The Story Behind All Actors Who Almost Starred In Bad Boys Before Will Smith And Martin Lawrence

The Story Behind All Actors Who Almost Starred In Bad Boys Before Will Smith And Martin Lawrence

The success of the Bad Boys franchise can be boiled down to two main pillars. Between the keen eye of creative types like producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, and the acting talents of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, one of the best action movies was born. Bur looking back at 1995 film’s development history makes this combination of forces even more valuable.

As it turns out, there were a couple of important pivot points in Bad Boys history where other talents could have fronted the project. Everyone from high profile SNL vets to a talk show legend was considered, which leads us to the stories of all the actors who almost starred in this action-comedy classic. 

Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey look at the camera with goofy expressions in Trapped in Paradise.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The Original Bad Boys Choices, According To Jerry Bruckheimer

It’s certainly no secret that Bad Boys went through a lot of changes. Even Smith and Lawrence recalled the original casting, which originally centered around SNL vets Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. The story floated around for a while in the history of the project with its own healthy life in the world of trivia surrounding this blockbuster of Bayhem.

What really anchored this tale in reality was when producer Jerry Bruckheimer told the story of this original variation on the podcast Literally! With Rob Lowe in 2020. After Jon Lovitz himself alluded to the story in a previous episode, Lowe asked his guest for his take on the saga. In his own words, this is how the Top Gun producer recalled that fateful tale: 

Well it was originally going to be him and Dana Carvey. It’s a different approach, obviously. But it was him and Dana Carvey, and Michael Bay did a test with them. For whatever reason, Disney didn’t go it; and so the project became dormant for a while. What really happened was Dana dropped out. So we were left with Jon. There are varying stories about what happened: there’s Jon’s version, there’s other people’s version, but the movie never got made with Jon and somebody else.

It may shock you that Bad Boys was originally set up at Disney, but this was back when the lucrative subsidiary Hollywood Pictures was still around. With that shingle originating the project, the journey had begun, albeit with a vastly different pairing. Sure enough, if you go back to a 1993 write up from The Los Angeles Times, you can see that Lovitz and Carvey were attached to the movie that had been kicking around since 1986. 

With the original script (entitled Bulletproof Hearts) being transformed into what would become Bad Boys, the SNL duo would eventually move on once the project hit this setback. And so too would Michael Bay’s directorial debut, which would next be set up with the good folks at Sony; leading to another huge “what if” in the casting world.

Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy standing in the barbershop in Coming 2 America.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures/Prime Video)

Why Arsenio Hall Passed On Bad Boys

As Jerry Bruckheimer continued to recall on his Literally! Interview, Sony was in love with making Bad Boys. Fortune was smiling on this project again, but it was going to take some creative casting to get those sports cars flying in the air. And yet again, it was all about getting the right star power into the driver’s seat; which at that time in the business wasn’t Will Smith.

Bruckheimer revealed this next round of casting chronicles to hinge on two parties: Martin Lawrence and talk show host/Coming to America star Arsenio Hall. Here’s how that dance went down, and how Lawrence won: 

We had Will, but Will wasn’t a big enough star. Martin Lawrence was a bigger star at the time than Will was. And we sent the script to, first, Arsenio Hall, because he was the hottest guy in the business at the time. And unfortunately, unfortunately for Will, he passed. Then we went on to Martin, who loved it and wanted to make it. Martin got the movie made.

Now what’s really interesting is that according to Jerry Bruckheimer’s story, it sounds like Arsenio could have been considered for the role of Detective Sergeant Marcus Burnett. But in his own recollection with THR in 2013, Hall specified that he was actually up for Will Smith’s role of Detective Sergeant Michael Lowery. 

No matter which story happened to be true, Arsenio Hall’s regret for passing up on Bad Boys was apparent, as here’s how he told his side of the story:

Sometimes I made bad choices. I remember there was a time I decided not to do more stand-up or go on the road. I turned down a movie called Bad Boys where it would have been me and Martin (Lawrence) instead of Will (Smith) and Martin. You look back and say, It wasn’t a bad decision because I’m happy with my life. I’m a daddy or whatever. But then you realize, that’s not where I’m supposed to be. One day you really miss it.

The crazy past of the Bad Boys franchise could have seen a myriad of different choices that could have come to pass, giving us a radically different movie each time. But the stars aligned, and the still beloved classic is still very much in the hearts of those involved, and the fans they love to show off for. 

What we know about Bad Boys 4, or Bad Boys Ride Or Die if co-director Adi El Arabi's recent comments are accurate, is that it’s pretty far along in the process. As principal photography reportedly wrapped before the SAG-AFTRA strike, the film’s position on the 2024 release schedule might be intact. We’ll have to wait and see if any further updates come out of this production that alter the course, but for now Bad Boys 4 is scheduled to take its place at the box office on June 24, 2024.