25 Secrets About the Bad Boys Franchise Have Come For You

It's been 25 years since Martin Lawrence and Will Smith proved to be an irresistible pair in the first film in the action-packed, oft-hilarious buddy cop franchise

By Natalie Finn Apr 07, 2020 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Will Smith & Martin Lawrence Ever Retire "Bad Boys" Franchise?

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith haven't been bad boys for life just yet, but they have been on the job for a quarter of a century.

It's been 25 years since they proved to be an irresistible comedic duo in Bad Boys, the action blockbuster that made movie stars out of Smith and Lawrence, gave director Michael Bay a taste for major action sequences and launched a franchise that took its damn time to come together.

"I got Big Willie to come down and see me about the movie. I felt special," Lawrence quipped to MTV News in 2010. "Any time you can get Big Willie to come out and talk about doing a third installment of a hot movie like Bad Boys, you have to take notice."

Eight years later, Smith announced in a video on Instagram, "It's official, baby! Bad Boys 3—it's happening! It's official!" as he moved the camera to reveal Lawrence right next to him.

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So, eventually the stars collided, and now we've got a trilogy that could, one day, become a tetrology, provided it doesn't take another decade to settle on a script that everyone likes.

"We absolutely love working together and we would certainly be willing to do it again if the audience loved the chemistry," Smith told E! News in January when Bad Boys for Life came out.

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But for now, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the comparatively low-budget-for-Michael-Bay film that started it all, here are 25 secrets about the franchise:

1. Bad Boys marked the feature directorial debut of Michael Bay, who previously was known for directing music videos such as Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (but I Won't Do That)" and The Divinyls' "I Touch Myself."

"We were like punk kids doing that in Miami," he told Fandango in 2012.

2. As originally conceived by producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, Bad Boys would've been called Bulletproof Hearts and starred Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz as Mike and Marcus. So that would have been different.

Bay quipped in the bonus-feature commentary that Lovitz would say that he takes credit for Bay's successful career because he was not in Bad Boys.

3. Once they had refined the concept, Will Smith still wasn't everyone's first choice. Lucky for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air star, whose biggest film role to date had been in the indie drama Six Degrees of Separation, Arsenio Hall turned down the role of daredevil Miami detective Mike Lowrey—which he realized in hindsight wasn't a great move.

"You look back and say it wasn't a bad decision because I'm happy with my life," Hall told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "I'm a daddy or whatever. But then you realize, that's not where I'm supposed to be. One day you really miss it."

4. Bay battled the studio at multiple turns to get his creative choices (such as Will Smith chasing down a suspect bare-chested) because "they never believed in our movie," Bay told Fandango. "[The studio] didn't believe in that movie because a movie with two black stars [had] never worked around the world…They didn't treat us very well at all and we were just kind of on our own. They gave us $10,000 for a rewrite and I don't know what you get for $10,000. So we had to make a lot the stuff up."

He credits Smith and Lawrence's willingness to work on the script with him every day and how agile they were with improvising lines with saving the movie.

5. "It literally was such a hard experience," Bay also told Fandango. "The crew kept telling me, 'Well that's not gonna cut, and that's not gonna cut,' and 'You can't do it like this.' And I'm like, 'Well, I'm doing it like this.' So it was one of the first movies where it was cut very fast, the action. They all said, 'You can't cut that fast.' I'm like, 'Well, I am.' And now you see it imitated, but way back when I was cutting fast for a reason ... to hide the cheap art direction and to give it some energy."


6. According to Bay in the director's commentary, he was paid about $100,000 to direct Bad Boys, and he used $25,000 of it to pay the crew for overtime.

7. That's Michael Bay's own Porsche in the opening carjacking scene.


8. Apparently there could have been even more profanity, but Bay revealed in his director's commentary that his mother objected to how much swearing there was in the first cut that she saw, so there are only a dozen f-bombs instead of 18.

9. Téa Leoni has had less harrowing experiences on film sets since. "Bad Boys was a really hard experience," she told Movieline in 2001. "It was in Miami—not my type of weather or scenery—and physically I was like a rag doll being slammed around."

"I ended up in the hospital at one point," the native New Yorker continued. "But the plate-glass window wasn't so bad—it was the AK-47 under the jaw that got me. I wasn't on proper mark when the stunt guy hit me with it. My legs went over my head and I landed flat on my back. Didn't have much memory at that point. The director, Michael Bay, freaked out, saying, 'Holy s--t, holy s--t! What if she can't finish the movie?' And I started to cry because I'd never thought that the chill of Hollywood would be so close in my face."

She wasn't sorry she did the movie, though, "because Will and Martin did a great job. They elevated my chickdom in that movie. I still can't believe how short my skirts were, but as I get older I'm appreciative that those legs got documented."

10. Will Smith, who after Bad Boys made Independence Day and Men in Black in quick succession, credited Bay for propelling him to movie stardom with his shirtless vision.

"So Michael Bay was shooting this scene, and I wanted to have my shirt on," Smith recalled on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in January 2020. "And Michael was like, 'Dude, I'm gonna make you a frickin' movie star! Take your shirt off."

"I was like, 'Mike, come on, man, running with your shirt off? Come on, man.' And he was like, 'Dude, you don't know! I know.' So we compromised in that scene. I was like, 'Mike, I have to have a shirt. I'll have it open, just not off.' And we compromised, and it was one of the iconic scenes from that movie. And to this day, every time I see Michael Bay, he goes, 'Dude, I should be in for half!'"

11. Bay admitted that he argued with both of his leading men, but the longest fight may have been with Smith over Bay wanting Mike to tell Marcus "Hey, man, I love you," but Smith not thinking the line was believable. (Smith did end up saying it, and it works just fine—and he was much more comfortable telling his pal he loved him in Bad Boys for Life, and vice versa.)


12. The movie made $141 million worldwide, making it Columbia's highest-grossing movie of the year, and Michael Bay would soon become synonymous with splashy, loud, popcorn blockbusters that have grossed billions.

13. Eight years would go by before Bad Boys II came out, for a variety of reasons—though the main one was that they wanted to put out a quality sequel.

"To get us in a room and all to agree on the same script was not easy, because if I'm ready and Will's … out of the country, it is just hard to get together," Martin Lawrence told ABC News in 2003. "And we didn't find a script that we liked so nobody wanted to do it."

"In the first film we pretty much ad-libbed every scene," Smith added. "We didn't want to do that on this one. So what we did is, we had probably three weeks of rehearsals prior to the film where we just had a writer there. So we had all of our ad-libbing ahead of time."

14. Happily for Bay, who lamented his paltry $17 million budget for Bad Boys, he had $130 million to play with this time. "It's edgier," Bay described the sequel in a 2003 interview. "This movie is a lot bigger. The best comment I heard from people was 'this totally doesn't feel like a sequel, the movie really stands on its own.'"

Smith and Lawrence jelled just as well the second time around. "We were acting really, really stupid making this movie and the chemistry we had off camera, that's just what it is…That's how we interact," Smith told ABC News.

15. Gabrielle Union joined the Bad Boys II squad as Marcus' sister (and perennial bachelor Mike's secret love interest), undercover DEA Agent Sydney Burnett.

"They're like big brothers," the actress, best known then for Bring It On and Deliver Us From Eva, told journalist Neil Bowyer about Smith and Lawrence. "Very protective, so much want me to have a good time and enjoy myself. They're just really cool and have offered a lot of advice—guidance, really."


16. Union reprised the role of Syd Burnett in the cop drama L.A.'s Finest, which premiered in 2019 on Spectrum Originals and has been renewed for a second season.

17. Review-wise, Bad Boys II was widely panned, but it still made $273 million worldwide.


18. Much more well-received was the Sean "Diddy" Combs-produced soundtrack, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. The single "Shake Ya Tailfeather," featuring Nelly, Diddy and Murphy Lee, won the Grammy in 2004 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

19. Of course, eight years was nothing next to the 17 years it took to get Bad Boys for Life in theaters. "I just didn't want to wreck the franchise," Smith explained in a #CRWN interview at Harlem's Apollo Theater in January 2020. "I felt like I had other sequels in my career, like, I didn't land it. But with this one I just wanted to protect this franchise. I wanted to make sure that the story was right, that it had something to say, that it was funny, and that it deserved to be made again. Not just, ‘People like sequels, so let's just do a sequel.'"

20. Joe Pantoliano, who plays Mike and Marcus' endlessly put-upon boss, Miami Police Capt. Conrad Howard, is one of the handful of stars from the original who appeared in all three films.

21. Michael Bay never seemed to consider himself a candidate to direct a third Bad Boys movie. The Transformers franchise helmer told Fandango in 2017 (when Bad Boys for Life had no director but was slated for a Nov. 8, 2018 release), "Pretty soon they're going to be old boys, okay. Pretty soon they're going to be retired cops instead of active-duty cops.

"It's taken a long time to get that thing going, and I'm not involved in getting it going. They should get it going soon, though. You could definitely get Martin and Will to be funny again—those were fun movies to do."


22. But he wasn't as blasé about the project as he might have sounded. Bay met with eventual Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah before they got started and gave them one particularly memorable piece of advice, Bilall recalled on Cinema Blend's ReelBlend podcast: "Don't f--k up my baby." 

23. Bay, who popped up briefly as a cab driver in Bad Boys II, also has a cameo as the emcee at the wedding of Marcus' daughter Megan in Bad Boys for Life—and sure enough, he took full control of that scene. "Yeah, of course!" Adil told Movieweb. "When Michael Bay is there on set he just explains the steady camera, how to do it, and he knows how to turn. We didn't tell him anything... This shot will be studied in film school, because it's super meta!"

Because it's kind of a thing now, the Adil and Bilall also have cameos in their movie—Bilall hits on Rita (Paola Nuñez) and Mike (Smith) steals Adil's car.

24. Vanessa Hudgens had to handle a gun for her role as a cop in the film, and she got used to it quickly—for an only-in-Hollywood reason. "…I didn't have any rehearsal time with it," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I just had it there on the spot, and as I inspected this gun to get to know it a little better, I realized I had worked with it 10 years ago on a movie called Sucker Punch. It made me so grateful for the fact that I've continuously tried to be in all different types of films. If I hadn't done Sucker Punch, I would've been at a complete loss."


25. Adil and Bilall did not eff up Michael Bay's baby. Bad Boys for Life made $419 million worldwide.

Though it took 17 years to get Bad Boys for Life into theaters on Jan. 17, it turns out it arrived just in time.

Movie theaters all over the country have been closed for almost a month now in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, leaving the long-awaited action-thriller-comedy the No. 1 movie at the box office for 2020 so far.

Needless to say, there may really be no time quite like the present to enjoy a Bad Boys trilogy binge from the comfort of home.