Warning: Bad Boys for Life spoilers are discussed in this interview and intro.
With Bad Boys for Life now playing in theaters, I recently sat down in the Collider studio with directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah for an in-depth spoiler-filled interview about the making of the sequel. During the wide-ranging conversation, they talked about how they landed the gig, what it was like making their first Hollywood movie, how they pulled off some of the cool camera shots, how they landed Michael Bay for a cameo, the post-credits scene, who decided to have Will Smith get shot in the film, what it was like working with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the test screening process, deleted scenes, the status of Beverly Hills Cop 4, and so much more.
As most of you know, Bad Boys For Life reunites Miami PD detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) for one last ride as they train a group of new recruits to take down some bad guys. The film also stars Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Nunez, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Kate Del Castillo, Nicky Jam, and Joe Pantoliano. The script was written by Joe Carnahan and Chris Bremner, from a story by Peter Craig, Carnahan, and Bremner.
Check out what they had to say in the player above. Below, an in-depth description etc.
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah:
- What was it like coming in and sitting down with Bruckheimer and Sony and pitching them on what you wanted to do? The project was already there in 2015. Already a script and concept. The movie is basically what the script was. All the themes were there. Bruckheimer saw our movie and wanted to work with us. And he asked us what we wanted to make and we said “We wanna make Bad Boys!”
- What is it like going to sit down with Bruckheimer after growing up watching his movies? Stressed out. It was surreal. “Jerry Bruckheimer is going to see your movie.” And it was mind-blowing. When he saw it, we were emailing everyone “He’s gonna see our movie!” The day we wanted to meet us we couldn’t believe it, most famous producer in the world.
What surprised you about working in the Hollywood studio system that you maybe weren’t expecting? Movies in Belgium are subsidized by the government, so you just do whatever you want within a small budget. In Hollywood the stakes are higher, you don’t just get to do whatever you want. But you still have the same problem of running out of money and time, even in Hollywood with millions of dollars. You have the same problems, the machine is just fucking gigantic. It seems unbelievable when you’re watching a $200 million movie and you’re like “you’re telling me you couldn’t pull that off? C’mon” until you’re actually in it. Sometimes you have to find creative solutions. We also had to shoot a big part in Atlanta in the winter and make it look like Miami in the summer. That was also a surprise because we didn’t know what Atlanta looked like, so at first we’re like “Ok!” But when we landed we were like “this doesnt look like Miami!”
- Did you do test screenings and what did you learn from that? We did a ton of test screenings and in Belgium you don’t really do that. We had like 8 or 9. Because its an action comedy. With a comedy, after a while you don’t know if the jokes are funny, so you have to test it and check it. You see exactly which joke works and which doesnt, so we cut jokes out and make jokes better. We can see the audiences’ reaction and check when they laugh, when they don’t. Sometimes Jerry would come up with a joke and we’d be like “that won’t work” and then the audiences laugh at it so we’re like “I guess it’s going in the movie!”
How long was your first cut compared to the finished film? The first cut was 2 hrs 26 mins. We wanted to get it down to 2 hrs. The other cut we first showed to the audience was 2 hrs 6 mins. And we thought “we couldnt cut anything else out” But now it’s under 2 hrs and we’re really proud of that.
- What was the last thing you cut before locking the picture? The last scene of the movie, we didn’t know if we wanted to have it in or not, so it kept getting cut and added back in. That was really the last thing we did. Other than that, it was the action, we had so much in the movie that after a while it gets boring, so after a while we had to reduce as much as possible.
- Do you imagine you might do an extended cut on the Blu-ray? No, its gonna stay the same. We might add some cool slow motion action shots.
- One really cool rooftop shot that looks like a drone shot, how did you pull that off? It was very difficult technically, the drone didn’t work on that roof. What if we start close in profile with a rig and then get the rig off the drone so it can fly. We had some CG help with it, and it made it an iconic moment. We shot it at 6 am, everyone was dead tired but we made it work.
There was a few of those shots in the movie, you mentioned there were some other cool shots, I’m really trying to get you to make an extended cut. Sometimes there was too much violence and blood and the producers would be like “Cmon guys, we know it’s R rated, but don’t go overboard.”
- How long did you have to shoot this? Exactly a year ago we had our first shooting day, January 14. Last day April 22. 60-65 shooting days. It was pretty tough but we had a great team and great crew and Will and Martin were crazy motivated.
- Did you have a second unit? Or did one of you splinter off? Both. We had a second unit, and then also Fallah would splinter off. And I would get really tired.
- You guys have obviously been friends for a long time. What was the last big disagreement you had? A lot in our private lives. We’re like brothers. But on set we’re always together. Our biggest disagreement is how to say something, how to communicate an idea we have.
- How did you get Michael Bay to do a cameo? It was not that easy, he was doing 6 Underground. For us it was super important, so we did everything to get him and eventually he had one day where he was free. We wanted to do a Michael Bay shot with Michael Bay. He did it in one take. He was a super nice guy but he said one thing to us, he said, “Don’t fuck up my baby.”
- Did you always know that that was the scene you wanted him to do? We had a couple places we wanted to put him. One of the producers came up with the idea to have him as the MC at the wedding.
- What is it like walking over to Michael and actually give him direction? He was also nervous. He was like, “Did I do it good?” He kind of directed his own shot. And we got to watch him direct himself in his own shot and we were in awe of that moment. It was our favorite shot of the movie.
- Has he seen the movie yet? Not yet. He was also doing his own movie so he didn’t have the time. Some of his friends saw it and called him and said, “I gotta admit, it’s good.”
- I was very surprised that Will gets shot in the film. Was that always in there? The most shocking and surprising elements in the film were always in the script. It was important for his character, to be this legend and then have this weakness happen immediately.
- What about the whole son thing? Yeah that was in there from the beginning. That stuff showed us this could be a real movie, with real emotion.
- Was there any big change that happened from when you got the script to what people see on the screen? You always have the balance between humor drama and action. And that changed somehow. The first version of the movie was super dark. It was actually too dark, for a Bad Boys So we had to take a step back and add elements of fun, which were already present, but we go overboard sometimes. That was the biggest difference.
You have a post-credits scene. After the main credits but not the whole credits. Talk about that. That was the last scene to be put into the movie. Nobody knew what to do, we went back and forth 100 times. We screened it with and without all the time, and without it, the audience felt like they needed some kind of closure.
- When did you film that scene? Was it during the actual shoot? We shot that in a reshoot. After we screened the first cut, we realized we might need it.
- Was there an idea you almost did as an after-credits or was it always that scene? It was always an idea to add something that was a joke at the end, to have it be humorous. The reshoot changed the movie, when you start the shoot you never know what the movie is going to be. So when you finish the shoot, you see what you need, what story beats and stuff. So the reshoots allow you to do that. In the edit, it’s as if the movie has its own soul and it will tell you what it needs, what it wants to be.
This is a very unusual tone, action, comedy and drama. It’s about figuring out the balance and its not one thing, which makes it tougher to shoot on the first try.
- Are you still doing Beverly Hills Cop? Everybody asks us this question! It’s good, we really want to do it. Jerry asked us to be available.
- So there’s nothing definitive? This is our first Hollywood movie, we gotta wait until it comes out. I think Jerry is just waiting for it to come out and see how it goes. We met Eddie Murphy twice and he seems to like us. We were filming at Tyler Perry Studios while he was there, we made that social media video moment where Will meets Eddie and Wesley.