Martin Lawrence Refused to Do ‘Bad Boys’ Without Will Smith

Will Smith’s film Bad Boys was one of the many films he starred in during the 90s that catapulted him to megastar status. But if it wasn’t for Martin Lawrence, Bad Boys might have seen Lawrence paired with another huge celebrity.

The ‘Bad Boys’ cast originally looked very different

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith at 'Bad Boys for Life' premiere.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence | Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Michael Bay’s 1995 hit Bad Boys went through quite a transitional phase before finally hitting the big screen. In its beginning stages, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence weren’t even on anyone’s minds.

The movie was originally supposed to star actors Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. But after Michael Bay was brought on board to direct the project, the scene he did with Lovitz and Carvey wasn’t up to standard.

“We’d looked at a bunch of commercial directors because we’d had success with Tony Scott, and the one reel that stood out was Michael’s,” Bad Boys producer Jerry Bruckheimer once told GQ. “It had a wonderful sense of humor and a unique visual style—like nobody else. Michael did a test scene with Jon and Dana, but Disney didn’t like the test.”

With Carvey and Lovitz out of the picture, the studio briefly considered Arsenio Hall to lead the movie. But unable to get Hall, they found their official lead in superstar Martin Lawrence. Lawrence, however, would have a huge influence in getting Smith on board one of his breakthrough film roles.

Martin Lawrence wouldn’t do ‘Bad Boys’ without Will Smith

Lawrence asserted that several stars were considered for the role before Smith was recruited. One of those stars was Laurence Fishburne, who Lawrence personally inquired about doing the movie.

“I was riding down the street one time and I saw him, so I yelled out of the car, asking if he would do Bad Boys. Laurence Fishburne shook his head no. And then Michael kind of handpicked Will [Smith],” Lawrence remembered.

But Bay might not have chosen Smith if it wasn’t for Lawrence’s insistence. Speaking on All The Smoke, Smith recalled the studio looking at Eddie Murphy to do Bad Boys before landing on him.

“They wanted him to do it with Eddie,” Smith said. “And Martin’s sister was like, ‘You should do that with Will.’ Martin called me, we sat there, we had one meeting.”

The two hit it off well enough that Lawrence was determined to have a young Smith in the movie. So much so Smith remembered Lawrence telling the film’s producers that he wouldn’t “‘do it without Will.'”

Lawrence’s and Smith’s background in television further helped shape Bad Boys into what it ended up being.

“The script wasn’t all the way there. But I think what happens, because we were both on television shows, right? So we were used to making this stuff up on the fly, anyway. He had his group of writers, I had my group of writers. We had our boys. And we came together and we were literally making the scenes day to day as we were going on,” Smith said.

What’s the status on another ‘Bad Boys’ sequel?


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Smith and Lawrence recently surprised their Bad Boys characters in the critically and commercially successful movie Bad Boys for Life. But as far as Lawrence was concerned, their franchise didn’t have to stop at a trilogy. The success behind Bad Boys for Life showed there could still be an audience for the franchise’s future.

“We got one more at least,” Lawrence reassured in an interview with Ebony.