Why Will Smith and Martin Lawrence Reunited for ‘Bad Boys for Life’ 25 Years Later

After skipping “Independence Day 2” and the latest reboot of “Men in Black,” returning to the “Bad Boys” franchise — which began 25 years ago — was a simple decision for Will Smith.

“Of all the movies I’ve done, when people walk up to you on the street and say, ‘Hey man, when are you gonna do another one?’ It’s ‘Bad Boys,’” Smith told Variety at the premiere of “Bad Boys for Life.” “Nobody’s asking for ‘Pursuit of Happyness 2.’”

After a few false starts for the project in the 17 years since “Bad Boys II,” Smith’s Miami detective Mike Lowrey is back on the beat with Martin Lawrence‘s Marcus Burnett. And Lawrence admitted it was an easy decision for him, too, telling Variety that he said yes because “we wanted to give the people what they wanted.”

On Tuesday night, Smith and Lawrence gave the fans lining Hollywood Blvd. “what they wanted” in a big way. The duo arrived at the TCL Chinese Theatre by driving a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S onto a grand stage, while the “Bad Boys” theme blared out of the speakers. The festivities were live-streamed to audiences in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans, and though extravagant, there were no fireworks or pyrotechnics at the big event — the duo saved the explosions for on-screen.

And in another change from 25 years earlier, “we used our stuntmen,” Lawrence cracked.

“This one, I came in pretty excited about doing all of my stunts,” Smith chimed in. “And literally inside the first week, like three days in, I was like ‘Let these stunt men earn their money.’”

Aside from the stunts, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said the duo quickly found their footing after nearly two decades apart because they had a special bond from the start.

“From the first day [on ‘Bad Boys’], you saw some real amazing chemistry and it just lasted through the whole movie. We just had so much fun making the first two, and this was even more fun,” Bruckheimer explained.

Explaining why he thinks there’s an appetite for a third film, he added, “[Audiences] see it on cable, they see it on streaming. They have DVDs of the first two movies and they want to know what happened to these characters. They want them back in their homes, they want them back in the theater.”

While the first two films were directed by Michael Bay, newcomers Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah take the reins this time, after making Variety’s 2018 Directors to Watch list and sharing their desire to direct “Bad Boys 3.”

“It was like it was meant to be,” El Arbi said. “Jerry and Will loved our work in Belgium and they just thought, ‘Let’s just give ‘Bad Boys’ to the boys.’”

And in doing so, the duo even got to direct a cameo from Bay. “He blessed it,” Bruckheimer noted.

“That day was the first time we met him,” El Arbi recalled. “So I was really stressing because our whole crew [had worked] on his sets, and they had these stories that he’s hardcore. So I was super nervous [he would] be there and yell at us and say, well, you know, ‘What are you doing with my movie? You’re messing with my baby,’ and all that.”

“[Michael] was learning his lines … he was also a bit nervous,” he continued. “And then we did this Michael Bay shot with Michael Bay, and basically he directed his own shot because he was explaining to the camera man what to do, he knew how to move.”

Rounding out the cast are Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nuñez, Kate Del Castillo, Jacob Scipio and Nicky Jam, as well as Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle and Bianca Bethune, who all reprise their roles from the original films.

Stars like Snoop Dogg, Keegan-Michael Key, Chance the Rapper, T.I., Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish flocked to Hollywood for the big event, demonstrating the widespread appreciation for the franchise.

“When ‘Bad Boys’ came out, ‘Bad Boys II’ came out, I was there for every single one on day one. But I was like at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall. Now I’m here for day one at the Chinese Theatre! New life, new beginnings,” Haddish told Variety. As for her pitch for being in the next film, “I’m Tiffany Haddish, get with it.”

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith'Bad Boys for Life' film premiere, Arrivals, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 14 Jan 2020
CREDIT: Chelsea Lauren/Shutterstock

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