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Will Smith, Martin Lawrence Released Bad Boys

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence Released Bad Boys

The original Bad Boys debuted nearly 30 years ago, and even with a first-time director, two stars untested at the box office and a scramble to finish the script, nothing could handcuff the film’s success. After a string of hits that included Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun, producing partners Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer began developing a buddy-cop script from George Gallo (Midnight Run) called Bulletproof Heart. Saturday Night Live standouts Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz were eyed to star, but Will Smith and Martin Lawrence ultimately landed the leads. (In 2013, Arsenio Hall told THR about his regret over having turned down Smith’s part: “Sometimes I made bad choices.”)

At the time, Smith and Lawrence were starring on the sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin, respectively, and neither had led a studio movie. Making his feature directorial debut was Michael Bay, known for music videos and commercials. After a story overhaul, the film centered on two Miami detectives on the hunt for stolen heroin while protecting a witness (Téa Leoni). But the script still needed work when executive producer Lucas Foster called screenwriter Doug Richardson (Die Hard 2) and asked him to meet on the lot that very day. The clock was ticking, as Smith and Lawrence were both on short breaks from their TV duties. Luckily, the stars were more than game to assist. “I’d give them an idea, and it would be like a writers room,” Richardson tells THR about the collaborative, improvisational effort. “It was magical from the beginning.”

Columbia released Bad Boys on April 7, 1995, and it collected $65 million ($135 million today). Three sequels followed, the latest of which, Bad Boys: Ride or Die, directed by Adil & Bilall, hits theaters June 7. As for what makes the franchise so good, Richardson goes back to an early note he got from Simpson, who died in 1996: “He said, ‘A buddy movie is a love story. These guys love each other.’ That made things work a lot better for me.”

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This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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