Budgeted shy of $200m, this adaptation of the popular toy and subsequent animated series is destined to be a bona fide hit if reaction at recent screenings is anything to go by. The story of two groups of robots battling it out as a young boy gets involved making the transition from geek to hero, is likely to strike a chord with audiences worldwide."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 law and I was amazed. I've been offered a lot of superhero movies before and nothing's really appealed to me. But it just hit me that if I make this really real. That 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. OK? 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's that going to affect kids?' I know there are Transformer fans that are like forty years old."
How much would you say was improvised here and what about the 'Armageddon' joke that we get in the movie? "Well that's just me. I'm like, 'OK, this kid is so funny.' I'm like 'Dude you've got to say this, alright?' He's just funny. So, you guys all laughed right? Yeah I'll often add jokes along the way. Like a perfect example, because I will always hire actors that have a good improve skill. Like Nic Cage in The Rock. There was really nothing funny in The Rock in the script. And that was all through improv and 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 in the bedroom when he was hiding the robots. In the script it said 'Maybe he's MAS' and like that was the joke. And that's pretty lame. So we actually brought 'em in the room and we just started this whole masturbation talk. And that's because the mom is such an amazing New York, actress - she's in New York plays."
I believe that you said you had no nostalgia for the Transformers. Did that make it easier to make the film like a doctor operating on a stranger versus a friend? "Well listen, I'm a huge Transformer fan now. I can officially say I probably should have thought more about robots on earth than anyone in the past year and a half. But yeah I actually think that because I wasn't a fan, I think makes it more accessible to other people, you know? Does that make sense?"
I guess because you're coming in fresh the way people who aren't familiar with it "Right. You know, and like Megatron was a gun. And I'm like 'Oh, it's gotta be - I don't get that' and I did get a lot of flack from fans on the net. Like 'Michael Bay, you wrecked my childhood'. 'Michael Bay, you suck'. 'We're going to protest at his office'. They protested my old office, apparently. That's true. You know, but that's freaked me out. But, you know, I would listen to fans on the net. I really would. I would kind of hear their comments but I'm still going to make my movie and I'll still put flames on Optimus."
There's already talk of a 'Transformers II' ... 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 Paramount's right behind you, so - he can probably kill me. I don't know what I'm doing right now. There's no script right now."
But you are directing 'Prince of Persia'? "I don't know. No, I don't know. I honestly don't know."
How did the disaster that turned out to be 'The Island' affect how you approaching this one? "You know, I liked The Island and the thing is the reaction to The Island, it worked really well overseas. And I knew it would never be a smash because it's not that type of movie. And I continually have so many people come up to me and say 'God that movie's so good' but no one new about it in America. I mean I asked five hundred people before it came out. They didn't even know when it was coming out. You saw our poster campaign, we had a muddled campaign. I knew we were in trouble with that movie domestically like four months out. And I kept saying 'You should go with the Warners campaign' which did the forum so it was a whole kind of, Michael calls 'em studio marketing."
Can you tell us a little bit about the casting of Shia and also what you see as the underlying theme or message if there is one in this movie? "Well, the underlying theme to me is really 'No sacrifice, no victory' and that was something that I wanted to nail. I thought it was, my movies often deal with the hero archetype and the boy becoming a man, kind of like Nic Cage becoming a hero in The Rock or Shia, same thing. It's just kind of, 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. And I had seen him in that - I had only seen one of his movies, Constantine. And I thought 'He's interesting but he looks so old'. And Ian Bryce, one of my producers, says 'You should look at this kid, Shia.' And I'm like 'OK.' And he was coming in and I saw some of his other movies and I really liked 'em. And then I talked to Steven. I said 'Have you seen Shia?' and he goes 'Oh yes he's great. I love Shia.' And he came in for the audition and he just, he nailed and I liked his improve skill."
"I liked how he was very able to take direction and mould and he was kinda - I didn't want the geek, you know. What I like about Shia, when I think every guy's been in that circumstance by the pond or the lake where the stud comes up to you and gives you shit and instead of doing, he comes right back with wit and humour and every guy likes him right then and there, I think. I mean, do you guys think so? You know, I don't think there's a kid today that could have done a better job. He's a pain in the ass to work with, let me tell you."
"Let me tell you a funny story. I always like to put my actors in real circumstances. And we had him, there was a seventeen story downtown with a statue and my producer says 'How do you want to shoot that?' He goes 'We're going to do a blueskin right?' And I said 'Nah, f**k. We're going to put him up there.' And we put him on wires, alright? And we rigged it, very safe, but there was only four inches of stand on and Shia's like 'Yeah I think I can do it. I'm going to go up there. So we're ready to go and he goes, and mind you I would never go out there on my own. I would never do this. Bu he goes 'Oh man I can't get up there. I can't get up there.' I said 'Dude you're going to embarrass yourself in front of the whole crew' aright? 'You get paid way more than those kids on Fear Factor. Get the fuck up there. So he did it and it was really scary but it's, you know, he was on cloud nine when he did it."
Do you ever foresee a time when you might want to do a little intimate low budget character study of some kind? "I've got this one I keep trying to do it, called Pain Again. It's a really funny character story. I keep talking about it. We're going to be here next year and we're going to talk about it again. And it's like I just I just keeping saying 'Yes' and do these big movies. Sometimes it's a fear of like 'Are big movies going to go away?' So, you know, Hollywood is kind of tough right now so I don't know."
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