Hill said.
“He and Eddie got along great,” the director added. “They loved each other. In fact, they would attack me on set every day complaining about the script, but it was fun.”
It turned out to work well for everyone. The movie was one of the biggest box-office earners of 1982, it made A-list names out of both Murphy and Nolte, and it spawned a sequel in 1990.