What was the first thing Spielberg told you after the first screening of the movie?
Michael Bay: When Spielberg saw the scene with the robots around the house he was laughing like a kid he slapped me on the leg and said Ive never seen robots do that. I was surprised, since my movies are always long in the beginning. and the early version of this one was hard to watch, since you dont have the special effects in yet, just crude models. But Spielberg kept giving me high-five during the screening, actually
At what point of the project did you get on board? For instance, who chose the robots?
Michael Bay: I got involved when there was only the very kernel of the idea. Spielberg called me up and told me the rough story about this boy, but there was no script at that time. Thats when I hired this massive team of artists, and got animators. I really started from ground zero.
Has any of you ever played with the original Transformers toys?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: Lets say that at least, we all struggled to put them back together at least once.
Michael Bay: At Hasbro, I actually went to transformers school. There, the head of the company talked to me about transformers, showing off the toys. He had a special guy next to him whose job it was to put the toys back together.
Shia, you came into this world as a young actor was it difficult to make a character stand out?
Shia LaBeouf: Transformers has a huge volume there are some die-hard fans. For all my friends, this is a big deal. In terms of appeasing the audience: Youre a new character, you dont want to mess up the franchise, so theres a lot of pressure.
Michael, you have made many blockbuster movies now. Does it become more difficult to raise the bar each time?
Michael Bay: Regarding budget, at $145 million, were at half as much as Pirates and Spiderman. So that is an accomplishment. But yes, you do try to raise the bar every time. I really like to make movies that introduce people to a new world.
Do you want to make smaller movies as well?
Michael Bay: Absolutely theres a character movie that I want to do, with great dialogue and great characters. I also have a production company that helps small movies with budgets around 8-9 million Dollars.
How do your stories get developed?
Michael Bay: Thats a long answer I could go on forever. What I do in my movies when I write script I create images that people havent seen. For example, in Pearl Harbor, its the bomb falling down and following it with the camera. I am very attracted to visuals, thats how I come into my stories. It is weird, about an hour into my movies there is always this a weird visual montage in Transformers, its the robots coming down on earth. Sometimes you can just tell a story through images. For me, script-writing is two-ways. I wrote with writers but I write as well on the script. We trade the script back and forth.
Are you using real stories in your movies?
Michael Bay: There are real stories that I always store away in my memory bank. In this film, theres this scene where soldiers use a cell phone and a credit card to call the Pentagon to get an air strike thats based on a true story.
What role does science fiction play for you?
Michael Bay: I have done three science fiction movies now. I guess its just the world of the unknown that I like, the fancy element of it. I have always been intrigued with space. I like the otherworldly fantasy element.
Was it ever dangerous for the actors on the set?
Shia LaBeouf: Yes all the stuff you see on the roof is for real. For me that was pretty wild. The way Michael got us into this was by saying: They do it on fear factor so you got to do it, too.
Michael Bay: Actually, what I said was: You get paid more than the kids on fear factor so you got to go out and do it.
Shia LaBeouf: But we had a great stunt team, so you were not isolated. Bay was there as well when we shot theses scenes. So if something went wrong and you would die, all the others would too. But wee all got scars though, all the cast.
Could you explain the marketing strategy for the film? Its interesting to have the premiere outside of the United States for a film of this size.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: We are releasing this film in several countries at the same time, and the timing of Taormina was perfect. This is an event film. We were just in Madrid last night and will be in London tomorrow. The hardest thing about the movie was to keep human spirit a live. The campaign stresses the fact that there is a lot of human emotion, a lot of humor.
I see elements of a lot of other movies in Transformers, for example King Kong.
Michael Bay: Its true that there is a reference to King Kong, a film that I love very much. When I was scouting in downtown LA I saw the Tower Theater which I always liked and thought we should shoot there. And I tried to emulate a little bit of King Kong. But I dont think there is a lot of things from other movies in Transformers, actually.
Shia, was your first car as important to you as to the character you play in the movie?
Shia LaBeouf: Of course, my first car was important to me. Actually I won mine at my Temples raffle it was an 83 Volvo. At the same time, I was making some money in a TV show, and I put all that money into the car Stereo that was more expensive than the car itself.
Did you do a lot of market research?
Michael Bay: We dont do market research. I go with whats in my gut, what I want to see. The movie could appeal to a lot of different ages. The movies idea is to bring out the kid inside of you. Ive just been to Korea, they loved it, same thing in Australia. In both places, there was multiple times of major applause and laughter during the movie. The same thing in Madrid. And that happened at pretty much the same scenes, which shows the international appeal. When I make a move I make it for the world, not just for America.
How did you develop the character?
Shia LaBeouf: Hes suburban guy that does not have much life experience. Hes very neurotic. And hes vying for the attention of this female. Hes trying to put on this rebellion mask by wearing this Strokes T-shirt that you can buy in a shopping mall its sort of a shopping mall rebellion.
Michael Bay: I actually didnt know who The Strokes were I asked somebody who said it was a cool band.
How many cars did you break?
Michael Bay: I break a lot of cars in my movies these are cars that are flood damaged that have to be destroyed - we have a lot of those in the US since Cathrina. So they give them to me and I do it for them. They know that I know how to do this. These scenes were actually shot in Downtown LA, Detroit and we also used Universal Studios.