This is by far one of the best interviews I’ve read in a long time.
Some of the gems. In regards to the screening:
“A lot of the older ladies, like 35, 40, they are like, ‘I didn’t want to come here. I didn’t want to see this. I was dragged here.’ It’s true! This one lady goes, ‘This kinds of reinvents super heroes.’ She said this great line. She goes, ‘We’re tired of the suits and the whatever. This is totally new and different.’
In regards to some of his favorite directors:
“Raising Arizona was such an instrumental movie in how I’ve done some of my commercials. Just that comic timing. A lot of people didn’t get that movie when it came out.”
Only Michael Bay would have the creative nerve to re-boot the animated Transformers as a live-action motion picture. Sure, Batman and Spidey have fanatic followers, too, but Transformers trippers are multi-generational compulsives. Even in their quietest moments, they have been making lots of noise about how this latest cinema makeover will ruin this and/or mess up that.
All this for a movie about a cartoon originally created to sell toys. Uh-huh. Toys.
Giant robots in disguise all right. Way back in 1984, a toy line was promoted in what amounted to narrative advertising through a Marvel Comics series and a TV show. The commercial cloaking device continued with an animated feature in 1986 which contained more of the same product placement.
Since that time, Transformers has gone through many incarnations, re-configurations and re-designs, making it one of the most enduring and most multi-layered U.S. and Japanese franchises in the history of pop culture. Enough said on that, because trying to sort them all out would be mind-numbing.
Let’s cut to the chase, and the Friday night preview screening I attended for Bay’s mega-budgeted Transformers at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Bay even attended “to make sure the sound was loud enough.” It was. And with his cinema wisdom, previously showcased in Armageddon and The Rock and Bad Boys, the director conjures up a revival of the Transformers brand.
In the hyper-kinetic flick, Shia LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, a young man who befriends the space travelling Autobots, robots who are pitted against their evil counterparts, the Decepticons. Both are usually waging war on the planet Cybertron, but this time Earth gets to be the battleground. The car-like Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, find a friend in Sam based on some previous history with Sam’s granddad. This leaves the Decepticons, led by Megatron, really angry. A worldly face off is to be expected. Bay gets into it with the same kind of macho menace you might expect.
And there are, indeed, some powerful, head-spinning confrontations surpassing special effects scenes he’s done previously, including The Island. And that’s saying a lot. Think of Transformers as the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of heavy metal thunder.
What non-robot highlights can you look for? Megan Fox plays Mikaela, Sam’s girlfriend. Josh Duhamel is a special ops team leader and survivor of an attack by the Decepticon Blackout. Tyrese Gibson is an Air Force combat-trained warrior who teams up with Duhamel. Then there is John Turturro doing his villainous best to get some solid laughs as the wacky leader of a secret government group. Jon Voight portrays the U.S. Secretary of State in his stately way. And, of course, comic relief comes briefly, but effectively from Bernie Mac’s car salesman.
On the controversy front, no controversy at all: Hugo Weaving is just fine as the voice of Megatron replacing TV series voice actor Frank Welker. Peter Cullen returns as the voice of Optimus Prime as he is in most of the Transformers shows on TV. And let us not be too concerned about this either: The Autobot Bumblebee, formerly a VW Bug, has been upgraded to a Camaro. And yes, Autobots Ironhide and Ratchet and Decepticons Blackout, Brawl and Bonecrusher are all included.
The climatic showdown is everything Bay and Transformers freaks would want it to be.
On Saturday, the Transformers brigade gathered at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel to put their thoughts on the film into perspective. It even included a confession by Bay.
“I was not a Transformers fan,” said the director who was brought in by executive producer Steven Spielberg to do the movie. Bay became a believer fast enough, especially after going to Transformers school.
Still, he knew that he was going to make “a more adult kind of live action movie.” Bay also said he understood he would have to trim back the number of robot characters in the picture, and highlight the human sub-plots. Spielberg helped him with that by describing the movie as the story of “a boy and his first car.”
“And the overall underlying theme is ‘no sacrifice, no victory,’ ” said Bay, who also pointed out that he received complete cooperation from the U.S. Armed Forces, which provided jet fighters, attack helicopters and some special forces units. All that hardware and manpower aided the director in his quest to make the film seem “more accessible and more acceptable.”
Generally, Bay was pleased with the result, which he believes re-fashions “a kids’ story” into an adult action-adventure picture children can enjoy.
“I liked the challenge of doing something that hadn’t been done and creating characters out of thin air,” he said.
Later on, Bay refused to confirm that he might be doing the same thing with his next project: a movie version of the popular video game, Prince Of Persia. Meanwhile, LaBeouf, who begins filming the fourth installment of Indiana Jones on Monday, said he applauds Bay for making Transformers more than just a special effects action flick.
“There’s a lot of heart in the movie,” said LaBeouf, who admitted he was a Transformers comic book and cartoon series fanatic growing up.
So is the actor ready for the attention coming his way when the film opens July 3? “I live a regular life,” he said. “I intend to keep it that way.” The joker in LaBeouf couldn’t resist a bit of fun when he was asked what he might have kept from the Transformers movie as a memory? “It was a lock of Michael Bay’s hair,” he said smiling.
Like LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson’s a big Transformers follower. “Optimus Prime is my guy,” he said. And sure he agreed, “Michael Bay is intense at times” but he thinks it was worth the hard work.
So does Bay, who said some fans were worried about the makeovers and alterations. But Bay said it all came together. So will he do a Transformers sequel? “There is no script right now,” he said. “But I will leave that negotiation open.”
By Lee Hyo-won
Director Michael Bay and rising star Megan Fox sizzled up Monday night’s Asia junket for their mega-action robot film “Transformers,” held at N Seoul Tower. The film’s character model Bumblebee, revealing its looming yellow 5.2-meter, 3.7-ton figure for the first time, also heated up the show.
“Korea is a huge emerging world market (in cinema),” the award-winning director told journalists that gathered from all over the world for the event. He was also “very happy” the world premier for his movie would take place here on June 28 (opens July 4 in the United States).
It is the first time a major Hollywood film held its opening press event in Korea. Artist Choe So-ri inaugurated the program with a stunning drum performance using fire and water, symbolizing the film’s dueling evil Decepticons and good Autobots, respectively.
Based on a popular American comic book and TV series of the same title, “Transformers” is about alien robot races battling on Earth to locate their long lost energy source, to which a teenager named Sam (Shia LaBoeuf) obliviously holds the key. With the help of Mikaela (Megan Fox), Sam and others join forces to save the planet.
During the press talk, Bay, 42, exerted much confidence about his film and its extensive appeal to both fans and non-fans, international and domestic.
“I grew up a non-`Transformers’ fan” he said, “so when Steven Spielberg called me a year and a half ago to direct this movie, I thought ah, it’d be a silly toy movie, (I’m) not really interested, but since then I became a gigantic `Transformers’ fan.” Bay says his favorite character is Optimus Prime, the “really cool” leader of the human-friendly Autobots.
The director explained that the film “has a kind of a universal appeal and it brings out the kid in you,” and that “it’s definitely something new and different you haven’t seen this summer, and by using really groundbreaking visual effects,” the film “appeals to a lot of different age ranges.”
Bay continued, “I like to do ideas that are big ideas that really travel around the world,” yet this film “was challenging because it was a cartoon. My job was to make it real and bring it to life on-screen.” He said it was tough working with 40 artists and developing the characters.
Bay is known for his visually stunning and star-making blockbuster movies: Ben Affleck and Owen Wilson rose to stardom through “Armageddon” (1998), Nicolas Cage became a megastar with “The Rock” (1996) and Josh Hartnett upgraded his heartthrob image with “Pearl Harbor” (2001).
Actress Megan Fox, heroine of the action-packed science-fiction film “Transformers,” poses in front of the robot character model Bumblebee, at the film’s opening press event in Seoul, Monday. /Yonhap.
For “Transformers,” newcomer Megan Fox beat the competition in nine auditions against some 600 other women from numerous countries. Although she hadn’t seen the script upon joining the cast, she said “I knew that Michael (Bay) was directing it and I knew that Steven (Spielberg) was producing it, and that’s all an actor needs to know to be excited to trying get involved in a project.
“I was looking for a job and ended up getting the best one,” she said.
How? “Just look at her,” Bay said.
The 21-year-old played a sexy and charismatic teenager on-screen, and told reporters that Bay wanted her to be stronger and tougher. Steering a truck at full speed with a super size robot trailing behind, the actress does define rough with a sexy touch.
Fox magnetized camera lenses as she posed for lengthy photo ops on the red carpet and onstage. Showing off her foxy grin and tattoos, including the one of Marilyn Monroe’s face on her right forearm, the actress waved to the excited crowd.
Great news for worldwide “Transformers” fans: Bay explained that the film’s finale was left slightly open-ended because there might be ” two, three, four and five and so on.
“But that all depends on you up there,” he said to a crowd of Koreans gathered near the venue’s terrace. Someone yelled “Hell yeah!” and Bay smiled, “Alright, there you go.”
As for the possibility of real world robots in the near future, Bay laughed, saying that “there definitely will be a massive alien robot war in the future,” in light of his own film. The alluring Ms. Fox added that artificial intelligence and the like “scare the crap out of me.”
Fox pleasantly surprised the local crowd by enthusiastically stating that “The Host” (2006) was her “favorite film” — “after `Transformers,”’ Bay insisted. The actress said the monster scared her enormously and that the fine acting in the Korean blockbuster was impressive.
About his second visit to Korea, Bay said the country has become “very big and crowded” ever since his trip here with his mother 20 years ago. For Fox, it was her first time traveling outside of the U.S., and thought Korea seemed beautiful.
Bay and Fox continued onto Australia to promote “Transformers.” The film recently won the American MTV award for “Best Summer Movie You Haven’t Seen Yet.”
Quint over at AICN has interviewed the man behind Optimus Prime. Read the interview here. Among some of the things he said:
Peter Cullen: Yeah it’s better with Michael Bay, you know even just a couple of cars would be special… the guy is just brilliant. I mean, he really is brilliant and he’s got a vision. He had a marvelous vision for the entire beginning from conceptual… through the process. He’s responsible for so many great things, including giving Optimus Prime a sense of humor, which makes him more believable, working in the human relation situation along with the real people. Prime is actually charmingly funny. That’s a step in the right direction!
By PAMELA MCCLINTOCK
“Transformers” conjures up images of kiddie playthings, ever-changing alien robots that first landed in toy boxes in the 1980s.
DreamWorks and Paramount think they have something more than a kiddie pic or a nostalgic tribute — execs feel that the pic, which launches July 3, is a four-quadrant summer joyride. The question is how to market the film to those four groups.
As director Michael Bay deadpans, “I definitely didn’t make a toy movie.”
The PG-13 movie is this summer’s only big-budget live-action pic that is not a sequel, and boasts the imprint of action-megapic director Bay and exec producer Steven Spielberg.
The studio marketing execs are selling the movie as much more than a toy knockoff, talking up spectacular special effects, a fast-moving plot and humor.
“The push has been to defy people’s expectations,” says Christine Birch, DreamWorks president of marketing. “When they hear ‘Transformers,’ they think ‘toy movie.’ They think little kids. The movie is family-friendly, but that doesn’t make it juvenile.”
One studio exec says: “You need to get young males, which Bay can. But you also need to get younger kids, which could be more Steven. The challenge comes in trying to tell parents it’s OK to bring their younger children without alienating teenagers. It still needs a ‘Terminator’ toughness.”
Rob Moore, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, says the movie has just that. “It has signature Michael Bay action that is visually spectacular. But the movie also has a great sense of humor. You really have a combination.”
In testing, DreamWorks and Par skedded two screenings: One for kids and parents, the other for all audiences. The scores were almost identical.
Starring Shia LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel, “Transformers” would give DreamWorks and Paramount a much-needed live-action franchise.
Even before Par acquired DreamWorks, the two entities agreed to collaborate on a “Transformers” project. It’s said to be a passion project for Spielberg, who was intrigued by its alien themes, and he thought Bay would be perfect to direct.
After a string of box office hits, Bay stumbled with DreamWorks’ “The Island” ($36 million domestically and $125 million overseas). If “Transformers” clicks, it will be a rebound for the director and the action is said to be quintessential Bay, mirroring such pics as “Armageddon,” “The Rock” and “Bad Boys.”
And, at least partly due to Spielberg’s mark, it’s being hyped as featuring the same kind of special effects that made “Jurassic Park” work in the 1990s.
Script was penned by the team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who also wrote Par’s upcoming “Star Trek” installment.
“Transformers” was produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy and Tom DeSanto, who secured the film rights from Hasbro.
Join Michael Bay, a panel of Cisco and other entertainment industry executives in an interactive discussion about the impact the digital video revolution has had on the entertainment industry. Hear how digital video technology has influenced the film-making process. Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how some of the world’s biggest brands are connecting themselves to entertainment, and learn how companies like Cisco are using this connection to redefine how they reach their target audiences. See how Cisco’s enterprise video solution is changing the way people communicate with one another and view their entertainment content.
The Digital Video Revolution and the Empowered Consumer
Wednesday, July 25
8:15 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
For more information, read the complete details.
“TRANSFORMERS” STAR SHIA LABEOUF AND DIRECTOR MICHAEL BAY TO SERVE AS GUEST JUDGES “ON THE LOT”
TUESDAY, JUNE 5, ON FOX
Moviemaking competition series ON THE LOT will air its weekly “Film Premiere” episode this Tuesday June 5 8/7c on FOX, with “Transformers” star Shia LaBeouf (“Disturbia,” “Surf’s Up”) and director Michael Bay (“Armageddon,” “Bad Boys”) serving as guest judges along with regulars Carrie Fisher and Garry Marshall.
The remaining 15 director finalists have been divided into three groups of five, and the first group – Sam Friedlander, Hilary Graham, Trever James, Shalini Kantayya and Adam Stein – will premiere their personal submission films and receive the judges’ critiques. Viewers will vote for their favorite films after the show.
ON THE LOT is produced by Mark Burnett Productions, DreamWorks Television and Amblin Television. Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg are creators and executive producers. David Goffin serves as executive producer with Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Conrad Riggs co-executive producers.