The Chicago Tribune Talks to Michael Bay

Posted on Jul 27, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Transformers Director Michael Bay, by Nelson Lauren for Michael Bay Dot Com.

Michael Bay talks ‘Transformers 3’ on set in Chicago

As Mayor Richard Daley stood on Michigan Avenue in shock after watching a series of explosions go off on the set of “Transformers 3” July 17, director Michael Bay — no stranger to things that go “boom” — stood next to the wide-eyed mayor and laughed.

“His face was funny to watch,” Bay recalled during a break from filming on Wabash Avenue and Wacker Drive Sunday afternoon. “He was in shock, like ‘That didn’t hurt anybody? It looked very dangerous.'”

Bay has built a career on making action scenes look dangerous, and, in the case of the Michigan shoot, destructive. The usually photogenic street looked like it had been hit by a natural disaster when Bay brought “Transformers 3” there from July 16-18, with junkyard-bound cars and charred, fake chunks of cement scattered around the area.

The 45-year-old director and his production team began talking about Chicago as a potential location for the “Transformers” sequel in late October/early November. They liked that it was new territory for Bay and had a “wide” structure. (“We can show off the city more and have spectacular attacks that we couldn’t have in cities that are more canyon-like,” said producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura). The tax incentives offered by the city didn’t hurt either, they said.

A scout was sent to Chicago immediately, and by December, Bay and company were meeting with Daley. During the mayor’s visit to the Michigan Avenue set, Bay reminded him of a past conversation the two had.

“I told him, ‘Remember how I told you I was going to make your city beautiful? Well, I kind of lied,’ ” Bay said. “But it will look beautiful in the movie. It’s in the third act.”

Filming in Chicago began on LaSalle Street July 10 and is expected to continue in the city through August 23. Plot details have been scarce — “I don’t say much,” Bay said — but it has been reported that the film deals with the Transformers’ role in the space race between the U.S. and Russia.

On Sunday afternoon, Bay filmed actors Shia LaBeouf and Patrick Dempsey on top of a pile of what appeared to be building remnants. Bay stood on the pile of rubble with the film stars and yelled “More smoke” as he motioned up with his hands.

“He is very much in command of what he wants to do and how he wants to do it,” di Bonaventura said of Bay. “He’s a little more intense on set — I mean, he has a lot of people — but he’s a fun guy to be around. Even in middle of a take, he has a joke.”

As busy as he is with the robots in disguise (between takes, Bay ate off of a plate sitting on a monitor), he has taken notice of the spectators standing behind barricades downtown. He said the large crowds have been the biggest surprise of the Chicago shoot and added that he enjoys hearing them cheer after an action-packed stunt.

“I look at other movies, and there’s not that,” Bay said. “I heard one director complain that nobody ever comes to see their movie. Maybe it’s the (Transformers) franchise. It has a lot of fans and is kind of a big spectacle.

“We had someone here Skype-ing — they were holding their laptop out the window — with a camera on us,” said Bay, pointing at a floor of the Hotel Monaco high above South Water Kitchen. “Women were flashing us as well. Chicago has been amazingly receptive.”

Um, you’re welcome?

Fewer than three weeks into the shoot, the crew already has filmed car chases on LaSalle Street, fireballs on Michigan and gunfire-heavy battle scenes on Wacker.

According to producer Ian Bryce, the most nerve-wracking stunts to film were the basejumping and skydiving scenes.

“Having guys jump off helicopters and (Willis Tower and Trump Tower) is very unusual,” Bryce said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff, but we haven’t had that. That’s a little scary and unnerving. But logistically and aesthetically, it went great.”

Bryce felt the Chicago shoot is “definitely the most complicated shutdown we’ve tried to orchestrate,” which is why he said he was grateful things have run so smoothly and accident-free — for the most part.

“I got hit by gigantic, gigantic piece of foam,” said Bay, laughing, as his cast waited for his signal to start the next scene. “It fired too late and wacked me in the head while I operated a camera. It gave me a neck ache for three days.”

The interview ended on that anecdote and Bay, not one to waste time, was back to work before the tape recorder stopped.

“OK guys,” Bay shouted. “Let’s go.”

Source: Chicago Tribune

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