Will Smith's advice to his younger self making the original 'Bad Boys' movie: 'Slow down, wake up, dude'

The Oscar-winning actor and his co-star Martin Lawrence told Yahoo Entertainment what they wish they knew 30 years ago.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bump fists by a river.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in "Bad Boys: Ride or Die," the fourth film in the franchise. (©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have been Bad Boys for nearly 30 years. When they look back on the popular franchise as its fourth installment hits theaters, did they realize the dreams they were chasing were right in front of them?

Smith shared the advice he’d give his younger self in 1995 when the first Bad Boys film premiered.

“It was like our wildest dreams,” he told Yahoo Entertainment at the May 30 Los Angeles premiere of Bad Boys: Ride or Die.

“We were on [the] set of Bad Boys and [were] totally oblivious to the fact that we were in an iconic moment,” the actor and producer said. “I would tell him, ‘Slow down.’”

“We were looking at old pictures of ourselves,” Smith added, referring to himself and his co-star Martin Lawrence. “We [recently] watched a little bit of the first movie together, and we didn't realize we were in the middle of our dreams.”

The original Bad Boys, directed by Michael Bay, opened in theaters in April 1995. With a budget of $19 million, the film about two Miami police detectives went on to gross more than $141 million worldwide. After the success of the first film, Bay directed the second installment, 2003’s Bad Boys II, which commanded a larger budget of $130 million and went on to gross more than $273 million worldwide.

For the third installment in the franchise, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, Smith expanded his role to include producing while Bay handed the reins to co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who also directed Smith and Lawrence’s latest buddy-cop outing.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die, opening in theaters June 7, stars Smith and Lawrence again as Miami detectives who this time set out to clear the name of their late captain (Joe Pantoliano), who’s been accused of working with drug cartels. Smith's and Lawrence’s characters seek to unlock the truth as well as uncover who’s behind the setup — but end up getting framed themselves in the process.

What makes this Bad Boys installment different from the franchise’s first iteration is that in addition to the car chases and stunts, the film also tackles conversations around aging and making room for a younger generation. While the film sticks to its buddy comedy roots, it also doesn’t shy away from meaningful moments between its two 50-something stars.

The film also marks Smith’s return to the big screen after his 2022 film Emancipation. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation arrived in theaters several months after Smith’s infamous Oscars slap, in which he hit Chris Rock while the comedian was hosting the Academy Awards.

Smith’s latest return to the big screen, however, highlights his action and comedic chops over his more serious side. “It’s a combination of old school and new school,” co-director Adil El Arbi told Yahoo Entertainment at the premiere.

El Arbi said the stars and the characters they play have the same energy and chemistry but that the filmmaking itself is different from its ’90s version and has “evolved to the TikTok generation, the video game generation.”

While its stars have gone on to log dozens of credits and the filmmaking has taken on a new style, one constant has been Jerry Bruckheimer, who’s still onboard as an original producer. The prolific producer credits hard work for the success of this franchise and beyond.

“Keep working hard, that’s all,” the producer told Yahoo Entertainment. “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

While Smith has put in his own hard work over the years, he still comes back to his early days.

“I would tell my youngest self, ‘Slow down, wake up, dude. You made it,’” the actor formerly known as the Fresh Prince said.

Lawrence focused more on the practicalities instead.

“Take care of your back,” he joked.