Just off a plane from doing international press in Moscow, Michael Bay joined Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn and Ramon Rodriguez to answer questions about his new sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Stepping up from 2007’s mega-hit, “ROTF” takes full-advantage of IMAX cameras, incorporating, much like last year’s The Dark Knight, IMAX shots into the middle of the film. Bay even went so far as to shoot additional IMAX footage that won’t be seen in regular theaters.
In addition to thoughts on working with IMAX, Bay and the cast talk traveling the world to shoot on-location, Shia LaBeouf’s tragic hand injury mid-shooting and Tyrese’s fondness for Twitter (You can follow him under the handle Tyrese4ReaL).
Bay also talks about meeting a pre-President Barack Obama, his plans for the film’s DVD release and why, if he returns for a third “Transformers,” it won’t be for a little while.
Q: It’s been great seeing your rise to stardom since the first movie. From your perspective, what’s changed since the first movie?
Megan Fox: I think the movie, its success and how it was received just opened a lot of doors for me, career-wise. I’ve been able to be a part of some films that I don’t even feel like I deserve to be a part of. That’s due maybe wholly to the success of “Transformers.” I just did “Jonah Hex” with Josh Brolin, Michael Fassbender and John Malkovich. People, 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.
Q: And has that changed your daily life?
Fox: Sure, you know, getting photographed at Whole Foods or coming out of Rite-Aid with your shampoo bottle and stuff. But that’s not that crazy. You adjust to that stuff. You acclimate to that pretty quickly.
Q: Michael, you destroy a lot of landmarks in this movie. Was there anything that you felt was off-limits for destruction? Also, Megan, you showed a lot a skin in this film; did you feel there was anything shown to you that you thought would be just too revealing?
Fox: I have those moments on a daily basis, but the process of picking those outfits, I remember, had Mike auditioning Ramone and some of the other characters. There was just a room full of men upstairs in his office.
Bay: Two young guys.
Fox: No! It was Shia and Ramone and two other actors and you and I had to come up and down and try on my wardrobe and I had like 18 different outfits. It was white jean shorts and then a pink belly shirt. Light motorcycle boots. I was wearing them and Mike was selecting them in the process of auditioning.
Bay: It’s called “mulit-tasking”!
Fox: Right. So I had no say, but, clearly, he has an eye for what should and should not be in the movie. So I just trust him.
Bay: And for the other question: It’s called summer fun. It’s a robot movie.
Q: Kevin, do you feel that you share the role of the father-figure in Sam’s life with Optimus? Are there any similarities between you two?
Dunn: Well, as far as I know, he was conceived by myself. I don’t think Optimus got in there. But, yeah, I guess that in the script there’s the parallel that he kind of needs the guidance of Optimus and me, he kind of blows off. Kids regularly blow off their dad, but there’s a paternal aspect to both characters, yeah.
Q: Megan is clearly there for the guys, but what can the ladies expect from this film?
Bay: What’s interesting about the first one is that there’s relationships with the parents and kids. Kevin, actually, is playing my father. That’s very much how my parents were growing up. What’s hard is making the characters human. That’s how you make it accessible to everyone and not just make it a fanboy movie. A lot of women tell me that they like the humor and more just say that they like to see robots kicking ass because they’ve never seen it before. Also, I think the relationship between Shia and Megan.
Duhamel: Tyrese offered to be introduced in the second movie by doing a shirtless carwash scene with Optimus, but Mike didn’t go for it.
Gibson: Thanks, Josh.
Q: You have a somewhat lengthy cut…
Bay: It’s actually, the IMAX version is two hours and 20 minutes exactly.
Q: Does it have more than the non-IMAX version?
Bay: It has probably about a minute more of footage. It has some more fighting footage that takes place in the forest. There’s some additional stuff with Devastator. I have not seen it yet in IMAX. How does it look?
Bay: Excellent. I’m excited to see that. I wasn’t ready until this weekend.
Q: What was the most interesting part about working with the American military?
Fox: I think just in general, I wouldn’t say that I was surprised with them, but they’re just extremely pleasant and chivalrous, clearly because they’re so disciplined. They’re so much better behaved than the rest of the cast is. Including myself. They listen and take direction really well while we’re all just f*cking off.
Bay: If they could all be like them.
Fox: But it adds authenticity to the movie. Michael, you consult with the military on everything and just make it real. I prefer being able to walk on-set and having 100 actors that are real soldiers as opposed to 100 actors from Orange County or LA in fatigues. It was just overall a really pleasant experience for me. I have a huge amount of respect for the soldiers and our troops.
Q: Could you talk a little about the military preparation and the training you took for this film as opposed to the first one?
Gibson: I would say, honestly, that the first go-round was much more intense than the second because I went in knowing nothing about the Military, Air Force and Navy. For me, I didn’t know the difference for each one of the soldiers and the categories of soldiers. So I worked closely with someone called a CCT who is a Combat Controller because I have to have dialogue and communicate with all of the aircraft. That dialogue is very difficulty and Michael is making sure that we cater to the real, authentic dialogue of the Air Force but maintain a balance so that the common folk who don’t understand it can understand it too. It was a bit of a challenge. Especially with all the explosions and stuff going on around you.
Duhamel: Yeah, for the first one, we had a few days out at Fort Irwin. For this one, we just sort of jumped into it. We had a bit of a refresher, but mostly it was just about having a military advisor out there. Someone from every facet of the military. I think we all 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 and an Aunt over in Iraq. That was my main focus; to try and represent them all and make them proud.
Q: What were some of your favorite moments in making the movie?
Gibson: I would say that, compared to even the first one, I think our roles are so much more serious than the first go-round. There are so many moments, comedic-wise, throughout the film and the outcome was that Michael wanted us to play it a little more serious and just raise the stakes and question what’s really going on. Which was fine. I enjoyed doing the funny stuff, but it’s important to create a balance. I just, overall, had fun and we were vibing and laughing and having big parties. There was just so much energy on the set. Michael runs a really tight ship. He just keeps everyone on the edge and at full-throttle. Man, I’d think, if I don’t throw a party, I’m going to go crazy right now. I tried to keep everyone, the cast and the whole crew, having fun while we were working.
Duhamel: Yeah, he took the night shift. (Laughs) I guess the most fun I had was throwing the national security advisor off the plane. That was the most fun I had. It was just a fun scene to do with a nice little stunt involved. That was probably the most memorable. That, or the giant bomb that went off.
Fox: One thousand gallons.
Duhamel: Yeah, we made history. The biggest practical explosion in history.
Fox: With the actors present. But Michael holds the other record, too.
Bay: Let’s not talk about that. That’s the WORLD record. (Laughs)
Q: Michael, you had a lot of input on the twins. What was the inspiration for them?
Bay: Well, I wanted two kind of younger Transformers. But with those two guys, we used the guy who played SpongeBob and another actor. What’s interesting is that, when you work with voice-actors, especially with the twins, they did a lot of improv for their parts. We liked their improv and, from there, we would animate to their stuff. When you’re doing character animation and you’re building the character, it’s not like an actor where you shoot the scene and you’ve got it and you move on. With animation, you get the dialogue and then some animation and then a bit more of the dialogue and you keep going back and forth and it just builds until you have the shot you want. I just wanted something that would appeal to younger kids that seemed to really gravitate to those two characters. It’s like the Little Engine That Could with the Devastator scene.
Q: Megan, what’s it like seeing your character on a giant screen and what’s it like being a sex symbol?
Fox: I haven’t seen the movie in IMAX yet. I only just saw the movie for the first time a few days ago when we were in London. I usually don’t watch myself. I don’t go to playback. I don’t look at still photos. I have a phobia of it. But I force myself to sit down and I shot an entire glass of champagne so I could get through the sitting of it. I was really, really pleasantly surprised. I was, halfway through, overcome with genuine emotion and I wanted to hug Michael with gratitude for making this movie. It so far surpassed my expectations. I think that the character is sexy but that women in general in movies are sexy. Especially in Michael’s movies. He knows how to make movies that get people in the theater. If that’s part of the formula…
Bay: But if you look at the movie, we got that first shot out of the way just for the young boys and we moved on.
Duhamel: That’s why you should have considered that scene with Tyrese washing Optimus.
Bay: Yes, I know. But it’s not about sexy.
Q: There’s a lot of running in this movie. Were there any running-related injuries?
Dunn: I hate to think about it. It was a traumatic experience. No, Michael wanted this long shot at the end where you’d see Sam running around and getting this big Beefalo guy, a special agent, tackling me. The whole secret was that I had to get my feet to land. We did it quite a few times.
Bay: We did it three times.
Dunn: Yeah. The last time, I didn’t get my feet down.
Bay: And that’s the take we used.
Dunn: You’ll see that take. His shoulder and my sciatic nerve in sand just met and boom. I missed Tyrese’s party. I was in my room. But I ran.
Rodriguez: I popped a shoulder, which was a lot of fun. In the Devastator scene.
Bay: You never told me that.
Rodriguez: I didn’t want to get you worried.
Bay: Do you want to sue me?
Rodriguez: No. But we were shooting the Devastator scene and I had to hold onto this pole. Michael Bay thought it would be a really good idea to bring out two fans that blow 100 miles per hour each and put them right in front of my face. I had sand, soot and dirt blowing right in my face. I had two guys behind me with wires attached to my ankles, pulling me. Not enough yet. We need cars. So we brought two cars and he literally had them attached to a hydraulic crane, flipped literally inches above my head. They guys were yanking at the tables and, yeah, on one of the takes my shoulder popped out and we continued rolling. That was probably the shot you used. Thank you, Mike.
Q: Was it harder or easier to return the fantasy side of the world of Transformers?
Fox: No, it was definitely easier. Because we’ve seen them at this point. We’ve seen Optimus and we’ve heard his voice and know how he moves. It’s the same with all of the robots. Once you’re able to get visual, it’s a lot easier to sort of fake-interact with it. I think those scenes are some of the easiest to shoot. I enjoy them. We’ve gotten good at being able synchronize and pick an eyeline. You scream your dialogue at it and you avoid the area where you know where it isn’t. I enjoy those scenes. We end up doing a ton of takes because it needs to be specific. The light needs to be right and things need to be added in to make it work the way they need to. But it’s not that difficult this time around.
Q: There’s a lot of great music in the film. Do you listen to music to get prepared?
Bay: Sometimes we do play music on the set. Some actors like it a lot. I don’t know what they do in their trailers.
Duhamel: Mostly ABBA.
Dunn: The Carpenters, for me.
Gibson: Marvin Gaye.
Q: Michael, are the shots of the aircraft stock footage and Ramon, how much improvisation do you get to do with the Spanish?
Bay: In terms of stock footage, I don’t like using stock footage. All that stuff was shot by us. We had incredible access from the military. Which is very rare. All those planes were real. They flew 100 feet over our set at a time when there were six F-16s out doing a mission. We timed their mission for when we wanted them to come over our set four times. We were setting off live explosions down below and we timed it with them.
Rodriguez: Luckily, Michael is really into improv. I started realizing early on in the process that, if he started laughing at something, it meant it was pretty good. He’s a really good audience. We improv-ed a lot of scenes. He let me throw a lot of Spanish in there and create this fun name. It was cool, yeah.
Q: One of the themes of the movie is about the separation of technology and humanity. Are you any more hesitant about Twitter or laptops after making these films?
Bay: I don’t know what Twitter is, by the way.
Fox: Neither do I!
Gibson: I LOVE Twitter. I took the fans on a world tour of all six or seven countries we went to. I took pictures of all the historical places in Rome and Amsterdam. I took them all on tour with me. I told them, take out your passports. I’m taking you on tour through Twitter. It’s the instant gratification of posting a picture or us just hanging out somewhere or doing something. All of these different moments through all these different countries. The fans are like, “Whoa!” They get to see all these different images and things that they wouldn’t be able to see unless you sent it on your Twitter. So I love it.
Dunn: Which is why many don’t hang with Tyrese. Because you don’t know if you’re going to get an embarrassing picture Twittered to everyone on the planet. Here’s me with a tequila on my forehead!
Q: It was interesting that you reference President Obama rather than create a fictional president. Was that a conscious move? Especially with the character of a less-than-competent security advisor.
Bay: I wasn’t really putting that idea out there. Summer fun, by the way. The Obama thing came about because I was walking in a Vegas airport and he was walking — by himself — carrying a hanging bag over his shoulder. This was after I had just seen him at the beginning of his campaign. I said, “Hey, I saw you the other night and liked what you had to say.” I introduced myself and he said, “What do you do?” and I said, “I’m a director.” He said, “What movies?” I said and he said, “Oh, you’re a big-ass director. I’ve seen a bunch of your movies.” That’s why I decided to put him in.
Gibson: Josh is very involved in politics, by the way. The whole time we were shooting, he did not miss one speech or the polls. He talked the entire car ride to the set about the whole campaign.
Q: What did you do to stay in shape for the film and what did you do to relax?
Fox: In New Mexico, what all of us did to relax after a day was to go drink at Chiles.
Bay: It’s the only restaurant there.
Fox: We drank a lot. But to stay in shape, I didn’t really find the time or motivation to work out after we would work a 16 hour day.
Bay: We don’t shoot 16s. We shoot 12s.
Fox: Sure. We shoot 12s. After 12 hours, I wasn’t really in the mood to work out.
Duhamel: Days were pretty physical.
Fox: How do you do it, Josh Duhamel? You specimen of a human being.
Duhamel: Well, Megan, honestly, you’re out there literally sweating all day long. You don’t have a lot of extra energy. Tyrese and I worked out a bit.
Duhamel: Yeah. We spotted each other.
Gibson: That don’t sound too good.
Duhamel: I remember that, for the first one, Michael told me that it was going to be tough and to come prepared and to be in shape.
Gibson: 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.
Q: You worked Shia’s hand injury into the storyline. How did that effect filmmaking?
Bay: I actually read it on CNN online and thought, “This can’t be true.” I called my line producer Ian Bryce and he goes, “It’s true.” I thought, “Oh my God.” He said, “Let’s shut down.” I said, “We can’t shut down.” Because when you have a train going, it’s very expensive to shut a picture like this down. We had an action scene in the library that day when we were shooting. I said, “Let’s just go for it. Let’s just not stop. Let’s use a stuntman and just cover as much as we can.” Then, on Tuesday, we shut down. We had to mix and match, pulling stuff from different scenes so that we could shoot without him. We didn’t know how long he was going to be down. I immediately had them find the best people in the world to make a special cast that had never been with Kevlar fingers that was very, very thin so that you could photograph it. The problem was, if he had jammed 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. We had shot the beginning of the movie and were right at a turning point.
Fox: We were very lucky. We were also shocked with Shia’s level of committment to this movie. He showed up with his injury and acted as though he didn’t have an injury, going balls to the wall and doing things that were not safe for him to do. But he wanted this movie to be as real as possible.
Bay: We’d have arguments. He’d take his cast off and I’d say, “Put your cast on”. He’d say, “No, I’m fine,” and I’d say, “Put your cast on.” It was so hard to protect the hand.
Duhamel: He cut his eye and wanted to go back to work that day.
Q: Shanghai was one of the only scenes not shot on location. Was there a conscious reason for that?
Bay: Well, you have a choice. When you have a budget, you try to stay on your budget. Do you want to go to Egypt to shoot the pyramids — which are hard to make, digitally — or do you go to Shanghai. For Shanghai, I didn’t physically need to go to Shanghai to shoot that scene. I definitely told the Chinese, though, when I was in Korea and Japan, I met a lot of Chinese press. I told them that I’d love to shoot in China. I’ve had some crewmembers who have shot there and they say it’s great. One day.
Q: Would you want to, again, work with the US Department of Defense?
Duhamel: I would. They were great to work with.
Bay: I would only do it if I could control an Aircraft Carrier.
Dunn: Yeah. You get so much information and they tell you so much. I was talking with a tank commander and you just learn so much.
Bay: They are a special breed. They’re very impressive.
Gibson: The aircraft carrier was amazing. We had a big party on the boat. 5,600 people on the water.
Bay: It’s not unsafe, but when they brief you you don’t get the standard emergency exit procedure. They say, “Okay. If we have a water landing and I’m dead, someone pull this cord right here,” and “If you don’t inflate your vest, you will die.”
Q: How is Shia’s hand doing now?
Bay: Very well. They took a piece of bone from his hip and made fingers. They were very crushed. He had really good doctors. But safety for me is always the most important. I don’t want that on my back.
Q: Are you already thinking about the third film?
Bay: I don’t know. We’ll see how this one turns out.
Q: How many minutes of deleted scenes might be on the DVD?
Bay: I don’t know. We’re figuring it out right now. Seven or eight?
Q: Are you going to be shooting more in IMAX?
Bay: I regret not shooting the head scene in IMAX. But IMAX is very expensive. Just special effects in IMAX is expensive.
Q: Do you think you’ll be doing IMAX for all your future movies?
Bay: I don’t know. If the movie serves it.
Q: What else can we expect from the DVD?
Bay: This one is done by Ridley Scott’s DVD guy. We’re gonna have a lot of stuff on this. We’re gonna have a special IMAX version where it’ll open up the top and bottom.
Q: What was the final budget on this?
Bay: It cost 195. It was budgeted for 200, but brought it in at 195 and then put the rest back into effects. That’s much less than the average sequel of this size. I don’t carry a full second unit with me whereas most directors carry a second unit and have to pay for that. That’s why I shoot 12 hour days. Megan is misinformed. She’s thinking about the makeup.
Q: Does Obama know he’s in the movie yet?
Bay: I don’t know. Steven might show his daughters the movie.
Q: So no thoughts on Part 3?
Bay: I’ve told everyone that I’m definitely going to do another movie before I do another “Transformers.” I’ve been thinking of robots for three and half years. It’s enough right now.
Q: You’ve said that you want to do a “Pulp Fiction”-style film. Any progress on that?
Bay: I keep trying to do it. Then “Transformers” came about and then another one. But I literally finished this one last week.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hits conventional and IMAX theaters on Wednesday, June 24th!