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Exclusive: 'Axel F' Director Reveals Key Insight on Working with Eddie Murphy

Exclusive: ‘Axel F’ Director Reveals Key Insight on Working with Eddie Murphy

This is your first feature film, but you’ve been directing commercials and things like that for well over 20 years at this point. So when you first got the call from Jerry Bruckheimer saying that he wanted to work with you, did he mention if there was one specific commercial or piece of work that he saw that put you on his radar?

He didn’t mention anything on the first call that we did. He didn’t mention anything specific. But since then, he’s told me that there was a bunch of work, a lot of the Apple work I’ve done, and I did a sort of series of short films for Apple, he’d seen those amongst other things. I don’t know what got Jerry’s [attention], but I’m just glad my work caught his eye.

I was curious if you had to get special approval from Eddie Murphy, or was Jerry’s sign-off enough to convince everybody that you were the guy for this project?

No, no, I had to get Eddie’s approval, too. Had to get Eddie’s approval, had to get Netflix’s approval, had to get everyone’s approval. So it was quite a journey. But yeah, me and Jerry went to Eddie’s house and I just kind of pitched him my take on the film and yeah, luckily, Eddie agreed and loved it, and here we are.

What was he most concerned about when it came to reprising this role all these years later?

The first thing he told me, he told me it’s the most important character he’s ever played. It meant a lot to him, and I could really feel that. The main thing he really wanted to make sure was I understood the tone of the films and the balance of action and comedy. I know was really important to him. And also, I talked to him a lot about how we get to see different side to his character, the evolution of character, and Axel as a father, and Axel being vulnerable. I said, “We’ve never seen Axel Foley vulnerable.” And that really excited me, and we talked through that. But Eddie had such a keen sense of the character in his head, too — not just who Axel Foley used to be, but that evolution of character.

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