Interview: Michael Bay Talks Transformers II, The DVD, Extra IMAX Footage, and the "Autobot Twins"
I've recently come to a realization that allows me to finally appreciate director Michael Bay: He knows he's making big, loud movies that sell tickets because they're big and loud instead of smart and character-driven. He's OK with that. He's an entertainer. He wants you to be entertained. Some continue to attack his movies for their inanity, their lack of substance, their seeming deficit of logic and reason, but such complaints are starting to seem a little pointless, aren't they? People want to see big and loud, and it turns out that nobody does that better than Bay. Toss in a little manipulative melodrama and -- voila! -- you've got a summer blockbuster like, say, Armageddon, Bad Boys, Transformers, or his latest, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Want a quick review of the movie? It's big. It's loud. It's short on substance, logic, reason. And it's freakin' awesome because Optimus Prime kicks more ass than he ever has before! Here's what the beloved/loathed filmmaker had to say about Shia LaBeouf losing some of his hand in the middle of the production, Megan Fox's role as eye candy, and being a "big-ass director" (President Obama's words, not mine).
Cole Haddon: Shia LaBeouf suffered a pretty severe hand injury during the production. Result of that car accident he was in. How did that affect the movie?
Michael Bay: Well, I actually read it on CNN online, and I'm like, "This can't be true." I called my line producer, Ian Bryce, and he goes, "It's true." And I'm like, "Oh, my god." He goes, "Let's shut down." I'm like, "We can't shut down." Because when you've got a train going, it's so expensive to shut a picture like this down. We had an action scene in the library that day we were shooting, Monday. I said, "Let's just go for it. Let's just not stop. Let's use Vlad, his stuntman, and we'll try to cover as much stuff as we can."
Then on Tuesday, we shut down, and we had to mix and match everything, pulling from different scenes we could shoot without him. We didn't know how long he was going to be down. And immediately I had them find the best people in the world to make a special cast that had never been made with these Kevlar fingers, very thin so you could photograph it because the problem was, if he were to jam his fingers, he could lose his fingers forever. So we had some experts of the world kind of come up with this design.
CH: Did it set many things back?
MB: We were very lucky.
CH: And Shia was okay with the cast?
MB: We'd have arguments. He would take his cast off, and I said, "Put your cast on." He said, "No. I'm fine." I said, "Put your cast back on!" We were just trying to protect the hand.
CH: A lot of attention has been given to Megan Fox as the eye candy in this movie. Obviously, you recognize that, too, judging by that first shot of her in short shorts bent over a motorcycle.
MB: If you look at the movie, we got that first shot out of the way just to get it out for the young boys and move on. "OK? All right?" the rest of the movie with her is not about sexy.
Note to reader: Megan Fox has several slow-mo running sequences, which kind of contradicts Bay's claims that the rest of the movie with her "is not about sexy."
CH: You destroy so much property, even ancient ruins in this movie. That's certainly what we expect from a Michael Bay movie, but is there ever a point where you think, "I can't do this"?
MB: It's called summer fun. It's a robot movie.
CH: Can you talk about your inspiration for the ghetto-fied, argument-prone Autobot twins? They steal a lot of scenes.
MB: Well, I wanted two kind of younger Transformers. What's interesting when you work with voice actors is, especially with the twins, they did a lot of improv for their parts. We liked their improv and from there, we would animate for their stuff. When you do character animation, when you're building a character, it's not like an actor where you shoot the scene, and you got it, and you move on. With character animation, you shoot a bit of the dialogue, you work with the animators, and then a little bit more of the dialogue, and you keep going back and forth, and it kind of builds until you finally have the shot that you want. But I just wanted something that would appeal to younger kids, and it seemed to really gravitate to those two characters. [They're] like the little engine that could with the Devastator scene.
CH: Those scenes atop the aircraft carrier are amazing. I doubt you used stock footage, so did you actually get access from the military to shoot those?
CH: You name drop President Obama in the movie. Can you talk about the decision to do that?
MB: The Obama thing came about because I was walking in a Vegas airport, and he was walking by himself, carrying his bag and his hanging bag over his shoulder. This was after I'd just seen him in the beginning of his campaign, and we were walking side by side. I said, "Hey, I saw you the other night, and I liked what you had to say. I really like hearing your stuff." I introduced myself, and he said, "What do you do?" "I'm a director." He said, "What movies?" I said, "Oh, these movies..." He said, "Oh, you're a big-ass director. I've seen a bunch of your movies." So that's why I decided to put him in.
CH: Did he really say "big-ass director"?
MB: Yeah, he really did.
CH: Rumor has it the IMAX version has more footage than the regular version. Is that true?
MB: Actually, the IMAX version, with film time if you want to talk, is 2 hours and 20 minutes exactly. It has, I think, probably about a minute more of footage. It's got some more fighting footage that took place in the forest, some additional stuff with Devastator. I haven't [even] seen it in IMAX [myself yet]. I'm excited to see that. It wasn't ready until this weekend.
CH: Any plans yet for the DVD and Blu-ray?
MB: This one will be done by Ridley Scott's DVD guy, who's great, so we're going to have a lot of stuff on this.
CH: How do you go about incorporating the IMAX footage into those?
MB: We're going to do a special IMAX skew where it'll open up for those scenes. You can see top to bottom.
CH: And when will you start thinking about Transformers 3?
MB: I told everyone that I'm definitely going to do another movie before I do this movie, because I've just been thinking of robots for three and a half years. It's enough right now.
CH: You've often said you wanted to do a smaller Pulp Fiction-esque movie. Is that still the case?
MB: Well, I keep trying to do it, but Transformers came about, and then another Transformers, so now it's time to do something different. I'm excited to have this one done. Literally finished it last week.