‘I Wasn’t Ready’ (Exclusive): Beverly Hills Cop’s Bronson Pinchot Says Film Brought Overnight Fame and Death Threats

The actor makes a hilarious return to the Eddie Murphy franchise in the Netflix movie 'Beverly Hills Cop Axel F' It’s not an exaggeration to say Bronson Pinchot’s life changed overnight

Published Time: 02.07.2024 - 16:31:14 Modified Time: 02.07.2024 - 16:31:14

The actor makes a hilarious return to the Eddie Murphy franchise in the Netflix movie 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F'

It’s not an exaggeration to say Bronson Pinchot’s life changed overnight.

He was an unknown 25-year-old actor struggling to make ends meet when Beverly Hills Cop premiered in 1984. He had just about two minutes of screen time in the Eddie Murphy action-comedy — as the heavily accented gallery worker Serge — but he made an impression on moviegoers and A-listers alike.

“Five seconds after the movie came out,” he says, “I met Carrie Fisher, and she took me to a party at Rod Stewart’s house. I’m chatting with Elton John like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

Around the same time, he was out walking near his Los Angeles apartment when a car of teenagers accosted him in excitement. “They jumped out and started to make a fuss,” he recalls. “I went from poverty to people driving up on the sidewalk. I wasn't ready. Who's ready for that?”

Forty years into his acting career, Pinchot, now 65, has plenty of remarkable tales. There was the time he accidentally walked into Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton’s makeup trailer on the set of The First Wives Club, and they insisted he hang out. Or the time comedy legend Lucille Ball told him he has a skill set from another era.

While he looks back fondly on a lot of those moments, Pinchot — whose fame skyrocketed even further in 1986 thanks to his Emmy-nominated turn as naive “Cousin” Balki on the fish-out-of-water sitcom Perfect Strangers — has never been comfortable being the center of attention. 

When it comes to show business, he says, “I don’t want any of the ‘show.’ ”

Like it or not, Pinchot is back in the spotlight with another scene-stealing turn as Serge in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

With his stylized speech — Pinchot based Serge on a Swiss caterer he once worked for as well as an Israeli makeup artist he knew — and over-the-top mannerisms, he’s just as hilarious this time around.

“It was a decent stomach exercise from how much I was laughing,” says costar Nasim Pedrad.

Though Pinchot, a Yale School of Drama graduate, once declared he wouldn’t reprise the role, telling PEOPLE in 1985, “I don’t want that to be my image,” he’s now older, wiser, happier — and leaving the haughty comments to Serge.

“I don’t even know who that fellow really was,” says Pinchot when reminded of the ol -

d interview. “Once in a while I feel myself about to do something kind of obstreperous, and I think, ‘That’s the ghost of the child that I was.’ ” 

It took a while for Pinchot to come to a place of peace. After Beverly Hills Cop, Perfect Strangers, which aired from 1986 to 1993, brought him into millions of homes all across the world. 

Everyone seemed to fall in love with Balki, an immigrant from the fictional island Mypos living with his cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) in Chicago. But the attention grated on Pinchot (who’s of Italian and Russian descent). 

He remembers going to a Hollywood juice bar and fans craning their necks to get a glimpse. “My reaction was, ‘Really? Can’t you just be cool?’ I was all cranky,” says Pinchot, whose late mother, Rosina, raised him and his three siblings alone in Southern California when his father left early on.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The fan attention could get intense — and frightening. “Everybody's staring at you. And people sometimes will even make a death threat. They'll say, ‘Do the character for my girlfriend.’ And you say, ‘I think I'll just have my fruit salad, thank you.’ And then they say, ‘I'll have to kill you now.’ I mean, that's a real thing,” he says.

The PEOPLE Puzzler crossword is here! How quickly can you solve it? Play now!

Other encounters were more comical. Balki, Pinchot says, was a real person in others’ eyes. He remembers being in an airport and a stranger standing next to him pointing out another celebrity. “He nudged me with his elbow and said, ‘Balki, look. It’s Gregory Hines!’ ”

These days, Pinchot still is not one to court attention. He was even reluctant to attend the June 20 premiere of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F in L.A., but went after some prodding from his team.

Jokes Pinchot, “I got covertly threatening s and texts from my manager saying, ‘You will be on the red carpet.’ ”

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is on Netflix July 3.

For more on Bronson Pinchot, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE.

Related Articles

Follow Us