Hill, who was an actual Detroit policeman, had been battling respiratory problems. “We are relieved that his passing was peaceful and painless,” his family said in a statement.
While scouting locations in Detroit for the film, director Martin Brest met Hill. The cop was tasked with showing the director around town. On a whim, Brest asked him to read some lines.
“Not only was [Hill] able to put out a lot of hot-tempered emotion but, in a subtle way, convey an underlying love, the kind a father would have for a son,” Brest said in a January 1985 interview with People magazine. “That’s difficult for a professional actor, and the fact that Gil was doing it just blew my mind. I thought, ‘Holy smoke, there could be something here.'”
Hill went on to play Inspector Douglas Todd, the frustrated boss to Murphy’s successful yet unusual Axel Foley.
During his career as an actual policeman, Hill headed the homicide division of the Detroit Police Department and then began dabbling in politics by becoming the president of the city council. He ran for mayor in 2001 but lost to Kwame Kilpatrick.