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[This story contains minor spoilers for Bad Boys for Life.]
Over the weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer had plans 17 years in the making: popping into random screenings of Bad Boys for Life to see how audiences were responding. Audiences, it turned out, were responding quite well. The third installment of the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led franchise about Miami police detectives overperformed, taking in $73.4 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and earning an A CinemaScore.
With that success, the franchise is continuing to ramp up. The final moments of Bad Boys for Life set up a clear sequel that could see Smith’s Mike Lowrey and Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett continue their adventures, along with younger teammates and a noteworthy new character connected to Mike. A script is already in the works from Bad Boys for Life scribe Chris Bremmer.
Bruckheimer spoke with The Hollywood Reporter last week before that sequel news broke, but he noted he was aiming to make a fourth installment in a much narrower time frame than the gap between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys for Life. Scheduling was part of the issue for that lag, but so, too, was a lack of urgency from Sony, said Bruckheimer, until the ascension of Tom Rothman as the studio’s film boss.
“The previous management was not a real fan of another Bad Boys. There was no impetus to try to get it made,” Bruckheimer told THR. “When Rothman came in, he said, ‘This is a great asset we’ve got. We’ve got to mine this.’ He really pushed hard to get a script and get it started.”
Filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah also stepped into the Bad Boys franchise and crafted a sequel that took advantage of the roughly 25 years that have elapsed for both the characters and the actors since the Michael Bay-directed 2003 follow-up to his 1995 original. The result is a more mature Bad Boys, one that deals with mortality and redefining one’s place in the world.
“We were working seven days a week on the script. Having readings, doing ad-libs. Working with our writers. It was a constant embellishment of the screenplay,” explained Bruckheimer.
Those ad-libs also led to a memorable scene in which the detectives find themselves on a plane, with Marcus confronting his friend over a youthful love affair he had with a witch.
“Will said, ‘Oh, my God. Martin is going to have a blast with this,'” Bruckheimer recalled. “That’s exactly what happened. I think Martin just lit it up on that.”
Bad Boys is just one of multiple sequels to ’80s and ’90s Bruckheimer hits that the producer has in the works. He also is developing a new Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney and has Bad Boys writer Bremmer working on a National Treasure 3 at the studio, too. Meanwhile, his Bad Boys for Life filmmakers are taking on Beverly Hills Cop 4 at Netflix, and Tom Cruise has Top Gun: Maverick due out June 26 from Paramount.
Bruckheimer worked with Cruise on Top Gun (1986) and Days of Thunder (1990), and he has previously told stories of the actor calling him up late at night to want to work on the script for scenes shooting the next day. The producer said Cruise remained as driven on the Top Gun follow-up as he was as a young man.
“He’s into every single detail. And I love it,” said Bruckheimer. “He’ll call me up and say, ‘Jerry, you know that mix? That door [closing] — it’s too loud.’ It’s great.”
With Maverick, Bruckheimer and the team learned from a certain mistake from the first installment, which centered on a hotshot pilot (Cruise) in the most elite flying school in the world. This time, they were much more intensive with the flight training of their actors.
“We trained our actors for three months so they could get used to the g-forces because we put them in the real F-18s,” said Bruckheimer. “On the first movie, we were using F-14s. We put all the actors in there and every one of them threw up.”
In Bruckheimer’s telling of it, only Cruise took to flying in the first movie.
“We spent a fortune on filming them in a cockpit and the only stuff we could use was the stuff we had from Tom. He could handle the g-forces,” said Bruckheimer. “The rest of them, their eyes were rolling in the back of their heads.”
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