Michael Bay at Princeton

From the NJ.com:


Ben and Michael Bay


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BY ROBERT STERN


PRINCETON BOROUGH -- Imagine staging a car crash amid the Gothic-style stone edifices of Princeton University.

That prospect made Hollywood director Michael Bay a tad uneasy as he planned filming part of the sequel to last year's blockbuster "Transformers" movie.

He didn't know if the university, where scenes for his next "Transformers" movie have been shot for the last two days, would go along with the bent metal of an action flick.

"I thought the school was going to freak out and did a little" before accepting the crash shots, Bay said yesterday during a brief interview.

But it's all in a day's work when filming the story of a teenage hero caught in the middle of a war between two races of robotic aliens who's now off to college.

Dormitory, lecture hall and other scenes featuring lead actor Shia LaBeouf and others are also being shot at Princeton for the DreamWorks studio film, which is scheduled for release on June 26, 2009, under the title "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

In one scene shot inside one of Princeton's large lecture halls, LaBeouf's character attends an Astronomy 101 class, Bay said.

In another shot at Princeton's Dillon Gymnasium, he and co-star Megan Fox are among dozens of students fleeing the building into a courtyard and parking lot ahead of some yet-to-be-revealed menace.

And while filming here is officially a closed set, hundreds of onlookers for the last two days lined the perimeter of some of the scenes -- though they were periodically instructed to keep quiet and take no pictures.

For a time yesterday afternoon, the area outside Dillon Gymnasium was the place to be for a glimpse of the celebrities and a chance to see the cameras rolling.

Tony Qian, a 2007 West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South graduate now attending the University of Delaware, even lucked into a spot as an extra during casting calls that were done before filming in Princeton began. The best part for him so far was some small talk between takes with the two lead stars.

"I got to talk (briefly) to Shia and Megan," Qian said. "That would probably be the coolest."

LaBeouf asked him how he was doing, he said, and the three of them went over how not to run into each other during a panicked exodus from a building.

Bay, the director of last year's "Transformers" movie and the new one in the making, said the first two days of filming on and near the Princeton campus have gone very well.

The film crew is scheduled to wrap up its Princeton work today.

In a brief interview outside Princeton's Whig Hall during a catered lunch break for the cast and crew yesterday, Bay shed a little light on Princeton's role as a setting in the "Transformers" sequel.

The university angle to the plot "is all about Sam growing up and going to college ... a teenager growing into a man," Bay said.

Sam is college student Sam Witwicky, LaBeouf's character in the special-effects-packed film about warring good and evil robots from another planet that come to Earth disguised as cars, planes, trucks and other machines.

In the first movie, Witwicky and his love interest, Mikaela Banes (played by Fox), help the faction of good robots, the Autobots, in their battle against the evil Decepticons.

As the battle continues in the second film, LaBeouf and Fox reprise their roles. Although both characters have grown from high school- to college-age since the first "Transformers" installment, only LaBeouf's Witwicky is off to college because Fox's Banes can't afford school, Bay said.

With Witwicky enrolled at a fictional East Coast school with an Ivy League feel, Banes comes from Los Angeles as a visitor to her friend's new campus, Bay said.

Campus scenes were shot at both Princeton and, earlier this month, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Bay, who said the Princeton campus reminds him of his alma mater, Wesleyan University, said he decided to put Princeton in the movie (though it won't be called Princeton) because the campus is so beautiful.

"I just love the look of the university," he said.

Neither the university nor representatives for the filmmakers would divulge how much DreamWorks is paying to do some of the filming here.