2007's 'Transformers' film may have seemed less a movie and more an event, but as a movie, the numbers don't lie: With a $700 million take globally and a spot in the Top 50-grossing films of all time, it's place in history is assured. And now comes the sequel. Same director, same cast, same scene-stealing robots with more than meets the eye...
On the eve of the release of Transformers: Rise of the Fallen, director Michael Bay and stars Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, and Ramon Rodriguez all sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier and if the film is anything like as much fun as their conversation, then box office records will tumble once again...
Emmanuel Itier: Let's start with the most obvious question: Megan, at any point during the filming of this film, did you ever think, “Really - I have to wear this?”
Megan Fox: Oh, yeah! I have those moments on a daily basis, but the process of picking those outfits, I don’t have much of a say. I remember that Mike was auditioning Ramon [Rodriguez] and some of the other characters, and there was just this roomful of men upstairs in his office…
Michael Bay: A few young guys.
MF: No, it was Shia [LeBeouf], Ramon, two other actors, and you. I had to come up and down and knock on the door and try on all my wardrobe, and I had like 18 different outfits. It was like white jean shorts and pink belly shirt and motorcycle boots. We went through a whole thing, and Mike was selecting them in the process of auditioning.
MB: It’s called multitasking.
MF: Right, but I had no say. Clearly he has an eye for what should be and should not be in the movie, so I just trust him.
MB: It’s called summer fun. It’s a robot movie.
EI: Kevin, do you feel your character shares the father role in this film with Optimus?
Kevin Dunn: As far as I know, he was conceived by myself. I don’t think Optimus got in there. I guess maybe there’s a parallel in the script that he needs the guidance of Optimus, and me he kind of blows off like kids regularly blow off their dad. But yeah, there’s a paternal aspect of both characters.
EI: Michael, what do you think is in here especially for the ladies that would make them want to see this movie?
MB: I think what was interesting about the first one is it’s got relationships with the parents and the kids. Kevin [Dunn] is actually playing my father. That’s very much how my parents were when I was growing up. What was making the movie accessible to everybody was the humor in it. I think that’s how you make it accessible to everyone. It’s not just a fanboy movie.
EI: What do you think most women hone in on then?
MB: Most women hone in on the humor. There are a lot of young women that say, “I just want to see robots kicking ass.” I’ve heard that before. I think the relationship between Shia and Megan…
Josh Duhamel: Tyrese offered to introduce himself in the second movie by doing a shirtless carwash scene on Optimus, but Michael didn’t go for it.
Tyrese Gibson: Thanks, Josh.
EI: I saw the IMAX version of the film and it was a little over two-and-a-half hours.
MB: Actually, the IMAX version film time, if you want to talk, is two hours and 20 minutes exactly.
EI: Does it have more than the regular screens? Is there more on the IMAX cut?
MB: 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 have not seen it in IMAX. How did it look?
MB: I’m excited to see that. It wasn’t ready until this weekend.
EI: What was your most memorable experience from working with the members of the military on the film?
MF: I think, in general, I was really pleasantly…not surprised with them, but they’re all extremely chivalrous and very respectful, clearly, because they’re disciplined. They’re so much better behaved than the rest of the cast is, including myself though. They listen and take direction really well, and we’re all just f*cking off.
MB: If they could all be like that…
MF: It adds authenticity to the movie. Michael, you consult with the military on everything to make it authentic and make it real, and I also just enjoy being able to walk on the set and there’s a hundred real soldiers as opposed to walking on and it’s a hundred actors from Orange County or L.A. in fatigues. It was just overall a really pleasant experience for me, and I have an immense amount of respect for the soldiers and for our troops.
EI: Did the military training differ from the first film?
TG: Honestly, the first go-round was so much more intense than the second because we went into it not knowing too much of anything about the Air Force, military, Navy SEALS… For me, I didn’t know the difference in the roles, the responsibilities of each one of the soldiers and the categories of soldiers. So I worked closely with someone called a CCT, which is a Combat Controller, because I have to have dialogue to communicate with all of the aircraft, so that dialogue is very difficult. With Michael overseeing the dialogue, we’ve got to make sure that we cater to the real authentic dialogue of the Air Force but yet create a balance of making sure that the common folks who don’t understand that language can understand it too, so it was a bit of a challenge, especially with all of the explosions and stuff going on around. A little challenge.
JD: The first one, we had a few days out in Fort Irwin, and the second time we jumped into it. I was in New York and we had a bit of a refresher course, but there are military advisors. Harry Humphries is out there. There’s a number of people from all facets of the military, and I think we both took a lot of pride in trying to represent the military as closely as we could. I’ve got a lot of friends in the military, an Aunt over in Iraq, so that was my main focus — to try to represent them all and make them proud. And if we didn’t, they would let us know, believe me.
EI: What were your favorite memories of making the movie in general?
TG: Compared to even the first one, I think our roles were so much more serious this time than the first round, because there are so many moments, comedic-wise, throughout the film. I guess the outcome was Michael wanted us to play it a little more serious to raise the stakes and the pressure of what’s really going on, which was fine. I enjoy doing the funny stuff to try and create a balance, but I just overall had fun with the experience, and we all vibed and were laughing and having big parties, good energy on the set. It’s so much pressure on the set because Michael runs a real tight ship, keeps everybody on the edge. Everybody’s full throttle. I’m like, look, man, if I don’t do a party, I’m going to go crazy right now. I try to keep everybody — the whole crew, the cast, everybody — having fun while we were working.
JD: He took the night shift. My favorite scene in the movie was throwing the National Security Advisor off the plane. That’s the most fun I had. It was just a fun scene to do and there was a nice little stunt involved. That was probably my most memorable — that or the gigantic bomb that went off.
MF: One thousand gallons.
TG: One thousand. We made history. The biggest practical explosion in the history of filmmaking that included actors.
MF: With the actors present, yes, but Michael holds the other record. You hold both records, don’t you?
MB: Yeah, let’s not talk about that.
MF: Okay, let’s not talk about it — sorry.
MB: That’s the world record.
TG: You’ve got local; you’ve got world.
EI: Michael, can you talk about your inspiration for the twins?
MB: I wanted two younger Transformers, but with those two guys, we used the guy who played SpongeBob and another actor. 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 you want. I just wanted something that would appeal to younger kids, and it seemed to really gravitate to those two characters. It’s like The Little Engine That Could with the Devastator scene.
EI: Megan, how do you react to seeing your image on a huge IMAX screen, and how do you feel about being a sex symbol?
MF: I haven’t seen the movie in IMAX, and I just saw it for the first time a few days ago when we were in London. I usually don’t watch myself. I don’t watch playback. I don’t look at still photos. I have a phobia of it, but I forced myself to sit down. I basically shot an entire glass of champagne so that I could get through the sitting of it. I was really pleasantly surprised, and halfway through was sort of overcome with genuine emotion, and I wanted to hug Michael because I had gratitude for him for making this movie. It so far surpassed my expectations. I think the character is sexy, but women in movies in general are sexy, and especially in Michael’s movies. He knows how to make movies that get people in the theater, and if that’s part of the formula…
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. Okay? Alright?
JD: That’s why you should consider that scene with Tyrese watching Optimus shirtless.
MB: I know. The rest of the movie with her is not about sexy.
EI: Has being in this movie changed your life at all?
MF: I think the movie, its success and how well it was received has opened a lot of doors for me career-wise, and I’ve been able to be a part of some films that I don’t really feel like I deserve to be a part of, and that is due greatly in part or solely to the success of Transformers. I just did Jonah Hex with Josh Brolin, Michael Fassbender, and John Malkovich. Actors in general just don’t get those kinds of opportunities. For me to have that is a huge blessing, and that’s because of the success of this movie.
EI: Anything about your daily life?
MF: Sure. Getting photographed at Whole Foods or coming out of Rite Aid with your shampoo bottles and stuff — that’s new for me, but that’s not that crazy. You adjust to that; you acclimate to that pretty quickly.
EI: Were there any injuries from running?
KD: Michael wanted to get this long shot of coming around and seeing Sam and running, and then getting this big beefo guy special agent tackling me and throwing me to the ground. So he talked me into it, and the whole secret was that I had to get my feet to land. We did it quite a few times.
MB: We did it three times.
KD: The last time, I just didn’t get my feet down.
MB: That’s the take we used.
KD: You’ll see that, and it was his shoulder and my sciatic nerve in the sand met at the same time. I missed Tyrese’s party.
TG: We were sad about that. I sprained my left pinky toe.
Ramon Rodriguez: I popped this shoulder, which was a lot of fun, on the Devestator scene. Oh yeah, bro.
MB: You didn’t tell me that.
RR: Well, I didn’t want to get you worried.
MB: You wanna sue me?
RR: No. So we were shooting the Devestator scene where he’s sucking all the sand, and I had to hold onto this pole. Michael Bay thought it would be a really great idea to bring out two fans that blow 100 miles per hour each and put them right in front of my face so I had sand, soot, and dirt blowing in my face, and I had two guys behind me with wires attached to my ankles pulling me. Not enough yet — we need cars flipping over my head. So we brought two cars, and he literally had them attached to a hydraulic crane flipped inches above my head. So the guys are yanking on the cables on my ankles and on one of the takes, my shoulder popped out. We continued rolling because you can use the shot.
MB: That was the shot we used.
RR: That was probably the shot you used, and thank you, Mike.
EI: Was it easier or harder this time to work with machines that weren’t always there?
MF: It was definitely easier because we’ve seen them at this point. We’ve seen Optimus and we’ve heard his voice, and we know how he moves. It’s the same with all the robots, and once you’re able to visualize something’s presence, it’s a lot easier to sort of fake-interact with it. I think those scenes are some of the easiest scenes to shoot. I enjoy them because we’ve gotten good at being able to synchronize and pick an eye-line. You basically scream your dialogue at it and you avoid the area where you know it is, and I enjoy those scenes. We end up usually doing a ton of takes because ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) needs to be specific. The light needs to be right, and you need to be able to add it in and make it look like the way they do. But it wasn’t that difficult this time around.
EI: There’s a lot of great music in the film. Did you ever play it on the set to get people in the right state of mind?
MB: Sometimes we do play music on the set, for some scenes. Some actors like it a lot. I don’t know what they do in their trailers.
JD: Mostly Abba.
KD: The Carpenters.
TG: Marvin Gaye.
EI: The shot from the aircraft — is that stock footage, or were you allowed to go on the aircraft?
MB: It terms of stock footage, I don’t like using it, so all that stuff was shot by us. We had incredible access from the military, which is very rare. All those planes — that’s us shooting it. They flew 100 feet over our set at a time. There were six F-16s out doing a mission, and we timed their mission for when we wanted them to come over our set four times. We were setting off live explosions down below. We timed it with them.
EI: How much of your Spanish was improvised?
RR: Luckily, Michael is really into improv, if you have cool ideas. I started realizing throughout the process that if he laughed at something, it meant it was pretty good. He’s really good as a director and being somewhat the audience member. We improv’d a lot of scenes, and he let me throw some Spanish in there and left Leonardo de Ponce de Leon… I got to create this fun name, and it was cool.
EI: After making a movie like this, where technology is causing so many problems, do you think twice about the technology you use in your own life — Twitter, your laptop, anything like that?
MB: I don’t know what Twitter is.
MF: Neither do I, by the way. I don’t have a Twitter page.
TG: I love Twitter.
MF: He’s the only one that has a Twitter.
TG: I took the fans on a world tour to all six, seven countries we went to, took pictures of all the historical places in Rome and Amsterdam, and I took all of them on tour with me. I told them, “Pull out your passports — I’m taking you on tour with Twitter.” I love it.
EI: What about it?
TG: It’s the instant gratification of posting a picture of us just hanging out somewhere or doing something, or all of these different moments throughout these countries. The fans are like, “Whoa.” They get to see these images and things that they wouldn’t be able to see unless you saved it on your Twitter. So I love it.
KD: Which is why many don’t hang with Tyrese, because you don’t want to get an embarrassing picture… “Here’s me with a tequila on my forehead.”
EI: Can you talk about your decision to use President Obama’s name instead of some fictional presidential name, especially in light of his National Security Advisor being kind of stupid?
MB: I wasn’t really putting that… Remember, it is summer fun, by the way. Secondly, 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.
JD: Did he really say “big-ass director”?
MB: Yeah, he really did.
TG: Josh is very involved in politics, by the way. All the time we were filming, he did not miss one speech, the polls, anything. We had so many conversations in the car on the way to the set about the whole campaign. I learned a lot, Josh. You’re the greatest.
JD: That’s what I’m there for. I was just worried, after throwing him off the plane, I might get audited.
EI: When you were off the set, what did you do to relax? Can you talk about staying in shape for the role?
MF: In New Mexico, I think what all of us did to relax after a hard day of work was go drink at Chili’s.
MB: It’s the only restaurant there.
MF: We drank a lot. Then, to stay in shape, I didn’t find the time or I didn’t have the motivation to work out after we shot a 16-hour day. So whatever happened to me at work…
MB: We don’t shoot 16s. We shoot 12s.
MF: Mike, no. That’s not possible. Every day…
MB: We shoot 12s. She’s misinformed. She’s thinking about her makeup.
MF: Okay, we shoot 12-hour days. Well, after 12 hours, I was too tired to work out, so I didn’t really maintain much.
MB: Days are physical.
MF: How do you do it, Josh Duhamel — you specimen of a human being?
JD: Well, Megan, honestly, you’re out there literally sweatin’ all day long and you don’t have a lot of energy.
MB: Running in the sand too.
JD: Yeah, running in the sand. Tyrese and I worked out a little bit.
JD: It was more of a personal competition. He would spot me and I would spot him. What’s the big deal?
TG: That don’t sound too good.
JD: Honestly, before we started the first one, I remember Michael told me, “Come ready. Be in shape. I demand a lot of my male actors, especially in these movies.” So I did. I just tried to be as strong and ready to go as I could.
TG: We worked out twice a day, though. We worked out before we went to the set, and after the set we would come and get our five miles in. Have you ever done five miles? Did you do maybe three?
JD: I didn’t run five miles.
TG: You used to run with us. Three? Two.
JD: I don’t know; it doesn’t matter.
EI: I think you did a great job of incorporating Shia’s hand injury into the film. How did that affect everyone on the project when that happened?
MB: 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 the 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 come up with this design. We were very lucky because we had shot a lot of the beginning of the movie, so we were right at a turning point…
MF: Did it set things back?
MB: We were very lucky.
MF: Everyone is also very lucky for Shia’s level of commitment to this movie, because he showed up with his injury and acted as though he didn’t have an injury and still went balls-to-the-wall and completely committed and did things that were not safe for him to do. But he wanted this movie to be as real as possible, so I think that helped everyone out a lot.
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.
JD: Remember when he cut his eye and he wanted to come back to work that day?
MB: Oh, yeah.
EI: Why did you make a choice to not go to Shanghai to shoot Shanghai?
MB: You have a choice, when you have a budget, and you try to stay on your budget. Do you want to go to Egypt to shoot the pyramids which are extremely hard to make digitally, or go to Shanghai? I didn’t physically need to go to Shanghai to shoot that scene. I definitely told the Chinese, when I was in Korea and Japan (we’ve done a lot of Chinese press), that I would love to shoot in China. I know some crew members that have shot there who said it’s great.
EI: Would you want to work with the Department of Defense again?
JD: I would. I love it. They were great to work with. Michael has a great relationship with them. I think that’s why.
MB: I would only do it if I could control an aircraft carrier.
KD: You get so much information, and they’re so ready to tell you about everything they’re doing. I think I was talking to a tank commander. It’s just great. You just learn so much about what goes into everything these people do.
MB: They are a special breed. They’re very impressive. They really are.
TG: The aircraft carrier stuff was one-of-a-kind. Getting there was very unsafe but yet safe, and leaving was the same thing. We had a big party on the boat, with 5,600 people in the middle of the water on this boat.
MB: What Tyrese is saying — it’s not unsafe, it’s just when they brief you, like a flight attendant would say, “Okay, these are the doors. Exit on your right…” Whatever. They go, “Okay, if we have a water landing and I’m dead, someone needs to pull this chord right here.” It’s one of those briefings. It’s just down to the point. “And if you inflate your vest, you will die.”
EI: Michael, What are you putting on the DVD or Blu-ray?
MB: This one is done by Ridley Scott’s DVD guy, who’s great, so we’re going to have a lot of stuff on this.
EI: And the IMAX stuff…?
MB: We’re going to do a special IMAX skew where it’ll open up for those scenes. You can see top to bottom. I’m very curious to see it because I have not seen it. I didn’t want to see it during the process because I wanted to be surprised in the theater.
EI: Was it your idea to have a Hispanic character in the movie?
MB: Yeah. I picked Ramon out of a number of hundreds of potential cast members.
MB: Because he’s charming. I think it’s great.
EI: Does Obama know he’s in the movie?
MB: I don’t know. Stephen might show his daughters the movie.
EI: Megan’s role is not as big this time…
MB: She’s got way more stunts in this one. Absolutely. You’re misinformed. Actually, go look at the last movie, and you will see your question is not accurate.
EI: Will you start thinking about 3?
MB: I told everyone that I’m definitely going to do another movie before I do this movie, because thinking of robots for three-and-a-half years is enough right now.
EI: You keep saying you’ll do a smaller Pulp Fiction-esque movie.
MB: 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. Last week — that’s when I finished this. So I came back from Japan and Korea, came back to the States; they all went on and I finished the last bit of the movie.
DreamWorks Pictures 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' opens in theaters nationwide on June 24, 2009.