The Martin Lawrence/Will Smith action movie franchise Bad Boys isn’t something you’d normally see covered on Gizmodo. But when you get a chance to be the first person ever to talk to the writer/director of the film, Joe Carnahan, about it, you make an exception. Originally slated for release in June 2017, the newly titled Bad Boys For Life is now scheduled for release 12 January 2018. It will bring back the stars 15 years after the last action comedy, which centres on two Miami police officers with foul mouths and big personalities. The added time has given Carnahan (who made Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team and The Grey) ample time to prep what he says is “the strongest script of any of those movies. Hands down. In a walk over.”
“Unless you’re Toy Story 3, usually third ones aren’t the strongest, and I think this one will be the strongest of the trilogy thus far,” Carnahan told us on the phone in Boston where he’s prepping Wheelman, an action film with frequent collaborator Frank Grillo. He’s also writing the next draft of the video game Uncharted, all while setting his sites on early next year and filming Bad Boys For Life.
“There’s a lot of funny shit in this movie,” he said. “And there’s also a very mysterious, but tonally spot-on story that I think is kind of perfect for where we are in this day and age, where the guys are and reflectively, a very modern take on these guys. It’s kind of what becomes of Bad Boys when they’re not boys any more.”
That tease is as far as Carnahan would go in terms of plot. He wouldn’t say how long after the second movie this takes place or who may or may not come back. He’d only that nothing is specifically off the table and he didn’t want to be locked into anything when he took the job.
“There are obviously little things you want to tip your hat too but I think the danger is becoming this slavish ‘We have to check all these boxes’,” Carnahan said. “There aren’t these legions of people demanding your head because you didn’t bring back John Salley or you didn’t bring back Joe Pantoliano. I think you have to be careful with that. I’m always interested in ‘I know what has been done. What hasn’t been done?’ If not it’s just regurgitating old tropes and ideas and that’s not fun for anybody.”
To Carnahan, that’s the key. Bad Boys is supposed to be a fun, original franchise. And to get that right, the change of release date was completely necessary.
Due of Smith’s commitments on Suicide Squad and other things, Carnahan said that simply just meeting up with everyone has previously been impossible. “We couldn’t all get in a room, go through this thing and really ring it out,” he said. “I’m a big believer in ‘Do the work at the script level until you’ve got something you know works.’ That everyone is happy with, the stars are happy with, the director is happy with, the studio is happy with.”
On Bad Boys for Life three of those people, besides Carnahan, are stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who is also returning.
“Jerry’s been an integral part of this thing since we started,” Carnahan said. “He’s fantastic. He’s always got a really great idea when you need one. He’s always Johnny-on-the-spot with that stuff.”
Director Joe Carnahan filming The Grey.
The added time also allows Carnahan to meet with his stars and really get them on board. “Relationships don’t just happen,” Carnahan said. “You have to cultivate them. You have to gain trust and encourage their own creative and artistic sensibilities.”
In the end, though, it comes down to expectations. Everyone involved knows that returning to a franchise after years away can be a great thing, like Jurassic World, or a bad thing, like Zoolander 2. And though a fourth film is also tentatively on the release schedule, Bad Boys For Life is not a legacy sequel and Carnahan is holding nothing back. No one is passing any torches here. “There’s only one Will Smith and one Martin Lawrence,” Carnahan said. “You can’t replace those guys and I wouldn’t want to be involved if it wasn’t Will and Martin. They are that franchise.”
To come back and be successful, things have to be just right, and Carnahan seems to think things are on track. “When you’re coming back after 15 years, you better come back with a home run ball,” Carnahan said. “And I really believe that’s what we have…. We’ve got a responsibility to make something that’s absolutely equivalent or exceeds what comes before. That’s a really important thing for all of us”