'Bad Boys 3' Eyed for 2020, Martin Lawrence May Not Return

Bad Boys 3 is finally starting to take shape, with Will Smith already signed on to star. Surprisingly, Martin Lawrence has yet to sign on.

Sources told Variety Monday that Sony Pictures is "close to greenlighting" Bad Boys For Life, the long-gestating third Bad Boys movie. A recent script draft was approved by producers, and production could start as soon as early next year. The studio is eyeing the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend for its release.

Smith has signed on to play Detective Mike Lowrey again, but Lawrence is still circling the project. That is surprising, since Lawrence has often talked about wanting to make Bad Boys 3 for years.

Sony did not spill details about the project, but Sony executives have told Variety in the past that Bad Boys 3 is one of their top priorities.

“If we’re going to make another Bad Boys after 15 years, it’s got to be next-level great,” Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch previously told the outlet.

The latest script was penned by Chris Bremner, who wrote Kevin Hart's The Wedding Ringer. A previous draft was written by The Grey director Joe Carnahan, who was at one point going to direct. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who directed episodes of the FX series Snowfall, replaced Carnahan and has earned original franchise director Michael Bay's endorsement.

Bad Boys For Life has had trouble getting off the ground, but Lawrence had been one of the project's big supporters. In August 2017, he told Entertainment Weekly he did not think it would ever get made though. That same month, the film was pulled from Sony's schedule, and it looked doomed.

That all changed in January 2018, when El Arbi and Fallah were hired to direct. Then, Sony scheduled the project for a Jan. 17, 2020 release date.

The original Bad Boys film, released in 1995, put Smith on the path to stardom and established Bay as one of Hollywood's top action directors. Bay, Smith and Lawrence reunited in 2003 for the sequel.

In early September, Smith appeared to vent his frustrations with Sony over Bad Boys For Life's delays, sharing video of himself banging his head on a building. "This has been Me with @sonypictures tryna get Bad Boys made," he wrote.

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While Bad Boys For Life comes together, the franchise is poised to hit the small screen. Gabrielle Union is playing her Bad Boys II character in L.A.'s Finest, which will co-star Jessica Alba. It was originally developed at NBC, but the network passed on the project. In May, Charter Communications stepped in to save it. The offshoot is still expected to premiere on Charter's Spectrum as its first original series, Deadline reported last week.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures