Exclusive Interview with Peter Cullen

     June 9, 2007

If you had told me when I was growing up that one day I’d be able to interview Peter Cullen – the voice of Optimus Prime – I wouldn’t have believed you. While Transformers weren’t everyone’s choice as the cool toy, they were mine. Even when you compare the early Transformers toys to the crap they have on store shelves now, there is no comparison as those early 80’s toys win hands down. Look at that first Optimus Prime toy and tell me it’s not a work of art.

Now that you know how I feel about “Transformers,” you’d understand my reaction to Paramount offering to let me ask Peter a few questions on the upcoming movie.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave you know that Michael Bay is directing a live action “Transformers” movie and it arrives on July 3rd. Once again Peter Cullen is doing the voice of Optimus Prime and he is also doing the voice for the upcoming video game. Since he was doing both I decided to ask questions about everything during the interview.

The interview was done viathe phone. Since the only way I could record it was putting the recorder near the speaker, the quality isn’t as good asif he was in the room. But it’s still good enough to listen to and you might want to as he opens and closes the interview as Optimus. You can click here to download it as an MP3.

During the interview I ask all the questions that I wanted to know as a fan – what was it like to return to the character, how did Michael Bay direct you, did he get to add his own lines, has he seen the final film, and tons of other questions. If you grew up with “Transformers” or you just want to get some new info you’ll like the interview.

And before getting to it, I’m reposting a video EPK that Activision provided me that has Peter on camera and talking about the video game. If you want to see him deliver the lines as Optimus you should watch it. After that is the interview.

Once again thanks to Paramount for setting this up and also to Peter Cullen, who may be reading this very interview.

Peter Cullen – This is Optimus Prime. I’m doing very well. How do I sound on speaker?

Frosty: You sound pretty good. So can you tell us what was it like to get back into the studio to record the voice for the feature film?

Well, certainly a lot different from the 1st feature film that I did and I’m glad I can (loud beeping sound) I’m not getting whacked this time and that’s always good news. It was a wonderful experience and quite frankly a long on-going experience and all very, very good memories. So it’s all going to come to fruition on July 4th or 3rd or whenever it is—the midnight showing on July 3rd or something. Then we’ll really know.

I was going to ask you—are you planning on attending any of these screenings on July 3rd? Are you going to try to drive around and watch it with an audience?

Well, unfortunately I will not be in California then I will be going to the premier I’m told and then I fly to Rhode Island for the Bot Con and there will be a showing there that I will be attending along with some of the other Transformer crew. Then having the Hasbro people with their itinerary so that’s all coming about that same… on that weekend.

Can you talk about working for Michael Bay and was he very involved in the recording process? Was he giving you specific notes?

Working with Michael Bay number one was a thrill. It was an adrenalized thrill because he’s wonderful. I’m always excited and happy to be with people that generate that kind of talent and enthusiasm and vision. He had all of it and to work with him was a creative thrill, he has a tremendous vision. He sees things in his brain and he transmits that to you and over a period of time his importance wears even heavier because you begin to understand what he’s going for and it’s a collaborative effort.

Were there any specific notes? You’re obviously very familiar with the character but was there ever a moment he was really telling you to do certain things?

Oh yeah and with good reason. Although he’s a man of very few words he doesn’t waste any and he makes himself well understood. There was a moment when we discussed Prime’s ability to be funny and because he wanted it and in his mind you don’t question it. You just go with it and you find out after you’ve experienced that avenue that it’s fabulous. God, this is great. Gives him another dimension, makes him more believable. There were instances like that that happened on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed working with him.

Was there ever a time that you were able to inject any of your own lines into the film or was it all…did you have to follow the script word for word?

Well, certainly the writers provided every opportunity to let me do that but my trust in the writers and even Michael Bay’s spontaneous writings were always wonderful. They were always one with the original concept and never strayed very far away from where the whole group of guys would sit down and talk about because everything had to be adjusted on a technical level. We can’t do this because of that or we can do this because of that. You’re confined to industrial light and magic and what can these robots do and what can’t they do? So I always put my complete trust in the writers and Orci and Kurtzman — these are brilliant, brilliant people.

I was going to ask you have you found recently that you get recognized by fans more than in the past with the Internet and with DVD’s.

Well, I’m not sure what kind of recognition. I mean, certainly not visual. I don’t think anybody recognizes me on a visual level.

Has anyone ever heard your voice and looked at you funny?

No, not really. I don’t talk like Prime in real life. This is me, the way I sound and I’ll drop Prime down another octave to get him.

I saw what you did with the…I posted actually the Activision video interview that you did and you were talking about the video game and you demonstrated how you do the voice.

Did you see an Activision….who was I with? Was that with Frank Welker or is this another one?

No, it was like an EPK piece regarding you doing the game and at the tail end of the piece it was you saying roll out and it featured you on camera saying the line.

Ok, now I got ya.

It was a good piece. I’m actually going to re-run it when I post this interview.

Oh, that’s fantastic. I’ll have to get your…you’re Collider?

I am Collider. Yes.


Yes, exactly.

Great. I’ll look forward to looking at that. Did I answer your question?

About …which one?

The voice?

Oh no, definitely. I was going to ask you when you go to the Bot Con in Rhode Island, have you met a lot of fans before at these kind of conventions. I’m not familiar if you have and what’s the typical thing that they ask you?

Well, nothing really typical. I have met a lot and they’ve been varied. The experiences are extremely varied. Some emotional and with great depth and other ones just genuine gratitude, you know, and thanks. It’s all very humbling to me and I take it very seriously and I feel it quite to my core so but as I said they’re very different and they all combine that overall same feeling of we’re all connected on way or another, you know. The fan base is responsible for my reprisal and that’s something that I just cherish. There’s a connection because it’s something that I artistically … I look at this as an actor and I have to use the word artistic because it’s a creative process. It sounds a little fishy but still, they reacted to my creative concept and we’re bonded because of it. It was one of those wonderful things in life. You click and I certainly feel that with people that feel an affection for Prime.

Continued on the next page ——–>


Have you been able to see the final film or have you just seen a rough cut?

No, I haven’t seen either. I’ve seen portions. What I have seen is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been told by some people who have seen a great deal of it that it is incredible. I don’t think there’s any hype out there whatsoever that isn’t genuine. Thoroughly the people that have witnessed are completely honest when they say this is incredible. They say it to me with a sense of so much truth in their mouth. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that viewing audience.

Did you just play Prime in the film or did you play any of the other roles?

Nope, just Prime.

Of course I have to ask, have you already said maybe next year there might be a sequel because I’ve heard rumors of a trilogy.

I’ve been told they’re already in the plans for a number 2 and conceivably 3 would be on it’s way because they’re going to be from reports at hand that once….it’s extremely expensive to do 10,000 moving parts in 1 character and once they get a little bit of a poke you know, a good amount of money that the next one is going to be twice as much. So I think that’s pretty exciting.

I was going to say this is the film unlike…it’s not a sequel. It’s one of the only original films of the big-budget summer.

Yeah, it’s not a sequel.

And do you ever go and see all the toys and this is just a random question but do you ever go see all the toys in the store and feel a little bit of sense of ownership on Prime?

Yeah, you know it’s funny. There’s some sentiment attached to that but I get more of a thrill when I go to some of these conventions. I’ve been to a handful and they have the toy fair kind of thing from antique toys and Prime’s for example. I even bought one one time. I paid full price for it. It duplicated the one that I had for years but my kids got into and over the years they kind of got mangled you know from playing with it, but I still love it. I cherish that one for all its bruises and everything but the amount of toys I see at these conventions are just incredible. I’m like a kid too. I just say, geez here’s a good one, oh, here’s Iron-head. I want to get him. I’m just like everybody else.

I guess I want to ask you about Optimus in the feature because none of us has seen the movie, is he played like the way it was in the cartoon or in the ’86 movie or is he a whole new Optimus?

No, he’s exactly the same. He was built on the components that the original writers gave him which was the brilliant traits of these guys found. They stuck to it. Prime is Prime. He hasn’t changed. He still stands for all the things that made him successful and popular and loved by so many people. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. It would be impossible I think to stray away from Prime because he stood for so many good things and still does.

Also can you talk about the involvement with the video game and being able to work with Frank as Megatron?

It’s one of the best experiences of my life and working with Frank is one of the great, great thrills. I love the man. He’s such a huge talent and our reunion and being directed by Carl Weathers from Rocky fame you know Apollo Creed, we had sensational times. The video game—I’ve seen portions of it—it’s brilliant, the designers, the guys that conceptionalize it. You can place yourself in as a good guy or a bad guy. There’s one-on-one with Prime and I think it’s going to be a fascinating thing. I wish I had something like that when I was a kid because it could transport me right into an imaginary world that I was capable of anyway but this to me is a dream for kids today.

Did you have like a ton more dialogue in the video game or was it…?

Yeah, and just looking at the specs because in the game of course I talk on-on-one with the player and sometimes as the character or sometimes to give advice or you know slow down you’re going too fast. You know, things like that, which I think is great and I was told sometimes it’s more fun to be the bad guy.

I guess my final question is in the video game, did they have any sort of mandate from Paramount to be careful about certain things? Did they have any sort of guide that they had to follow in making the game or did they pretty much know the characters and they weren’t going to overstep anything?

I’m not sure who the powers would be whether it would be Paramount or …I think it would be Hasbro who were more in control. I’m sorry I can’t answer that question precisely but quite frankly I don’t really know but I can say that Hasbro has a huge amount of control over it and it’s that collaborative effort with whoever else is involved in it. It may or may not be Paramount, I’m not sure. Paramount I know is movie and the game I think is Activision and Hasbro.

I guess I have to ask just at the end and you don’t have to but is there any way you could do any sort of plug for Collider.com?

Collider.com. All right here’s a fast one. Are you ready?

Sure, thank you.

You are looking at Collider.com. Don’t scroll out, don’t scroll down. Stay with it. This is Optimus Prime.

Thank you so much and have a fantastic day and I’m sure I’ll be talking to you next year for Transformers II.

Steve, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you, sir.

Thank you so much.

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