Judge Reinhold, one the 1980s snarkiest funnymen, entered the Hyatt Centennial I Ballroom Friday afternoon to the sound of the audience singing the Beverly Hills Cop theme—that melodic, synth-y masterpiece for which he is forever associated. But Reinhold didn’t mind; great music enhances movies, and when he first heard Glenn Fry’s “The Heat is On,” he knew it was also a boon for Cop, just like the beloved theme.
These days, Reinhold—a lively storyteller who seems more content to praise his past co-stars and colleagues than himself—has distanced himself from Hollywood and its rat races, but he’s more than willing to revisit his youthful glory in such films as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ruthless People, Gremlins, and, of course, Beverly Hills Cop. He’s also game to reminisce about some lesser known gems—like Pandemonium and appearances on Magnum P.I.—and recent turns on Seinfeld and Arrested Development.
“No question,” he told the audience, “is too stupid.”
Reinhold addressed the demise of the much hyped Cop reboot as a TV show, saying that the “confluence of talent”—from the politically correct writing to the casting choices—just didn’t coalesce enough to get the show off the ground. But, he did share some funny plot points, like that his character, Detective Billy Rosewood, had become the mayor of Beverly Hills.
Originally, Cop was written as a drama starring Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley, the part eventually made famous by Eddie Murphy. And, Billy was supposed to be brutally murdered. Luckily for Reinhold, Stallone moved onto another film and Billy lived.
Reinhold wasn’t emotionally attached to Gremlins as he was only contracted for four working days after the film was already in production. Reinhold liked the original, darker script better, which featured more gruesome scenes akin to the one where Gremlins are pulverized by home appliances, and disclosed that a cut scene revealed his character—Gerald—to have gone stark-raving mad.
On Pandemonium—a horror spoof directed by a horror aficionado who didn’t understand funny—Reinhold dyed his hair platinum blonde. And though the film ultimately just didn’t work, he felt it was well-written and had some great moments. Likewise, the film Vice Versa with Fred Savage suffered from being released so close to a film with a similar body-switching premise. But, Reinhold always found the gold even in failure; for Vice Versa it was travelling to Thailand and cracking up on set with co-star Swoosie Kurtz.
Stripes, a Bill Murray vehicle, made Reinhold truly nervous as he was acting with comedy legends: Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy, whom Reinhold called “one of the greatest people” in and outside of the business. But, Stripes initially was cast very differently. “It was Cheech and Chong go to the army,” Reinhold said about the film’s origin before they brought in Murray, who then insisted Ramis—who gave the worst screen test in history—be cast.
“It was pretty mind-blowing,” he said of the overall experience.
When an audience member asked him if he touched Tom Selleck’s treasured mustache during a guest appearance as a “chicken-eating seaman” on Magnum P.I. in 1980, Reinhold was shocked. “Ohmigod! How far back are you guys going to go?” he asked to laughs.
He enjoyed working with Tim Allen on The Santa Clause film series, which was Allen’s vanity project. “[Allen] is compulsively funny to the point that you barely get a word in edgewise,” Reinhold told the audience. “I’ve known him since 1994, and he’s yet to ask me a question.”
More recently, Reinhold was featured on Arrested Development as himself. “It was one of the most creative sets I’ve ever been on,” Reinhold said. But, it was his appearance as a character with no sense of personal space on a two-part Seinfeld episode that brought him accolades—an Emmy nomination.
“Which was weird,” Reinhold said of the nod, “because it was the easiest thing I’ve done.” When he was told that Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t stand being close to others, Reinhold only got closer, until their noses were touching, which cracked up the rest of the cast. He also had a funny exchange with Larry David, who told Reinhold, “There’s no hugging… you look like hugger.” Reinhold responded with a hug.
But, it was Reinhold’s description of the filming of his infamous “self-love” scene from the coming-of-age staple Fast Times at Ridgemont High that brought the audience the most enjoyment. “I read the script and thought it was funny,” he said, but when it came time to do that scene it was challenging trying to keep it from being quite so perverse. At one point, he thought “My God what have I done?”
“It was the dumbest and hardest thing,” he said.
When Director Amy Heckerling told him to get on his knees for the moment, he responded, “Look, I’m a guy, and we don’t usually get on our knees.” But he did and it worked. Still it was awkward—the cameraman, director, everyone was in the bath tub just watching as he went there. When it was over, he fled, only to be dragged back for a reshoot because of a problem with the camera.
And, Reinhold assured the audience that he was there mentally. That’s commitment to the craft of acting, and it is something that has set Reinhold apart, making his beloved roles reverberate even today.