Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and John Turturro Press Conference
1. How do you get in to film Egypt and the locations that you filmed in?
Michael Bay: Dr Hawass who runs the antiquities in Egypt was a fan of Transformers, so he thought the idea would be particularly nice for tourism. So he allowed us to do some of the first aerial shots around the pyramids and shoot there.
Petra was kinda the same thing, the king gave us permission to shoot there.
The tops of the pyramids have never been shot in a film before, it’s difficult, theres like thirty six (36) helicopters of stuff to get up there so was quite interesting.
We actually went from Arizona to San Diego to Egypt over the weekend, we were shooting on the pyramids the next day then to another town in Egypt, then over to Jourdan the next day then Petra the day after. So you have to leap frog, it’s a massive movie circus.
As a gift I’m going to give Dr Hawass a tape of the most spectacular aerial shots of the tops of the pyramids, that way I hope he’s not too mad when he sees the film coz I didn’t actually tell him that the top would come off digitally.
2. Did you damage any ancient artifacts?
Michael Bay: No, no, we were extremely careful, I personally shot the camera with John Turturro on the pyramid.
John Turturro: They were very high, I went to high one day and they were screaming at me in Arabic, I thought they were worried about me but they were worried I’d go too high and injure the pyramids.
Michael Bay: The bad thing was when John would come down, and he’d brush off this four thousand year old Egyptian dust.
3. Shia, were you injured making this film?
Shia LaBeouf: Yeah beyond my hand, that wasn’t related to the movie, but I got injured a couple of times, we were filming in New Mexico and in the middle of an action scene I wound up impaling my face on a spike, and I was surrounded by [Navy] Seals and they’ve all seen some pretty nasty stuff, I went to a military hospital and the doctor gestured with his fingers and I asked what’s that and he said blindness.
4. Did you go through any training for this one or was the training you did on the first one enough?
Shia LaBeouf: I’m not playing a gladiator you know, I’m playing an ordinary kid in an extraordinary situation. I smoked cigarettes at the time, so Mike had me chewing tobacco instead, he made me give up smoking he can’t stand it, there’s quite a list of things he can’t stand like sesame seeds.
5. Megan, did you have to do some research into motorbikes and hardware or was that something you already knew?
Megan Fox: Part of my audition for the first one was Michael asked me to come to his studio and pretend to work on his Ferrari.
Michael Bay: It’s called a screen test.
Megan Fox: He was taping me the whole time.
6. John, this is one of the first times working with CGI, what was your process?
John Turturro: In the first one I was watching Shia alot because he seemed to be doing it so easily, and I thought wow it wasn’t that long ago he was playing with the toys, so I kinda followed him, I was really impressed with him how he could have this whole imaginary world, then I thought about how I play with my kids. It gets easier as you do it, at first its abit bizarre.
7. You kinda pioneered CGI and Special Effects in blockbuster films, have you found that the technology gets better with each film.
Michael Bay: Well we try to push the limits with each film, like lighting and shadow, things people wouldn’t even notice, like complicate algorithms like the pyramid coming apart, that was one hundred thousand rocks – it took one guy six months of writing code to do that.
We’re the first ones to do the IMAX 4K character renders as it’s never been done, there are three scenes shot in full IMAX.
8. Your injury to your hand was written into the script I think, did that affect the stunts you could do, and you were quoted a while back saying it was more about luck than talent getting on in the business, do you still feel that way, now that your careers taken off?
Shia LaBeouf: So you break your hand it’s hard enough to button your pants let alone something like this, so you just buck up and get through it, there’s only so much you can fake.
I also had a fantastic stuntman – Vladmir, who took the brunt of the abuse.
Michael Bay: Shia’s a great actor, we invented a special little kevlar cast, it looked like fingers, it was very thin so he was able to perform stuff, and we digitally took some of the cast stuff out.
Shia LaBeouf: Talent just seems like a crazy ass word, I just think determination is a better word.
9. Which moments, when you looked back at the tapes go ‘wow’ yourself?
Michael Bay: I think one clear and crystal moment was when we were shooting John Turturro was on top of Petra and he had a tear in his eye, I asked what’s going on John and he said you never get to do this. We’re looking at this forty thousand year old monument and we shot on the pyramids the day before and in the deserts the day before that, and we were setting up this eighty foot crane shot, it was an english crane and it had never been done before, so that was quite a moment.
10. President Obama gets a name check in the film, I was wondering about the decision to root the film in that very real reality, and how things like that and the swine flu gag made it into the film.
Michael Bay: We finished the film this past wednesday, it’s true, you saw an actually incomplete version, the Obama thing I met him at an airport when he was carrying his bag by himself and we talked about films and apparently he likes my films, so I figured lets just put him in.
11. What was it like working with Michael for the second time?
Michael Bay: Dreadful!
Shia LaBeouf: It’s not dreadful at all, me and Mike have a sort of big brother, little brother thing going on, we get into it sometimes. He’s like a football coach, he doesn’t coddle you, and that takes some getting used to, actors are used to being coddled. It takes abit of getting used to, I enjoy the hell out of them, it’s like sky driving for five months.
Megan Fox: It’s like constant chaos, which your crew, I’m assuming your crew named it ‘Bayos’, theres also the term ‘Bayhem’ which is an everyday thing, it is exciting. He is rough on his actors on purpose, I think. Do you like the legend of being a tyrant.
Michael Bay: If I was a tyrant, I wouldn’t have the same crew I’ve had for sixteen years. But it takes tremendous energy when I’m trying to convince you there’s a robot and he’s trying to eat you, so I’m a very passionate director.
John Turturro: I just based my character on Michael, the key to making a film is to key into the sensibility of the guy whose going to be there making the film long after you’ve gone and it took me a while to understand that, but you have to connect to their sensibility. You know the shots are going to be interesting and I had a good time the first time and a better time this time.
12. During the filming process what was the very best memory or what was the very worse?
Michael Bay: Towards the end was pretty great, coz of the location, I mean your faces [Shia and Megan] when looking at the pyramids. The worse was when the Egyptian police would surround us and say we couldn’t shoot.
Shia LaBeouf: The worse day for me was getting a spike through the eye for sure.
13. How were the interactions between the human characters and the robot characters achieved, were any of the robots built like Bumblebee was for the first film? specifically the Megatron and Starscream scene.
Michael Bay: With the Megatron scene with Shia, we have Shia landing on the table and the hands come down and grab him, that was pure Shia and its a very difficult thing to do and Shia’s great at working with something that’s not there, it’s a talent to slam yourself onto a table, more your arms in a specific way. And then when the little critter is crawling away I put on blue surgical gloves and had these blue tongues and was pulling on his lips.
It’s easier sometimes to have the actors playing off of someone standing in as the robot like with the Jetfire scenes. Michael Bay: We have alot of pieces of robots that we use, but it slows you down.