Transformers is one of 2007’s most anticipated movies, and director Michael Bay knows there’s a lot riding on his latest action-packed film. Fans of the Transformers line of toys are expecting Bay and company to remain faithful to their favorite toys, while the filmmaker realizes he’s also got to satisfy moviegoers who’ve never picked up one of the transforming robots.
At a press conference to discuss the film, Bay confessed he wasn’t into the toys before making Transformers but now considers himself to be a huge fan of the toy line that inspired the movie.
How did you balance your vision as a filmmaker with those of Steven Spielberg and those of the fans?
“Listen, I make my own movie. I don't have someone tell me what to do. I've always been inspired by Steven. I was not a Transformers fan before I signed on to this movie. I think I was two years older when the toys came out, so I just discovered girls then instead of Optimus Prime. But I quickly became [one] after I went to Hasbro where you heard about that Transformers school? I really thought, ‘What the f**k am I going to Hasbro for Transformers school?’ 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 lore.
I've been offered a lot of superhero movies before and nothing's really appealed to me. Because I've been such a fan of Japanese anime, it just hit me that if I make this really real 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, okay? 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 [that]. ‘You made an edgy movie on a toy. How is that going to affect kids?’ I know there are Transformer fans that are 40 years old. Now that I'm rambling...”
You had no nostalgia for these Transformers so did that make it easier to make the film, like a doctor operating on a stranger versus operating on a friend?
“Listen, I'm a huge Transformer fan now. I can officially say I've probably thought more about robots on earth than anyone in the past year and a half. Yeah, I actually think that because I wasn't a fan I think makes it more accessible to other people. Does that make sense? Megatron was a gun and I'm like, ‘I don't get that.’ I did get a lot of flak from fans on the net, like, ‘Michael Bay, you wrecked my childhood.’ ‘Michael Bay, you suck. We're going to protest his office.’ They protested my old office, apparently. That's true. The death threats freak me [out], but I think we've… 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."
But you gave them lips.
“Well, because, you know we did a lot of facial studies, and emotion is so hard without that kind of movement. We tried it solid. It just didn't look right.”
What was the appeal of Transformers?
“When Steven called me a year and a half ago, he said, ‘I want you do direct Transformers. It's a story about a boy who buys his first car.’ To me that was a great hook. I hung up and said, ‘Thank you. I'm not doing that stupid, silly toy movie.’ But I thought about it, the hook was great because that's such a launching ground from a young adult into manhood or womanhood. I liked the simplicity of it, okay? It just made it somewhat more accessible.
If you notice, I shot this movie kind of generic. I've never in my life shot at a Burger King, or a guy riding on a pink bicycle, or a house that's kind of very suburbia. But it just makes it more acceptable and accessible to the ultra slick uber-action around it. The charm of the movie is, to me, in thinking about it was I kept having this image of this kid trying to hide robots from his parents by his house. That just stuck in my head as we were writing the script. So to me that was the whole charm of it.”
The actors have been saying what a great actor's director Michael Bay is, which is a whole new theme we haven't heard before. Did you do something different?
“No. Listen, the soundbite, press is very weird, because a soundbite gets out there, ‘Michael Bay yells.’ Listen, I am very similar, I visited Jim Cameron on Titanic, I'm very similar to the way he directs. He's an assistant director; I'm an assistant director of my own sets. I move my own sets. I shoot very fast, I never leave the set, and I love working with actors. I love giving actors freedom. I love improv’ing with actors. It freaks studios out because they're like, ’That wasn't in the script! What's this? He's wrecking the movie.’ And I'm like, ‘Trust me, it's going to be funny,’ because there's a whole issue of tone in this movie. But when I'm doing action scenes I'm going to be your worst nightmare basketball coach. That's to get the energy, the adrenalin going.”
What do you see as the underlying theme or message in this movie?
“Well, the underlying theme to me is really no sacrifice, no victory. That was something I wanted to nail. My movies often deal with the hero arch-type and the boy becoming a man, kind of like Nic Cage becoming a hero in The Rock."