As many people would likely admit, one of the greatest comedy films productions of the 1980s is undoubtedly Police Academy. This seven-series comedy film, which started in 1984, remains one of the few movies that caught significant viewers’ attention, and many of us loved watching them growing up.
Who would have thought that the movie idea of a group of misfit police officers would become a masterpiece? Well, it did, and this series theatrically showed us how some underdog police officers who got banded together went ahead and achieved many great things.
How It all Started
This staple of great family sitcom started with movies such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and Wildcats before the Police Academy in 1984. The movie tells the story of a group of new cadets who joined an unnamed local police academy after the mayor opens up admission to anyone.
This exemplary movie, which made up to $81 million, is indeed one of the most successful films of 1984 as it became one of the ubiquitous franchises in the 1980s. The success recorded was probably because of the humorous nature of the recruitment policy depicted in the movie and individual actors who offered a unique insight to the Police department.
Movie Received with Diverse Emotions
Though many people have their concerns and reservations about the movie, which is quite normal, this seven sequel movie takes an innocent poke at the US police Academy. It was received with varied emotions, but it remains one of the best and well-received comedies of its time.
The strengths of this movie remain its charming cast of characters, the humor they present, and that the movie takes itself as not overly serious. The movie indeed is nostalgic as it was essentially a movie every youth in the 80s had to watch, and we constantly talked about.
What Does the Cast of the Movie Look Like Today?
The movie industry has continued to thrill us with loads of TV productions constantly getting rolled out, but this decades-long movie series still has its devoted fans all around. There have even been growing conversations that the producers are planning on releasing an eighth-film which is reportedly already in development.
Plenty of movie stars have gotten noticed over the years to appear in countless other films and television series, which makes one wonder what we should expect from the eight sequels. While we want to celebrate the producers for attempting to bring back this classic movie to our TV screens, here’s a look at what some Police Academy franchise cast is up to today.
Steve Guttenberg – Cadet Carey Mahoney
Before the role of Cadet Carey Mahoney in Police Academy, Steve Guttenberg was already on his way to fame in his screen acting career because of TV series like Billy and films like Diner. However, Steve’s lovable performance in Police Academy helped him launch his acting career even further.
Throughout the rest of the decade, Steve Guttenberg starred in three Police Academy series alongside movies like “Cocoon,” “Short Circuit,” and “3 Men and a Baby”. While we have also noticed him be regularly working on other comedy and family films like Home for the Holidays, in 2002, he moved behind the camera and made his directorial debut.
Kim Cattrall- Cadet Karen Thompson
Kim Cattrall is also another cast that was already on the road to fame before the Police Academy movie appeared in theatres. This actress has already co-starred in one classic of the 1980s through her infamous role in the 1981 comedy “Porky.” Getting the role of Cadet Karen Thompson, a full-fledged character, led her to get more high-profile films throughout the rest of the decade.
Kim Cattrall, who didn’t return for any of the Police Academy sequels, followed up her casting in Police Academy with other movies such as Big Trouble in Little China, Mannequin, and much later in 1998, she received the cast as Samantha Jones in the HBO comedy Sex and the City. After the movie Sex and the City ended, she was featured in other regular movies and TV shows.
G.W. Bailey – Lt. Thaddeus Harris
Although G.W. Bailey was already an established character actor before the Police Academy sequels, the role of Lt. Thaddeus Harris further cemented his reputation as an actor who could play diverse roles, including comedy. He plays Lt. Harris in all the Police Academy sequels and continues to work regularly ever since.
G.W. Bailey, who was casted as the brutal Lt. Thaddeus Harris, has also starred in many shows and has numerous screen credits for films like Mannequin, Short Circuit, and the voice role in the animated movie “Home on the Range.” He also has a role in the movie, “In The Closer,” where he played LAPD Detective Lieutenant Louie before crossing receiving roles in major drama series.
Michael Winslow – Cadet Larvell Jones
Michael Winslow is one of the few casts in Police Academy that gave us a pleasant laugh. Winslow’s amazing talent for generating seemingly any sound effect with only his mouth made him one of the standout stars of the decade, but this star started appearing in films in 1980.
Michael Winslow became busy after the Police Academy franchise with roles in Space Balls, Harry, The Love Boat, the Hendersons, and much more. Winslow is also a talented stand-up comedy performer and a gifted voice-over actor who had loaned his voice to a series of other projects.
George Gaynes – Commandant Eric Lassard
By the time George Gaynes’ played the role of Commandant Lassard in Police Academy, he already has screen acting credits that stretched back nearly 30 years. His screen acting career, which includes a role in films like “Washington: Behind Closed Doors” and “Tootsie and Rich Man” also saw him acting as the benevolent yet clueless commander of the police academy.
His role in Police Academy brought Gaynes to a new level of visibility and was his first step towards a new level of stardom. His newfound fame saw Gaynes acting in many other sitcoms, such as Punky Brewster, who played Henry Warnimont for 86 episodes. He died on February 15, 2016, at 98.
David Graf – Cadet Eugene Tackleberry
David Graf had spent several of his career years working mainly as a guest actor on episodes of various TV series. His career-defining role was acting as Cadet Eugene Tackleberry in Police Academy. The Tackleberry character is that of an athirst security guard who couldn’t wait to join the police force and always seemed to be ready and armed to shoot something,
Graf, who played this role in all sequels of the Police Academy, also went to star in some other notable franchises. Graf continued regularly working in different films and television throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He also appeared frequently in TV series such as Beauty and the Beast, Elvis, Seinfeld, etc. He suddenly died on April 7, 2001, at 50, after suffering a heart attack.
Leslie Easterbrook – Sgt. Debbie Callahan
Leslie Easterbrook was best known for playing Rhonda Lee in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley before she got the role of Sgt. Debbie Callahan in Police Academy. Easterbrook, who acted the tough-as-nails woman in a man’s job, didn’t return for Police Academy 2 but reprised her role for the remaining sequels and the TV series.
Even after the Police Academy, Easterbrook got noticed and appeared continually on dozens of television appearances between the 1980s and 1990s. Staring in Hanging with Mr. Cooper, Murder She Wrote, Hunter, and so on. Easterbrook solidified her presence as a multi-talented actress. She also acted in Zombies, The Devil’s Rejects in 2005. She has become known as a scream queen, appearing in horror films.
Donovan Scott – Cadet Leslie Barbara
Like Cattrall, Donovan Scott is one of the original cast members of Police Academy who did not return for other installments in the franchise. His screen acting career, which began with several more minor roles in films, TV series, and TV movies, also saw him acting as Leslie Barbara — the man with two girl’s names — in Police Academy.
Since appearing as Cadet Leslie Barbara in Police Academy, Scott had worked regularly on film and television. With roles in movies like Blast from the Past, Psycho III, Back to the Future Part III, and so on, Scott amassed fame for himself. He also starred as Santa in various films and television series.
Scott Thomson – Cadet Chad Copeland
The Police Academy is a movie notable for having an ensemble of likable characters and has unlikable villainous characters, such as that of Lt. Harris and his two cadet goons, one of whom was the character played by Scott Thompson. Scott Thompson, who had appeared in another ’80s classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High before Police Academy, didn’t appear on many franchise installments as some of his co-stars.
Since the franchise, Thomson continued working in film and television and had gotten various roles in movies such as Hunter, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Parker Lewis can’t Lose, and True Blood. He also acted alongside Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in Twister, one of the most popular films of the 1990s.
Marion Ramsey—Cadet Laverne Hooks
Marion Ramsey, who was best known for her squeaky-voiced performance as Cadet Laverne Hooks in Police Academy, was one of the few regular acts. The Philadelphia-born actress started her career on the stage, appearing in both the original and subsequent touring productions of “Hello, Dolly” in 1974.
Ramsey appeared in several low-budget films such as Return to Babylon and Recipe for Disaster. Still, he has also had guest appearances on Adult Swim shows such as, Robot Chicken, and Tim and Eric Awesome show, “Great Job.” She died on January 7, 2021, at 73, after a brief illness.
Bubba Smith – Cadet Moses Hightower
Bubba Smith, who played the role of Cadet Moses Hightower in Police Academy Sequels, started his career as a professional American football player and became an actor only after he retired from sports. Smith featured in all the films of the franchise except the Police Academy: Mission to Moscow.
He joined the Police Academy sequels after a career in flower arranging. During his acting career, Smith featured in comedic roles in film, television, and television advertising. His role in Police Academy as Cadet Moses Hightower was more of a fearsome combatant character in line with Smith’s image as a football. He, unfortunately, passed on in 2011 at 66.
Unknown Facts about the Police Academy Franchise
The police academy movie was a roaring success for Warner Bros, but the series was much more than many people. It was a movie with unforgettable characters to remember, such as Tackleberry’s “gun-ho” attitude, Hooks’s high-pitched voice, Hightower’s incredible strength, and Winslow’s jaw-dropping sound effects.
While the movie indeed remains a significant trigger of nostalgia, there are loads of fun facts that this movie offers, even for its present-day contemporary fans. Of course, a movie about picking a bunch of plucky civilians for police duty would have fun-filled moments from behind the scenes.
Where did the Inspiration for the Movie Come From?
The original inspiration for the Police Academy Movie reportedly comes from Hollywood producer Paul Maslansky while working on the film “The Right Stuff.” On the movie set, a police bus filled with cadets drove up to help with crowd control. Maslansky noticed that these diverse groups of cadets that came off the bus were terrible at their jobs.
Maslansky, who asked the sergeant in charge if these individuals would be the future of San Francisco’s finest, was told that they accepted all those who applied but could get flunked out, eventually. This experience brought up the initial idea for the movie, and the next day he already had a two-page treatment written and presented to Alan Ladd Jr., who loved the idea.
Auditioned in an Actual Police Shirt
Of all the characters in the movie, the role of Officer Carey Mahoney, acted by Steve Guttenberg, was one of the most lovable. Steve Guttenberg, who must have wanted the role, showed up for the audition wearing an old police shirt to read his line. The shirt belonged to Guttenberg’s father, and he must have loved to walk in his shoes.
They reported Guttenberg to auditioned for the role alongside several enduring male movie stars, some of whom are still popular today. Still, they all lost out on the starring role in police Academy to Steve Guttenberg. This includes names like Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton, but luckily for Guttenberg, he was selected instead.
The Studio Wanted a Tested Formula-Driven Screenplay
After coming up with the real inspiration for the movie, producer Paul Maslansky sold the concept to producers at The Ladd Company. Journeyman TV writers Pat Proft and Neal Israel, who got tasked with making the story into a screenplay, attempted to make the movie into a tried-and-true comedy formula that they were certain would work out.
Neal Israel, who told the Los Angeles Times the movie will probably contain block comedy scenes, asserted because of the popularity of slob movies in the mid-1980s. The Ladd Company expressed their worries after seeing the last cut of the film, as it didn’t contain enough sexual scenes or fart jokes. The movie, when released, was a hit and grossed around $150 million worldwide.
Why are there so Many Police Academy Sequels?
Although no other police Academy sequels were as successful as the first, the producers kept rolling out new sequels regularly, which played to nearly empty theaters. Why did Hollywood keep making the Police Academy sequels when it would only give critics many reasons to loathe them further.
Well, the producers have their reasons for that. Financial math was more about relative success and profit margins in the film industry, not about big bucks. The first police academy movie released in 1984 earned about $81 million, even with an approximately $4.5 million production budget. That’s a massive profit for the producers and enough reason to continue producing them, as far as they are concerned.
The Police Academy was Beyond the Movies
Although police academy’s popularity didn’t last that long, this comedy movie about bumbling police officers generated an awful lot of pop culture during its heyday. The first six sequels of the Police Academy movies hit the theaters at an average rate of one per year between 1984 and 1989, but the franchise maintained a reputation as a frequently rerun cable staple.
Warner Bros made the wacky character and zany humor movie very attractive to kids by creating an R-rated series between 1988-1989. The film’s main characters were Mahoney, Sweetchuck, and Tackleberry, but we saw these movie stars replaced by voice actors.
Police Academy 4 Featured a Couple of Big Stars
The producers of the movie sequels did something of a soft reboot to the series and introduced new characters to the Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. These big movie stars got introduced as inept civilian volunteers needing some form of training from the formerly incompetent recruits.
Not only were big stars introduced, but the movie also included some actors who were new to entertainment. Citizens on Patrol marked the debut entrance into the entertainment industry for a star like David Spade. According to the movie, he had to join the pilot civilian police program to avoid prison time.
Significant Comedy Greats Turned Down Chances
The Police Academy franchise constantly released a new sequel from 1984 to 1989 but had to take a five-year break before coming back with its seventh and final film, “Police Academy Mission to Moscow.” This unexpected break could largely have been due to how the sixth police Academy movie flopped and earned just about $11.5 million at the box office.
This sixth movie, which led to some form of retreat, could have been the film that would have helped reinvent the franchise, but as it turns out, significant comedy greats such as Ben Elton had rejected the offer. Elton, who had acknowledged that there are many things he could have done for money, didn’t bother trying his hands at the Police Academy Franchise.
The Movie Nearly Caused an International Incident
One of the first American movies to film in Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the Police Academy: Mission to Soviet. According to the Los Angeles Times reports, the casts and crew for the final police Academy series filmed for three weeks with no trouble in Moscow in late 1993 until the military stormed the Russian White House and TV center.
The movie had to get temporarily shut down during the unrest, and all the 52 casts and crew had to remain in the government-owned Financial Academy. There was also an incident where the Russian army rolled up on the film crew. Michael Winslow’s wireless microphone picked up otherwise secret military communications leading to a brief, tense standoff between the army and the moviemakers.
A U.S President was a Notable Fan of the Franchise.
The Police Academy franchise amassed plenty of fans during its peak years, including notable ones such as President Bill Clinton. The former US president indirectly made his love for the franchise known during the 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. He provided a glimpse into their home and claimed to have taken a couple of days to watch all six Police Academy movies back to back with their daughter.
Chelsea Clinton, who collaborated with her father’s story, also acknowledged how her father had been a great franchise fan. This revelation wasn’t strange to the Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg, as he claimed to have met the president years earlier, who told him he used the movie to get over challenging times.
Police Academy Remains a Big Theme Park Attraction
Although Warner Bros. gave the Police Academy franchise a rest after releasing the Police Academy 6: City Under Siege in 1989, in 1991, it opened up one of the first of its Movie World theme parks, serving as a direct competitor to many other film-themed vacation destinations such as universal studios.
This film-themed destination did remarkably well, although Police Academy movies were no longer particularly popular. Warner Bros opened its Police Academy Stunt Show in Australia, and visitors packed until they retired from the show in 2008. Today, a similar performance remains open in a Movie World in Madrid, Spain.
Michael Winslow Appeared in Every Film
Michael Winslow, who was known for doing amazing things with his voice, ran with every movie made from the franchise and also appeared in the series that ran from 1997 to 1998. This great actor acted all in the role of Sgt. Larvell Jones gave the audience a pleasant laugh, but they probably also loved the character’s consistency.
One of the few things that made this feat amazing was the fact that Sgt. Larvell Jones wasn’t even in the first iterations of the Police Academy script. They included the character especially for Michael Winslow to be in the film. His ability to imitate so many people and things, and innumerable beatboxing skills, made it impossible for there to be a Police Academy movie without him in it.
Hightower Offered Not to be in the Movie Because of Hooks.
To some of the movie cast, the Police Academy franchise was more than just a movie but a newfound family worthy of celebrating. Bubba Smith and Marion Ramsey displayed this when it was apparent that Officer Hooks (Marion Ramsey) won’t be making the trip to Russia for the Police Academy: Mission to Moscow.
While it wasn’t clear what went wrong and warranted her exclusion from the trip, Officer Hightower, would not take her removal from the franchise, also elected not to be in this movie either. Smith didn’t feel the need to be in the movie if his friend and colleague got excluded.
Leslie Easterbrook had Previous Firearms Handling Experience
Sergeant Callahan, played by Leslie Easterbrook, was the brilliant officer deft at handling firearms, but that wasn’t a result of great acting. It was because Easterbrook is a proud member of the NRA. This actress has a strong prowess in weapons handling that she even put together a video called “Real Beginner’s Guide to the Shotgun Sports.”
Leslie Easterbrook, who served on the California Rifle and Pistol Association Board, can be found on IMDB and has a record that one can find in the Internet Movie Firearms Database. Her role in the movie was not only that of acting but also a mix of comedy and reality.
The Succeeding Sequels Built on the Success of the Previous
The Police Academy movie, which found its way into theaters in 1984, witnessed a continued succeeding sequel till the 7th movie was released in 1994. One would have thought that the producers would have paused this franchise sooner than it did, but the sustained productions were due to how profitable previous sequels had been.
If these movies hadn’t proven sufficiently profitable, there would have been a continued production between 1894 and 1898. They made the first Police Academy for only $4.5 million and made about $81 million, a massive profit. Production cost for other sequels slightly went up, probably because of contracts and a desire to keep the cast in place, but the franchise made reasonable profits.
Which Police Academy Movie Ranks the Best?
Undoubtedly, all the seven Police Academy movies are classics and memorable in their stances; however, viewers’ acceptance of this movie differs. One of them has to be the best of the Police Academy movies. This franchise, which spans about a decade and more starting from 1984, saw many people glued their screens for a significant number of years.
Deciding on which movie is the best is dicey. That is major because viewers’ decisions and choices remain vital in ascertaining which movie sequels are more appealing. Looking at regular reviews and grossing revenues, it is arguable that Police Academy 1984 remains the most popular of the sequels.
Let’s take another look at these franchise sequels and TV series
Police Academy 1984
Of all the original films under the Police Academy franchise, the initial movie made in 1984 remains the highest-grossing. This movie, made with less than $5 million, witnessed significant profits that gross to over $155 million worldwide. This surprising hit of 1984 was the 6th highest domestic box office that year.
This Police Academy movie, which only featured stars like Kim Cattrall just once, has its successes spurred to the entire sequels. The franchise, which was instrumental in the launch of the careers of several of its stars, also saw the introduction of an animated series, a live TV show, and different movies which aired at various times.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Almost immediately, the initial Warner Bros Police Academy film started airing in theaters. The studio was already thinking about producing the succeeding sequel. This Police Academy 2 centered on the cadets who have now graduated from the Academy and get given their first assignment.
The movie maintained a large percentage of its initial set of characters who are now sent to the worst precinct in the city and tasked with taking down “The Scullions,” a notorious local gang that is terrorizing the community. Although this movie got panned by critics, the movie still earned over $55 million, proving that the franchise remains popular with moviegoers.
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
This next sequel from the Police Academy franchise opens with the titular training facility under threats of being shut down due to government cutbacks. As the Academy gets pitted against another local police school, we noticed that the only one could earn the right to remain open. Of course, the judgment of which would remain open comes down to how well both institutions handle their new set of recruits.
As expected, the Academy had to deal with a new set of motley individuals, including characters like Zed, who turned a new leaf from his previous gang days. Winslow, Smith, and Guttenberg were noticed to reprise their roles as Jones, Hightower, and Mahoney, respectively, and got tasked with training the new cadets.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
In Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, released in 1987, the police force becomes overtasked, and the department created the Citizens on Patrol program (COP). Here we witnessed a ragtag of characters who all enlist to join the program, and the Police Academy faces were on hand to guide the citizens through their training.
The movie marks one of the earliest movie roles for actresses like Sharon Stone, who plays the role of a news reporter Mahoney was continually trying to impress. The movie Mark’s the last appearance for actors like Mahoney from the franchise. On its opening weekend, the movie was number 1 at the box office and grossed over $28 million domestically.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
In this sequel, we noticed some Police Academy stars taking a trip to Miami based on the request of Commandant Lassard, who was honored “Police Officer of the Decade.” Although Mahoney is no longer present in the franchise, we notice Hooks, Tackleberry, Hightower, and Jones, amongst others, taking the journey.
The team initially intended to relax and celebrate their mentor’s achievements, but things go awry, and they accidentally get mixed up with a team of jewelry thieves. Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach was number one in its opening weekend, but the movie largely lagged its predecessor, making just over $19 million domestically.
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
In Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, our favorite crew of misfit police officers get noticed to be put in charge of the case when the city becomes swamped with crimes. These crimes coincidentally take place in the parts of town where the new train line is being constructed.
Nick Lassard, who was joining the police department for the second film in a row, was the one who deduced that the criminals were trying to devalue property in the city, hoping to strike it rich in real estate once the train becomes effective. It was the last movie to feature some long-tenured franchise characters, such as Hightower and Hooks.
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Five years after the Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, the studio introduces its 7th sequel but takes it to Russia’s unfamiliar environment. The movie plot centered on a Russian mafia boss who used a video game to break into security systems and steal millions of dollars.
Commandant Lassard and his team of police officers got summoned from America to help deal with the crisis. Although characters like Mahoney, Hooks, and Hightower were no longer present in the movie, Michael Winslow as Jones and David Graf as Tackleberry remained. A succeeding series to this was rumored, but many believe this is the final nail in the Police Academy coffin.
Police Academy Cartoon
Warner Bros created Police Academy: The Animated Series to build upon the Police Academy name and diversity to various audiences. This program, directed for much younger audiences than the films, still maintained many of the same notable characters.
Harris, Mahoney, Jones, Hightower, Tackleberry, and Hooks were all still part of the animated show, though none of the roles were voiced by the key actors who appeared in the movies. The cartoon had some significant introductions, such as K-9 cops and their dogs. It never really gained its much-needed audience and got canceled after two seasons.
Police Academy: The Series
The Police Academy series was yet another Warner Bros attempt at revamping the franchise. Paul Maslansky, who was credited with the original idea of the Police Academy movies, also created the series. The introduced a brand new cast of characters with Michael Winslow, the only star from the original film.
The sitcom featured several of the film’s cast as occasional guest appearances, aired from September 27, 1997, until May 23, 1998, before being canceled. The one-season series had 26 episodes, but it was a prominent sign that the Police Academy franchise had lost its popularity and needed to bow.