By now you’re probably wondering if this “Transformers” interview madness will ever end on Collider. The fact is I’m almost done and starting tomorrow you’ll start to get some interviews for “Evan Almighty”, “Eagle vs. Shark,” “You Kill Me,” “License to Wed,” “Hairspray” and a lot more. I’ve got so much to post I don’t know where to begin.
But that’s a problem for tomorrow, as right now it’s time for some
Posted below is the transcript of the great press conference that Michael gave at the “Transformers” press day. Every journalist covering the press day was there so you’re bound to read the same quotes all over the net. I think I’m getting it up before most so hopefully it’ll be new for most of you.
While sometimes press conferences are a waste of everyone’s times, I absolutely recommend reading or listening to it. Michael talks about everything – the actual budget ($145 million), how he is able to make his movies look so expensive, how he got involved with the project, what’s he doing next, his test screening process – if you’re curious about what goes on in the mind of Michael Bay this interview is for you.
As always, you can download the MP3 of the press conference by clicking here.
The last thing to know is spoilers are discussed during this interview. You have been warned.
“Transformers” will kick your ass on July 3rd.
Question: I know my colleagues are going to have Transformers questions, but I wanted to know your reaction to Hot Fuzz which was so inspired by Bad Boys 2, and that you said that you were offered Die Hard 4 and I was wondering if this hadn’t come together would you have considered doing that?
How did you balance the needs of your vision as a filmmaker with those of Spielberg and those of the fans? I noticed that there are definitely some Spielberg elements to this film.
Listen, I make my own movie, I don’t have someone tell me what to do. I’ve always been inspired by Steven. I was not a Transformers fan before I signed on to this movie. I think I was two years older when the toys came out, so I just discovered girls then instead of Optimus Prime. But I quickly became after I went to Hasbro, where you heard about that Transformers school? I really thought, ‘What the fuck am I going to Hasbro for Transformers school? I thought I was going to learn how to fold up robots, but I met with the CEO and I went through the whole Transformer lore. I’ve been offered a lot of superhero movies before and nothing’s really appealed to me and in the room, because I’ve been such a fan of Japanese Anime it just hit me that if I make this really real it could be something very new and different. So I quickly became probably one of the bigger Transformer fans in the world, and I tried to make this movie for non-Transformer fans, okay, and I wanted it to be a little bit more, if you could say, adult, so I’m sure I’m going to get flack for – you made an edgy movie on a toy, how is that going to affect kids? I know there are Transformer fans that are 40 years old. Now that I’m rambling ….
One thing I kept hearing from this movie, from the actors is what a great actor’s director
No, listen, the sound byte – press is very weird, because a sound byte gets out there,
How much of what we see is improvised and what about the Armageddon joke?
Well, that’s just me, I’m like, okay, this kid is so funny running I’m like, ‘Dude, you’ve got say this.’ He’s just funny. You guys all laughed, right? I’ll often add jokes along the way. A perfect example, because I will always hire actors that have a good improv skill, like Nic Cage in The Rock, there was really nothing funny in The Rock in the script, and that was all through improv, just trying to work with the guys and try to make it funny. A good example in this scene was when the parents knocked on the door of the bedroom when he’s hiding the robots, in the script it said, ‘Maybe he’s mas …,’ and that was the joke, and that’s pretty lame. So we actually brought him in the room and we just started this whole masturbation talk, and that’s because the mom’s such an amazing
She just won the Tony Award.
Did she really?
Best Actress in a Play, beat Angela Lansbury and Vanessa Redgrave. Julie White.
I know it’s Julie White (everyone laughs).
I believe it was Don Murphy said you had no nostalgia for these Transformers – does that make it easier to make the film, like a doctor operating on a stranger versus a friend?
Listen, I’m a huge Transformer fan now, I can officially say I’ve probably thought more about robots on earth than anyone in the past year and a half. Yeah, I actually think that because I wasn’t a fan I think makes it more accessible to other people, does that make sense? Megatron was a gun, and I’m like, ‘I don’t get that,’ and I did get a lot of flak from fans on the net, like, ‘
That helped because when they were fighting I knew it was Optimus?
You see. Thank you.
But you gave them lips.
Well, because, you know we did a lot of facial studies, and emotion is so hard without that kind of movement. We tried it solid, it just didn’t look right.
There’s talk that they’re hoping to get Transformers 2 if this one is a success, as everyone’s assuming it’s going to be, sometime next year but aren’t you going to be busy with Prince of Persia?
I don’t know, I leave my negotiation open, because the President of
But you are directing Prince of Persia?
I don’t know, I don’t, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I’m unemployed right now. I finished the movie like a week ago.
You mentioned the tone of the film, I was wondering how you managed to balance between what seems to be a somewhat normal recognizable action film with the Transformers.
When Steven called me a year and a half ago, he said I want you do direct Transformers, it’s a story about a boy who buys his first car. To me that was a great hook. I hung up and said thank you, I’m not doing that stupid, silly toy movie, but I thought about it, the hook was great because that’s such a launching ground from a young adult into manhood or womanhood. I liked the simplicity of it, okay, it just made it somewhat more accessible. If you notice, I shot this movie kind of generic, I’ve never in my life shot at a Burger King, or a guy riding on a pink bicycle, or a house that’s kind of very suburbia. But it just makes it more acceptable and accessible to the ultra-slick uber-action around it. The charm of the movie is to me in thinking about it was – I kept having this image of this kid trying to hide robots from his parents by his house, and that just suck in my head as we were writing the script, so to me that was the whole charm of it. I don’t think I even answered your question.
With the mixed reaction to The Island does that effect how you made this film?
You know, I liked The Island and – the thing is the reaction to The
Did you change your attitude?
No, the thing is you get right back on the horse again. There are so many directors, ‘Oh, it didn’t open. Oh my God, I’m over.’ And it’s like, you know what? Screw it. Get back on the horse, let’s go. So I finished The
Can you talk a little about the casting of Shia and also what you see is the underlying theme or message, if there is one, in this movie?
Well, the underlying theme to me is really no sacrifice, no victory. That was something I wanted to nail. My movies often deal with the hero arch-type and the boy becoming a man, kind of like Nic Cage becoming a hero in The Rock. Shia, the same thing, when he got to carry that cube and sacrifice his life. Your first question was, casting Shia. It’s very scary when you’re trying to hinge a whole movie on a kid. I had seen him in – I had only seen one of his movies,
Do you ever foresee a time where you might want to do an intimate low budget character study?
No, I’ve got this one I keep trying to do it, called Pain and Gain. It’s a really funny character story, I keep talking about it, we’re going to be here next year and we’ll talk about it again, I just keep getting gas to do these big movies. Sometimes it’s a fear of like are big movies going to go away? You know what I’m saying? Hollywood is kind of tough right now, so I don’t know.
What’s it about?
It’s about – it’s very Pulp Fiction-y, true story, it’s about these knuckleheads that kidnap and murder, searching for the American dream in all the wrong ways. It’s very funny. All true.
We’ve seen how James Cameron went from huge physical action movies to 3D films – can you ever see yourself moving in that direction?
Honestly, I think I’d want to shoot myself working on a blue screen stage. I did maybe one, two days of blue screen on this movie, I just hate it. It’s just I like doing things real and it’s just – it’s really hard to go there, you know?
Did 9/11 change the way you make action movies – I kept thinking of 9/11 with the plane going through the building – did that enter your mind at any point?
Are you kidding lady? That’s a silly question. Of course it, of course it entered my mind. I don’t even want to go there. Let’s go onto the next question.
I liked the women in this, they weren’t just hot babes, they were brainy, how conscious were you trying to appeal to a female audience, and were Josh and Tyrese chosen for being eye-candy.
I actually met with Josh for one of my Platinum Dunes movies and I really liked him. Got a sense of him in the room there, that was like four months prior, and this thing came up and it was a very efficient budget, I honestly didn’t – I had no money for stars, so I had to be very creative in picking people that I thought were going to break, and after meeting him I really liked him so I wanted to work with him.
And Julie White’s character was great too, they’re great women in this movie.
Awesome. She didn’t have that many lines in the movie and I just kept – Kevin and her were just funny, we just kept doing stuff. I just love his blue collar sensibility and I’ve always wanted to do that joke with the grass, that’s my lawyer, he does that to his kids, he doesn’t let them go on the grass.
So you were thinking about your female audience?
Of course, yeah, yeah, yeah.
As a filmmaking you seem to get more of your budget on screen than almost anyone else. You get $150 million it looks like $250 million – what’s your secret?
My secret is, I shoot very, very fast. An average director will shoot 20 set ups a day, I do about 75, and they’re real set ups, it’s not like – we work 12 hour days, I don’t go overtime, but we work very hard, I work with my same crew, I gave 30% of my fee because they were going to ship me to Canada or Australia, and I said, ‘No, I want to shoot with my guys.’ It’s a team that I’ve worked with for close to 16 years, and it’s just – I like to keep the movies in Los Angeles if I could, and especially keep them in the States, and the money – we just saved so much money, because I have really good people. I don’t know, we just make an efficient day. I think music videos give me a sense of – I’m able to shoot fast and when the shit hits the fan, which it always does on a movie, you’ve got to figure out your plan A and B, and I do this system called leapfrog. Like I said, the whole A.D. thing that gets out there,
How did you guys arrive at the tone of the film?
I think it was just my gut, I knew its Transformers, you can’t take it too seriously, but you wanted to give that sense of realism. That’s why the military involvement was very important, that we make it very real and credible. Like those guys in the AWAC those are all the real guys. I told them, this is what’s going down on the ground, what would you say? And literally within two minutes they were, ‘dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,’ I just photographed what they said. So I think you mix the realism with Tyrese being in the worst situation, and he says, ‘Man, if you could see this shit,’ that sounds real, but it comes in a funny way. I made little jabs here and there like, that’s way too smart for Iranians scientists, or, how much do you get bugged by these outsourcing calls, you know, the calls out there. It just bugs me. When I forget to pay my AT & T bill, I get a call, ‘Mr. Bay,’ and they’re calling from
Tyrese made a joke that he was running and dodging cars and everything and then he had to say a joke. As a director, you somehow manage to get real emotion in an action film. What is more important for you and is there a balance you are seeking?
Yeah, you want it to feel real. What I try to do, especially when actors are doing action stuff – the crew jokes – Ian, don’t you call it ‘Bayos’?
Ian Bryce: Yeah. Bayos is one of them.
Try to have a little bit of chaos. It’s very organized, but you get them a little fritzed, y’know? Because it just gives them more adrenaline. It’s a little bit of the unknown and they will have a lot of loud bombs and stuff like that on the set if that’s what it calls for. And I like to see the real emotion when they are inside these action scenes.
So what’s more important to you? Is it story or action?
No, it’s both. It’s a balance. It’s both.
You are your own AD is that because of the scale of the project or because you can’t find the people who work at the pace you want to?
I just love it. I dunno, it’s just my thing. It keeps me interested. My thing is I will get to set usually 45 minutes after everyone is there, because I don’t like people – watching them eat burritos and their eggs? I want to go to work. It’s like, so, they always go on the radio, ‘Bay’s coming in hot. He’s coming in hot.’ (Laughs.) It just keeps me really involved. That’s my thing, I dunno. That’s the creative things for me.
What was going through your head last night at that first screening?
We’ll I’ve got to apologize, the print was way oversaturated. Way too much color. Way too much red, so I was having a freak-out on that. We are trying to figure out what the problem was. Bad projector or something. But, I thought it was fun. I said, I mean, when I said, ‘You guys are the first in the
Was it loud enough for you?
Yeah, I turned it down. (Laughs.) I said, ‘Turn it down. Turn it down’
Is it always stressful watching it on the screen in front of people for the first time?
Yes, it is so nerve wracking. Do you want me to describe the testing process? Real quick. I do little focus groups on my own. I’ll take like 30 kids into a screening room. I’ll do like 9-year-olds to 15-year-olds, and I did like 16 year-olds to 25 year-olds and I have someone who has nothing to do with the movie come in and say, ‘You can say whatever you want about this movie.’ I show it in rough form and they were great, because they will fill out little pages about what is confusing them, what lines they thought sucked. They are very blunt about it. And there was something where they hated Megan. She said one line and the women just turned off. And I’m like, ‘We’ve got to deal with that.’ And then I get to the big test in
John Turturro said that he based a lot of his character on you. (Laughs.) Wondering what you guys discussed?
No, I was scared to work with John Turturro. I was like, ‘Oh, John.’ He came out a little quirky. When he had that hat — that was the first day I worked with him – at the damn. I said, ‘I don’t know about this. I dunno.’ I dunno, I grew to really like working with John. I don’t know if he based it on me, but I do think criminals are hot by the way. No, I’m kidding. I dunno if he based it on me. He said that, but you should see his Scorsese imitation. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Michael, some of this movie plays like almost a recruiting vehicle for the military. Can you talk about all the military elements in the film that you said grounded the film more in reality?
Here’s the thing. You’ve got to have more than the external alien invasion. To make it credible, you have to have the military. I just don’t like when you see like an ‘Independence Day’ and they don’t get military support and you’ve got like a few jeeps and you’ve got this and everything is kind of mismatched and it’s all digital planes and it’s like, it’s just not credible. So you need that reality so you can ground this little kid’s story. I had a good relationship with them on ‘Armageddon’ and ‘
A lot of equipment and ships and planes going.
If you look at the theme, ‘No sacrifice, no victory.’ I think that’s how they see it. They just want to be treated credibly. They want it to be shown in a real light. If you are fighting Scorponok how would they do an air strike? So we literally show you how it happens?
So are the guys in the movie retired?
No, those were guys who have either taken leave. Some of them were actually going to get called back to
Can you talk about GM and the introduction of the new Camero?
O.K., I mean, I had $145 million. I needed to find a car company that can give me a bunch of vehicles and save me three million bucks. And I opened it up to every car company. And I have a relationship with GM because I’ve done commercials with them and they have helped me out on my other movies by giving me flood damaged cars or cars that had to be destroyed. And they took me to Skunkworks, which is where they do the prototype cars, it’s a secret place somewhere. And I saw that car and I said, ‘That’s Bumblebee.’ And, so, to help save $3 million and it was a great looking car.
We heard there was a GM guy on set who wouldn’t let them touch the leather, but when he wasn’t around you raced the car through gravel at 145 miles per hour.
No. We did have the one prototype. The prototypes are really hard because they cost like $5 million to make. We made our own, we had the cab out there with a celine chasse, and we made it in like six weeks in
PR person: This is the last question.
Couple more, couple more.
How have you changed as a filmmaker over the past few years?
I’ve gotten older, crankier. No, I’m not cranky. No, I don’t. I don’t. I crack a lot of jokes. I tease people. A little bit.
I mean, do you think this movie is different from your predecessors?
I mean, someone said to me in
This scene in the back yard is so wonderful and so much of that is comic timing. How did you create that comic timing with the characters not ‘being’ there?
What I do is I do a series of animatics, which are crude cartoons. And a movie really comes to life, I mean working with the writers and creating the script, but it all starts with the concept drawings. That becomes the tone of the movie. I showed Steven a picture of Megatron in the hanger and he’s like, ‘Omigod, I love it. That’s the movie!’ And I’m like, ‘I know.’ And that’s how you get the tone. It’s like you build off of there. So, in the backyard we kept coming up with the beats and whatnot. I think the dog peeing was something we made up. That’s where we tied a little string to his leg and lifted it up to nothing is there and they added in the squirt. It’s just really good to work with someone like a Shia or a Megan where they can actually see a cartoon and they are looking at window washer poles, which is tough. And, you just keep doing it.
Michael what directors do you like?
Oh, god. Everyone always asks me this question. It’s just, y’know, from Kubrick, I’ve always been a huge fan of the Cohen Bros. ‘Raising
When you were 10 or 8, who or what inspired you to believe in yourself to follow this idea that you could do something? Who was it and what did they tell you?
Who was it? I dunno. When I was young I wanted to be a veterinarian. And I remember raising money because they took me to a place where they gassed the dogs and the cats and I was like, ‘Omigod, I can’t believe this exists in the world.’ I’ve had many different interests. I wanted to be a magician. So, I was inspired by that, but I realized there was no money in being a magician. So, I gave it up and I liquidated all my tricks to another competing group that was 12. (Laughs.)
But you continued to dream. Who kept you going?
I think it was my parents, really. They kind of encouraged me to do art. I bought a camera when I was 13. I just loved taking pictures. So, it was really my parents. I mean my dad was an accountant and I remember, this is funny, when I was young I was a big baseball player, but I had this model train set and I would go into my world and make it very detailed Ho Gage train set. And I remember one summer I spent 8 months building the thing. Fully detailed and I’d go into my imaginary world. And my dad and mom came into the bedroom one day and they go, ‘Son, we think you need to get out more.’ (Laughs.) So, that’s where I started imagining. I think the train sets are were I made my own little movies in my head.
So you took it down the street for a walk and it worked.
If this film is a monster hit, are you willing to jump back into a sequel and what characters you’d like to bring to the franchise?
I mean I have some really cool things that I came up with for the first one that was just too expensive. Stuff that was really cool, but Steven was right, ‘No, we should pull back and not have as many robots so you can really focus more.’ I mean I wish I really got to into some of the faces more of some of the robots. But I really think it was Steven who said, ‘I think we should make it like 5 against 5 or 5 against 6.’ Or something like that. So, it was good we scaled back a bit.
But would you be willing to jump right back in to a sequel?
Maybe a little break. But, we have to come up with a good story first.
You were talking about Tyrese earlier. You kept asking him to keep his clothes on…
He kept taking his underwear off in front of me. I don’t know what that was about. (Laughs.) No, I’m kidding.
Can you talk about how he came to the film?
Tyrese – I think he came on my set of ‘Bad Boys’ when we were in
What was it about him that made you choose him?
Y’know, he’s got this great smile. He’s this sweet guy. There is something studly about him. I just thought he was accessible, y’know?
The special effects guy said this was the first giant robot movie. Were you conscious about creating a new movie subgenre?
Well, let me tell you, these robots didn’t come out good at first. It was hard. It was not all peaches and cream at ILM. There were a lot of angry phone calls like, ‘We have to do better. We have to do better.’ They thought they were settling on something and I was like, ‘Nope. This is unacceptable.’ I just kept pushing them and pushing them and pushing them, but we came up with a really a good visual thing. I wanted them not to be clunky, lumbering robots. I looked at a lot of kung fu movies. I wanted them to have a different type of movement so I would just clip different things from different movies and I’d reference those to the animators on how they would move. What was your question again?
Were you conscious of creating a new subgenre?
Yeah, because if they sucked, if they were horrible than the movie was doomed or is doomed. So, you’ve got a lot of pressure they’re trying to make it work. And you’ve got pressure from the fans saying ‘You wrecked our childhood’ and all this about, complaining ‘We don’t like the look of them.’ You just had to hold to your guns. You just had to I just, y’know, the fans just wanted me to literally take these cartoons and blow them up. And it’s like literally the equivalent of ‘Ghostbusters’ with the Marshmallow man. It just wouldn’t work. They needed to be much more complex the way they are. Y’know?
You made a reference about being afraid big movies were going away?
I dunno. You know what it is? You do a movie and then you are unemployed, you know what I’m saying? So, it’s just like – I dunno. It’s just. I think
It’s a big summer for the movie industry.
I know. That’s good. A lot of people are going to the movies.
But you don’t think that’s going to continue?
Yes, it will. (Laughs.) It’s just good to think it will never…