In the spirit of director Michael Bay’s return, Paramount gave away T-shirts that read “Even Bigger Giant F**king Robots Are Coming” at San Diego Comic-Con last summer.
Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, both repeat Bay collaborators, teamed up with “The Ring” writer Ehren Kruger, who pitched an idea the producers deemed worth of a sequel.
A veteran of “Spider-Man” and other big-budget tentpoles, producer Ian Bryce managed the day-to-day logistics, from scheduling and budgeting to negotiating the use of billion-dollar U.S. military equipment, while producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura focused on the creative side.
Of exec producer (and story confidante) Steven Spielberg, Bay says, “It’s fun to talk with another director who gets how it will look.”
According to Bay, Hans Zimmer protege Steve Jablonsky “wrote some big cues with Hans on ‘Pearl Harbor.’ Now it’s the other way around,” with Zimmer assisting Jablonsky on “Transformers.”
“I shoot very fast and need a young, energetic d.p. to keep up with me,” says Bay, who was impressed with lenser Ben Seresin’s reel.
THE VISUAL SUSPECTS
Effects-laden pic’s lead shop, industrial light and magic, had a tall order on the sequel: Bay not only upped the screen time and overall number of robots but also insisted that the metal beings be able to emote.
Bay-owned f/x shop Digital domain supplied about 100 shots, mostly of smaller characters. Subtlety may not be the helmer’s trademark, but that’s exactly what he expected from the characters’ animated performances.
Scott Farrar supervised vfx work for both companies, while pyrotechnics and practical effects were John Frazier’s duty.
Most of the interiors were shot at Raleigh Studios’ Playa Vista stages, which once served as Howard Hughes’ hangars.
For dramatic exteriors, the production turned to the Philadelphia and New Mexico film offices. With LaBeouf’s character in college, New Jersey facilitated
access to Princeton U.
Bryce and co-producer Allegra Clegg got military permission to film sequences at Camp Pendleton, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.
Tying ancient sites into Transformers lore, the crew traveled as far as Egypt and Jordan, where the Royal Film Commission granted them access to Petra.
To maximize the impact on Imax, Bay shot several sequences on the company’s large-format film stock.
Hasbro holds the rights to the Transformers property, including the new characters unveiled in the sequel.
Last Month, General Motors finally began producing the redesigned Camaro featured in the first film. As di Bonaventura explains, “Michael looks around to see what is the cool car and, if it fits the story, puts it in the movie.”
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” will reunite most of the original cast, from Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox to super-soldiers Josh Duhamel and Tyrese.
Among the new human faces are Rainn Wilson and Ramon Rodriguez.
Fans have been anticipating the arrival of more robot characters, including evil Decepticon Soundwave and Autobots Sideswipe, Skids, Mudflap and Jolt.
Preferring to work with proven crew, Bay reteamed with first a.d. K.C. Hodenfield, script supervisor Karen Golden and costume pro Deborah L. Scott.
Former Navy SEAL Harry Humphries has been teaching Bay’s cast how to handle weapons since “The Rock.”
“We give every crew member one baby break,” Bay kids. With sound mixer Peter Devlin on diaper duty, Geoffrey Patterson (“Titanic”) stepped in. For post, Greg P. Russell is joined by Gary Summers (“Twister”).
Steve Tihanyi, director of marketing relations for General Motors, let Bay have his pick of the company’s concept cars, adapting four new Autobots to the Stingray Corvette, Beat and Trax minis and forthcoming Volt electric vehicle. Since GM lacked the resources, the crew took the designs and fabricated the cars themselves.
Not just anyone can film at the Pyramids in Giza. For permission, Bay appealed to Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, who turned out to be a Transformers fan, granting the production access that hadn’t been given in decades. “He put his arm around me and said, ‘Don’t hurt my pyramids,'” Bay recalls.
Defense Dept. film liaison Phil Strub has been Bay’s direct connection to the Pentagon since “Armageddon,” supplying script approvals and expert military advice. “You’re doing a crazy robot movie … and the Pentagon says, ‘If we were ever called to fight aliens, this is how we’d do it,'” says Bay, whose films have been big recruitment boosters for the armed forces.