Eddie Murphy, John Ashton, and Judge Reinhold improvised most of their comic lines. Literally hundreds of takes were ruined by cast members, actors, or the director laughing during shooting. During the "super-cops" monologue, Ashton is pinching his face hard and looking down in apparent frustration. He is actually laughing. Reinhold put his hand in his pocket and pinched his thigh really hard, trying to prevent himself from laughing.
To cast the roles of Rosewood and Taggart, the director paired up various finalists and asked them to do some improvisation to get a feel for their chemistry. He paired up Judge Reinhold and John Ashton and gave them the following direction: "You are a middle-aged couple, married for years. You are having a conversation on an average evening." Judge Reinhold immediately picked up a nearby magazine and the two improvised the "5 pounds of red meat in his bowels" bit almost exactly as it eventually appeared in the movie.
During his tirade at the Beverly Palms Hotel, Axel pretends to be writing an article called "Michael Jackson: Sitting on Top of the World" for Rolling Stone magazine. In real life, Playboy ran an article called "Eddie Murphy: Sitting on Top of the World."
Police Chief Hubbard walks into his first scene carrying some rolled-up sheets of paper. It's actually one of many reworked scripts, which he received to memorize and rehearse only minutes before shooting started.
Originally, two men were supposed to be working in the art gallery scenes. When the director heard Bronson Pinchot's Serge impersonation, he thought it was so hysterical that he scaled back the other part to give Pinchot more screen time. The second actor shows up briefly, with his shirt collar open too wide, and Serge comments on it.
Eddie Murphy became very tired while filming the police station sequences. The crew offered him coffee, but he refused to drink it because he refuses to take drugs of any kind. Eventually, Murphy relented and took small sips of coffee to stay awake. Murphy became very energized and ad-libbed the "super-cops" monologue.
Trying to find Foley and Rosewood, the LAPD use a "satellite tracking system" At the time it was, made up to advance the plot. It was invented later, an ancestor of the modern-day Global Positioning System (GPS).
The city hall building in the film is the real-life Beverly Hills City Hall. At the time, the exterior was very run-down and the plants were dying. The film crew cleaned it up and put in new plants so it would look better on film.
After Martin Brest was fired from WarGames (1983), his second directing job, the industry thought he was damaged goods. Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer disagreed, and the two Paramount executives continually called Brest and asked him to direct this film. He kept declining, and eventually took his phone off the hook. Simpson took the hint, but Bruckheimer kept trying. Finally, Brest decided to flip a coin to make his decision.
This was the highest grossing R-rated film in the US until The Matrix Reloaded (2003) eclipsed it 19 years later. If inflation were taken into account, it would be the third most attended R-rated film after The Exorcist (1973) and The Godfather (1972).
Bronson Pinchot plays Serge, a gallery employee from an unnamed European country. He would later go on to play Balki on Perfect Strangers (1986), a similar character, and use a variation of his "Serge" character's signature line, "Don't be stupid!" Every time he was asked something he would reply "Of course I do, don't be ridiculous."
During the opening montage, a man waves his arms around for a small group. Acccording to the filmmaker commentary, the man had seen the filming of the truck chase that happens soon afterward, and was miming the bus spin.
Many of the opening shots were filmed in Detroit. Martin Brest was escorted by the police, who would refuse to follow him when they thought it was too dangerous. Brest and crew soldiered on with their work, unescorted.
Michael Eisner, who was head of Paramount Pictures, came up with the film's concept in 1975. While driving an old station wagon that he first owned in New York City, Eisner was stopped for speeding on the freeway. The police officer treated him with condescension due to the condition of his vehicle. Eisner realized how much status in Los Angeles, CA, was driven by materialism, and reportedly exchanged the station wagon for a Mercedes Benz the following day. However, he became dedicated to enshrining the event in a film about a Beverly Hills policeman. In the coming years, Eisner remained dissatisfied with potential scripts until Daniel Petrie, Jr., who had never been credited as a feature film writer, submitted his screenplay in September 1983.
Principal photography began on May 7,1984 with locations in Detroit and Los Angeles. The script was completed the same day filming began, and it was consistently revised based on Murphy's improvisations.
The second time Axel and Jenny Summers sneak into the art gallery's warehouse, and Axel breaks open the crate with the coffee grounds and drugs inside, the address of the art gallery where Jenny works is written on the lid of the crate; "9994 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA".
Second unit stunts, chase scenes, and opening credits were filmed over five days in Detroit during summer 1984. The "cigarette spill-over" crash sequence was filmed on John R and Brush Streets in Highland Park. The smashed fruit truck scene was located at Michigan Avenue and 30th Street. The two-ton truck collision was shot several blocks away, on Jackson Avenue and 30th Street. Other Detroit locations included the Warehouse District, the residential area next to Wayne State University, and the Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Wayne, MI.
Bronson Pinchot almost dropped out of the film due to the production delays and an impending trip to Florence, Italy. He grew restless and, despite being a virtual unknown, said that if they didn't start production, he would have to drop out.
The Beverly Hills Police did not provide access to their headquarters, so Martin Brest and staff built a set that would look like the exact opposite of the Detroit police department, "like private security for all rich people." The set was influenced by Brest's original conceptual designs for the NORAD scenes in WarGames (1983). Brest recycled his unused work because he felt he spent too much time on it to never use it.
A brief portion of the car chase scene was filmed at West 5th Street and Normanie Avenue, one block from 511 South Mariposa Avenue, which was the location for Janie's apartment in Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In one of the drafts written for Sylvester Stallone, Billy Rosewood was called "Siddons" and was killed off half-way through the script during one of the action scenes deemed "too expensive" for Paramount to produce. After Martin Brest cast Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, he decided to keep Rosewood alive.
The original finale for the Sylvester Stallone draft of the script took place at night and ended with a car chase between Victor in a Lamborghini and Axel in a turbo-boosting Pontiac GTO. Victor is ultimately killed when his car smashes into an oncoming train.
In the script, Axel stuffs potatoes he stole from the hotel kitchen into the tail pipe of Rosewood and Taggart's car. Due to time constraints, no kitchen scenes could be shot. A few scenes took place in the hotel lobby, so the script was re-written so Axel takes bananas from a buffet in the lobby.
The mansion used in the final shootout between Foley and Maitland (the former Harold Lloyd estate in Beverly Hills) is the same mansion seen in the final shootout between Matrix and Arius in Commando (1985).