A couple of weeks ago, Moviehole was invited – along with a few other select journalists – to spend a couple of hours with ”Transformers : Dark of the Moon” helmer Michael Bay. In addition to getting to chat to the prominent filmmaker, we previewed 20-minutes of footage from the new pic…and dare I say, wow! looks so much better than ”Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen”!
And Mr. Bay agrees wholeheartedly. “When you’re doing the second film in a franchise, it’s difficult”, Bay said in an interview that took place in the edit bay. “They didn’t know what to expect the first time, so you’re giving them something; second time around though, minds start to wonder. We had the writers’ strike – and I’ve been vocal about that, it was a terrible situation. Without a script you’re screwed and I had to prep [Transformers 2] with 14-pages! But what was I going to do? I wasn’t going to tell 600 people, or the studio that had already spent money, that we weren’t going to do the film.”
”Transformers : Dark of the Moon”, which Bay is clearly happier with, is “a stronger movie; it’s a stronger story, and the direction of the movie is just stronger.”
Reuniting most of the cast of the previous two films, including Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro, the new film will showcase some of the most spectacular 3D sequences since ”Avatar”.
Bay says he was pressured into shooting in 3D – but by someone that clearly knows the technology that can work. He doesn’t regret the decision.
“Jim Cameron was like ‘Right, you better shoot in 3D'”, laughs Bay, “He was like ‘You gotta try it, you gotta try it.’ But as you’ve probably read, I was hesitant. Took me about a year to research 3D properly before I decided to use it. I’m an old school film guy – I still hate shooting digital; whatever any director tells you, digital is never as good as film – and I was hesitant about this new toy, and that’s what it is, a new toy.
“Many filmmakers are using 3D as just an afterthought – where they’re just converting it. They shoot the film in 2D and they don’t even think about how the 3D is going to work. Then these conversion companies [that the studios outsource to] they just shove the shit through – and it looks like shit. ”
3D shouldn’t be an easy toy to use, says Bay.
“First of all, it’s hard to shoot in 3D”, the director of such action blockbusters as “Pearl Harbor” and “The Rock” says. “These cameras are not really ready for what I like to say ‘prime time’ but we were able to push it as far as possible. I was able to shoot about sixty-percent native 3D and the rest, where it was just too complicated, we had to go to 35. Then we put a gun to the heads of those working at the conversion houses and said ‘This better be the best conversion you’ve ever done, because I’m putting my name on the line’; so far they’ve done a spectacular job.”
And that they have, of the scenes we previewed I can honestly say “Dark of the Moon” will quickly expunge any tomato stains that have adorned the Transformers name since the release of the last film – the action is unyielding and very, very impressive; the robot battles are, well, better than anything you saw in the first film – and for that matter, any of the “Iron Man” movies, and chiefly, and though we only previewed 20-minutes of the film, the storyline seems much more engrossing than the previous “Transformers”.
Bay said he just wanted to make this one “fun”, and seems he’s definitely stuck to his word.
One of the most memorable sequences previewed includes a group of skydiving free fallers who, at insane speeds, skirt between skyscrapers.
Bay discovered the thrill-seekers on a 60 Minutes story and demanded they be brought to him.
“I proposed [to them], ‘would you like to fly through Chicago?'”, Bay said, “and they said ‘Yes’.”
But then Bay had to convince the city of Chicago to let these men do this – he was surprised by how open the Mayor was to the idea.
“They bent-over backwards for us”, Bay says, “Chicago is the best city to work with and in.”
The filmmaker invited the residents of Chicago to watch these stunning stunts film – and so he should’ve, after all, the production closed off 12 blocks.
“One weekend we had twenty-thousand people watching us”, recalls the filmmaker.
Just as spectacular as these action sequences is female lead Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a Victoria’a Secret model who has been rolled in to fill the void left by departing franchise member Megan Fox.
Bay had worked with Whiteley on several Victoria’s Secret commercials and thought “there was always something unique about her.”
It was Bay who asked “Rosie” to audition though.
The filmmaker says he recalls the model mentioning to him at one stage that she was interested in acting and he “always kept her in the back of my mind”. Umpteen years later, he called her in to audition for one of his movies.
“My casting woman [on Transformers : Dark of the Moon] said ‘ya know, there’s something exciting about this Rosie; I’m telling you Michael, this girl could be a star.'”
Whiteley was hired and Bay, cheekily confirming those reports that the series’ previous female lead mightn’t have been so easy to get along with, says “she’s also really polite – she says thankyou and good morning”, he laughs.
Though some lads will no doubt miss Megan Fox, Bay thinks “it helps the movie by recasting. There’s something nice about the spark of a new relationship. I think it helps the movie.”
Speaking of recasting, Bay is adamant “Dark of the Moon” will be his last ”Transformers” movie – and he hopes the studio doesn’t bring in someone else to do a fourth film. He believes, like the James Bond series and the recent crop of superhero movies, that the franchise should be rebooted.
“You can’t keep letting it lie, you have to reboot – with a new cast”.
– Side Note : Our Moviehole Podcast returns next weekend and we will likely chat up “Transformers” then!
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF MY “TWO HOURS WITH MICHAEL BAY” SPECIAL