‘Bad Boys for Life’: Will Smith Tried to Do Action ‘Better than Tom Cruise’

Bad Boys for Life is now in theaters.

Looking back, it’s crazy just how much of a launchpad 1995’s Bad Boys was for everyone involved. The film marked the directorial debut of Michael Bay, setting the template for his own style of action. And it also kickstarted the movie careers of stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

At the time, Lawrence was best known as the star of TV’s Martin. Meanwhile, Smith had a Grammy-winning music career and NBC hit The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Built off the action-comedy success of Bad Boys, Lawrence and Smith became leading men.

Now Bad Boys for Life hopes to recapture that chemistry. The 51-year-old Smith, in particular, found it hard to get back into the physically demanding role.

Will Smith at a 'Bad Boys for Life' photocall
Will Smith at a ‘Bad Boys for Life’ photocall | Pablo Cuadra/WireImage

‘Bad Boys for Life’ is finally here

Following Bad Boys‘ success, Bay, Lawrence, and Smith returned for Bad Boys II eight years later. That film proved to be an even bigger hit than the first one. So fans of the franchise assumed a third entry would be right around the corner.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. The prospect of a third Bad Boys always lingered, no matter what other projects Lawrence or Smith would do. But for a variety of reasons, the project never truly came together until recently. Released a staggering 17 years after its predecessor, Bad Boys for Life has finally landed.

However, its release comes without Bay’s involvement. At one point, Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Ace) was even set to write and direct the film. But in the end, Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah stepped behind the camera for the much-anticipated next chapter in the adventures of Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence)

Will Smith’s approach to stuntwork

While Lawrence and Smith always seemed game to return for Bad Boys for Life, the actors likely didn’t expect it to take so long for them to reunite. Smith, for his part, tried to take on as many of the stunts himself as possible. But as he recently admitted, it was much more difficult than he expected.

I’m trying to hang on. There were a couple of the action sequences that I was like “oooh.” I started, and I told myself I was doing all of my stunts. I was doing — you know, Tom Cruise was just hanging on the side of an airplane at 50. I was like “Man, I’m better than Tom Cruise!” And I did like two stunts and I was like “I’m not better than Tom Cruise!”

Smith, of course, is referring to Tom Cruise’s role in the Mission: Impossible series. Those movies have become famous for their insane, real-life stunts and, more to the point, Cruise’s insistence on performing them himself. Smith’s comment is a testament to how much effort Cruise puts into those productions. The actor is even signed on for Mission: Impossible 7 and 8.

The new ‘Bad Boys’ looks like a hit

By all accounts, a 17-year break in the Bad Boys franchise doesn’t threaten to harm its box office potential. According to industry insiders, Bad Boys for Life is tracking for an opening weekend of roughly $40 million. That’s a pretty solid number and one which — considering the film’s $90 million budget — should help the film become a hit.

Releasing the film in January then looks like a strategy that will pay off for Sony. Bad Boys for Life could have easily gotten lost in the shuffle if the studio released it in the crowded spring or summer. But right now, the biggest competition comes from either Christmas holdovers or awards contenders. Neither of those should eat into Bad Boys for Life‘s core audience. So Bad Boys 4, anyone?