Bad Boys For Life assembled the original stars of the popular franchise, bring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, respectively. The franchise wouldn't have been the same without their passionate Captain played by Joey Pantoliano. However, going forward, it will have to overcome a tremendous loss from this group of core characters as Bad Boys For Life sent a major player out in an emotional and shocking moment. For director Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the moment was every bit as heartbreaking as it was for fans. The duo discussed the sendoff in a spoiler-filled interview with ComicBook.com.
Late in Bad Boys For Life, Pantoliano's Captain Howard is suddenly killed off while simply walking to his car. It's a moment which sent shock waves through audiences in packed theaters during screenings of what is still the highest grossing film of the year. "It was, to begin with for us, the same reaction," El Arbi tells ComicBook.com. "We read that script and thought, 'No! This cannot happen! This cannot happen!' We were heartbroken already in the script. Then, we wanted to do it as heartbreaking as possible because it broke our hearts when we read the script. Joey Pants is one of the greatest actors ever, he's such a sweet guy and he's such a good guy, man. He's in such iconic movies. We're always asking him questions like, 'How was Memento? How's Chris Nolan? How was The Matrix?'"
While the directing pair has been having the most fun while working on and discussing the project, the final day on set for Pantoliano was completely serious. "On the set, it was this really calm, solemn moment and everybody was very focused and also very sad because you fantasize about a fourth movie and he's not going to be there," El Arbi recalls.
"We wanted to make that the most powerful scene in the movie so we put everything in it," Fallah adds in. "We were shooting, also, the funeral scene and Joey Pants came by. We were surprised like, 'What you doing here?' 'It's my funeral! Can you put me in the fourth movie, as a ghost or something maybe?'"
The Captain's death is, in a major way, a turning point for the film. Not only has the looming threat once again proved itself to be formidable but it inspired the change of heart in Mike Lowrey which is demonstrated later in the movie. In the moments prior to the death, Captain Howard encouraged Mike to embrace change and welcome in familial relationships - something he has long resisted in the Bad Boys franchise. "Captain Howard has always been the father of Mike and it's the first time you see him not yell," Normally you see Captain Howard, he's always yelling," El Arbi explained. "This is the only time that he's really trying to reach out to Mike and trying to tell him, 'You have to change, you have to accept, you have to grow, or else you will die."
In the fiery finale of the film, Mike reaches out to his now-revealed-to-be-son Armando instead of continuing to fight him. "When we did the scene with Armando at the end, we wanted to parallel that," El Arbi says. "Finally, Mike Lowrey grows. He does what Captain Howard told him to do right before he died like, 'What are you doing? Grow or die.' Mike Lowrey has grown. He has not the instincts from the other movies where he would just shoot everybody and that's it. He changes. He reaches his heart. He penetrates his soul and his heart! That theme of family, of fatherhood, of changing, adapting, and accepting vulnerability was very important for Will and the producers of the movie."
Watch ComicBook.com's full interview with Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah in the video above! Bad Boys For Life is available now on blu-ray, 4K, and digital downloads.