Michael Bay Says Sony ‘Didn’t Believe’ in ‘Bad Boys’ Because Studio Felt ‘Two Black Actors Don’t Sell Overseas’

"They shut me down, literally. They shut the power off. That's how rude they were on this movie."
Bad Boys
"Bad Boys"
© Columbia/courtesy Everett Col

Michael Bay is reflecting on the nearly three-decade legacy of the “Bad Boys” franchise and revealed that even the studio behind the film doubted its box office success.

“Bad Boys” stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as two Miami-Dade detectives who investigate a narcotics division heist. Bay alleges the 1995 action cop drama was undermined by Sony Pictures since the film had two Black lead stars.

“Sony didn’t believe in the movie, because two Black actors don’t sell overseas. They had no faith in it,” Bay told Entertainment Weekly while promoting his new film, “Ambulance.”

“I was watching James Cameron’s ‘True Lies’ and I’m like, Oh, my god, this guy has so much money. I have only $9 million. And they shut me down, literally,” Bay added. “They shut the power off. That’s how rude they were on this movie. Luckily I had 500 days of film set experience doing videos, commercials, working with some of the most famous athletes in the world, and that’s where you really truly know how to deal with assholes.”

And that lack of resources from Sony led to Bay coming up with the iconic 360-degree shot of Smith and Lawrence.

“I said, ‘Where’s the circle trolley? Get the circle trolley.’ And we made this round move and you guys rise up and it became a very famous shot,” Bay said. “People try to imitate it, but it was a seminal moment.”

“Bay Boys” premiered in April 1995 and grossed $141 million worldwide. The film spurred two sequels, with “Bad Boys II” earning $273 million in 2003 and “Bad Boys for Life” grossing $426 million in January 2020.

The film also helped skyrocket Smith’s film career, debuting one year before the blockbuster “Independence Day.” Director Roland Emmerich similarly shared that 20th Century Fox was worried about Smith’s marketability in part due to his race.

“The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets],” Emmerich told The Hollywood Reporter as part of the 25th anniversary oral history in 2021. Emmerich even threatened to “switch studios” to Universal if Smith was not cast.

“Independence Day” producer-writer Dean Devlin added, “They said, ‘You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office].’ Our argument was, ‘Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.’ It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.”

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