Gil Hill, a Detroit police officer for 30 years who went on to play Eddie Murphy’s foul-mouthed commanding officer in the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies, has died at 84.
In the early ’80’s, as director Martin Brest came to Detroit to do pre-production for what would become one of the most iconic films of the decade, Hill was assigned to show him around the city. Then head of the Detroit Police Department, Hill impressed the filmmaker so much that he made him audition.
“I thought, ‘Holy smoke, there could be something here,’” Brest told People magazine in a 1985 interview. “Not only was he able to put out a lot of hot-tempered emotion but, in a subtle way, convey an underlying love, the kind a father would have for a son. That’s difficult for a professional actor, and the fact that Gil was doing it just blew my mind.”
At the time, Hill told the magazine: “I’m still a policeman on a policeman’s $40,000-a-year salary, and I’m not going to pack my bags and chase casting calls — though, if I had a nice offer, I’d seriously consider staying in California during the filming.”
Hill did audition for a role on “Hill Street Blues,” but ultimately had to settle for the recurring role of Inspector Todd, a salty-tongued supervisor who was always less-than-thrilled with the unorthodox police work of Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley.
After his police days were over, Hill was elected Detroit City Council president in November 1997, according to the New York Times. He served three four-year terms on the council, and in 2001 lost a close race for Detroit mayor to Kwame Kilpatrick.
Perhaps the highlight of his police career came in 1980, when he was one of five so-called “supercops” chosen to investigate the disappearance and murders of 15 black children in Atlanta; in 1982, a man named Wayne Williams was convicted of the crimes.