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Chris Rock Reflects on Original ‘Tower Heist’ Pitch: Robbing a Hans Gruber-Like Donald Trump

Eddie Murphy's original pitch to rob Trump Tower was very different before it became a movie with "a bunch of white people," Rock says.

SEPTEMBER 28th 2020: According to a report in The New York Times, Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income tax in both 2016 and 2017. - File Photo by: zz/KGC-375/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 6/5/19 President of The United States Donald Trump joined dignitaries and military veterans in Portsmouth, England to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion in June of 1944 during World War II. (Portsmouth, England, UK)

Donald Trump

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Before Alan Alda was cast to play the Ponzi-scheming bad guy in the 2011 caper comedy “Tower Heist,” the film was set to a have a more recognizable real-life villain. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter for a recent profile, Chris Rock recalled that Eddie Murphy’s original pitch was for a movie about a gang that robs a villainous Donald Trump.

Rock said he was in producer Brian Grazer’s office when Murphy pitched the movie — a kind of Black “Ocean’s Eleven,” starring Rock, Dave Chapelle, and Chris Tucker as a gang that robs Trump Tower. Trump would be the bad guy, “Like Alan Rickman in ‘Die Hard,'” Rock told THR.

The movie morphed during development into what we know today, “Tower Heist,” the more middle-of-the-road movie with a great cast of, as Rock puts it, “a bunch of white people.”

Directed by Brett Ratner, the film follows employees of a luxury apartment building who, after being fleeced out of their retirement funds by a scheming Alda, plot to rob him of $20 million. Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, and Michael Peña play the employees, and Murphy plays the criminal they hire to help pull off the heist.

THR reported back in 2017, about six months into Trump’s presidency, that Ratner regrets moving away from the Trump storyline. “In retrospect, it would have been a bigger hit if it had been called ‘Trump Heist,’” he said.

While Trump’s long love of appearing on film and TV is well documented (“Zoolander,” “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” “Sex and the City”), many of those roles could be described as shrewd playboy billionaire rather than the villain that Murphy envisioned. Though Trump has previously described his tax avoidance as “smart,” it’s unlikely he would have agreed to appear in a movie where he steals his employees’ retirement money.

While his name or likeness didn’t make it into the final film, Trump did participate in the production of “Tower Heist.” THR reported that the movie’s press notes boasted about how Trump International Hotel & Tower and Trump Tower were both used as filming locations.

“With the cooperation of Donald Trump, who allowed the production access to several of his high-end properties, the filmmakers were able to incorporate true luxury locales in the film. … The real-estate mogul made a point of visiting the set during a break from taping his television series, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,’ several floors up to see how Ratner and the cast were faring,” the production notes said.

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