35 Years Ago: ‘Police Academy 2′ Scores Another ‘Moronic’ Hit
Following the runaway success of the original Police Academy movie, a sequel was quickly green-lit and released on March 29, 1985.
Most of the major players were willing to return, albeit for increased pay. The most reluctance came from star Steve Guttenberg, who questioned whether the sequel could match the first film’s quality.
"I wasn't too sold on doing the sequel," said Guttenberg. "I didn't think the script was as good as the first one. But it has been improved, and after I talked with [producer] Paul [Maslansky], I decided to give it another try."
Watch the Trailer for 'Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment'
With his script concerns quelled -- and a higher paycheck secured -- Guttenberg agreed to reprise his role as Mahoney. Other characters brought back for the sequel included the imposing Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith), human sound-effect Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow), the firearms-loving Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf) and soft spoken Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey).
The film’s plot focused on a local gang known as the Scallions who keep terrorizing the local community, led by their deranged leader Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait). The newly graduated police officers are assigned to the precinct charged with handling the troublesome criminals. Naturally, the stakes are high -- if the cops can’t put an end to the Scallions, the station’s kindly captain will be fired. Making matters worse, Captain Mauser (Art Metrano) wants to see the officers fail so that he can boost his own career within the precinct. The sequel was officially titled Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment.
Watch the Scallions Trash a Supermarket in 'Police Academy 2'
Hugh Wilson, who directed the first film, did not return. Instead, Jim Signorelli, formerly a producer on Saturday Night Live, was tabbed to helm the project. His involvement didn’t last long.
“Within two weeks, they sent a director over to me,” Maslansky recalled in the documentary What an Institution! The Story of Police Academy. “He hadn’t even seen the first one. I said to myself, ‘Oh, fuck.’”
Almost immediately, the director and producer were butting heads on how the film was to take shape. Tempers soon flared. “I had a physical fight with the director,” Maslansky admitted.
Signorelli was quickly shown the door. Jerry Paris -- whose credits included TV series Happy Days, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Odd Couple -- was brought on to replace him.
“He was perfect for it," Maslansky explained. "He’s a sitcom director. Within three hours, everybody bonded.”
Watch Mahoney Prank Captain Mauser in 'Police Academy 2'
While Wilson had stuck largely to the script for the first Police Academy film, Paris' approach allowed the actors to experiment with their characters more. “When Jerry Paris came in it was strictly improv,” noted Winslow.
This style suited many of the actors, with Winslow chief amongst them. The comedian and impersonator scored one of the film's most memorable moments when he provided sound effects and fake voiceover for a Bruce Lee-inspired fight scene.
Watch the Michael Winslow Fight Scene From 'Police Academy 2'
One storyline didn’t make the final cut. Originally, Mahoney and a character named Chloe -- played by Julie Brown -- had a romantic subplot. But it was reportedly edited from the film after the respective actors couldn’t get along.
This wasn’t the only example of stress on set. Several members of the ensemble cast were miffed by lack of screen time, dialogue and unequal pay.
Still, despite these tensions, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment hit movie screens on March 29, 1985. The film was universally panned by critics, who called it "dismal," "moronic" and "witless." It didn't matter. Like its predecessor, Police Academy 2 was a smash, earning approximately $55 million at the domestic box office and ranking as the eighth highest grossing picture of 1985. Its runaway success more than proved the franchise had legs, ensuring more sequels would soon follow in its footsteps.