Bad Boys turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into rich men. So why did it take so long to reunite the wisecracking homicide detectives?
Perhaps they became too successful. Both stars have crossed into Hollywood's ultra-exclusive, eight-digit club, earning as much as $20 million a picture.
Of course, you only get that kind of money if you're very much in demand.
Landing two eight-digit stars is therefore doubly difficult — especially when one of them (read: Lawrence) has been embroiled in controversy that's made him a tabloid darling.
"To get us in a room and all to agree on the same script was not easy, because if I'm ready and Will's … out of the country, it is just hard to get together," says Lawrence.
"And we didn't find a script that we liked so nobody wanted to do it."
Action Film Turned Cultural Milestone
Lawrence reconfirmed his big screen comic stripes in the blockbuster Big Momma's House. Many of his recent efforts, like last year's Black Knight, have earned him big paydays but didn't pay off at the box office.
But even for Smith, a rapper-turned-lovable-Hollywood-family-man, Bad Boys II, opening nationwide today, comes with a buildup of anticipations that even a Men in Black sequel can't match.
Perhaps that's because Bad Boys was the highest-grossing film for Columbia Pictures in 1995, achieving a global level of success never before attained by a film staring two black actors.
"I haven't really felt this kind of anticipation since Independence Day," Smith says.
"I've had successful films … But that thing where people are just salivating before the credits roll at the beginning of the movie … You know, that's a great feeling."
Smith was already a TV star when he signed on to Bad Boys. He'd also hit a stride as a rapper. But he credits the Jerry Bruckheimer film — which began with him running with his shirt open — with making him a sex symbol.
Smith even recalls an early screening of the film when he watched the reaction of a woman looking at him on screen. She said, "Mmmm."
Smith: ‘We Were Acting Really, Really Stupid’
The sequel pulls together elements of the original. Smith and Lawrence chase Ecstasy smugglers who are moving in on Miami. Gabrielle Union joins in as Lawrence's sister, an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent who becomes Smith's love interest.
"In the first film we pretty much ad-libbed every scene," Smith says. "We didn't want to do that on this one. So what we did is, we had probably three weeks of rehearsals prior to the film where we just had a writer there. So we had all of our ad-libbing ahead of time."
The Smith-Lawrence combination is a "comedy machine," Smith says.
"You just put the camera on him and say go," he says of Lawrence. "When I stand in a scene with him, I feel like I don't have to do any work."
"We were acting really, really stupid making this movie and the chemistry we had off camera, that's just what it is … That's how we interact."
The trash talk and violent chase scenes make Bad Boys II a "solid rated-R film," as Smith puts it — "pure adult comedy." That might make it hard for the film to compete with Pirates of the Caribbean and other films that appeal to a broader, family audience. Lawrence: ‘I Just Want to Rest’
As an additional draw, Bruckheimer brought in Sean "P. Diddy" Combs to produce a star-studded soundtrack featuring new releases from Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Fifty Cent, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and Foxy Brown.
After the mayhem of the release, Lawrence says he's taking a break, after several brushes with the law and what he's described as a near-death experience.
The comic was hospitalized in May 1996 after police said they found him wandering and disoriented on a busy Los Angeles street with a loaded pistol in his pocket. He would later serve probation on another gun charge.
In 1999, Lawrence lapsed into a coma after collapsing from heat exhaustion while jogging. Afterward, he vowed to take his life and career more seriously.
"I just want to rest because I've been working nonstop for the last couple of years," he says. "Ever since I came out of the coma I've been just going and going and going. And right now I just want to see the world."