×

Travis Knight on Getting the Call to Direct ‘Bumblebee’: ‘Did You Guys Get The Right Number?’

Bumblebee” director Travis Knight admits he couldn’t believe it when Paramount Studios and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura called him two years ago, asking him to helm the upcoming “Transformers” movie.

“My initial question was, ‘Did you guys get the right number?'” Knight joked at Sunday’s premiere of “Bumblebee” at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “You’ve seen the kind of movies I make right? You know I make weird little artisanal indie films with my bare hands. I play with dolls for a living.”

It wasn’t long before he came around to the idea. “I grew up with the ‘Transformers,'” he said, recalling watching the cartoons, reading the comic books, and playing with Transformers toys. “I had a little Bumblebee action figure. Me and him would go on little adventures in my parents’ basement.”

Also walking the red carpet that night were star Hailee Steinfeld and her co-stars Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Stephen Schneider, Pamela AdlonAngela Bassett, and Justin Theroux.

So far, “Bumblebee” has received rave reviews, with many critics calling it the franchise’s best entry yet. With a rare 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (the other chapters in the series range between 58% and 16%, for reference), the film is earning praise for it’s feel-good ’80s nostalgia, and for the surprising depth of emotion conveyed by a CGI-robot.

“I’ve heard that this is what [‘Transformers’ fans have] been asking for,” said Bassett. “I’m so glad the movie delivered and that they are ecstatic about it.”

Theroux says he was proud of the film’s success at rebooting a franchise with such a long history.

“It’s a different ‘Transformers’ movie,” Theroux said. “It chose a different lane to go down and committed to it. If you’re going to reboot something, this is the way to do it,” he said. “It’s cool that they went back to the beginning and decided, ‘Let’s tell the original story, inject a little heart into it, and strip away some of the noise.'”

Hailee Steinfeld'Bumblebee' film premiere, After Party, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Dec 2018
CREDIT: Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Cena attributed to film’s success to Knight’s calm, cool, and collected nature on set.

Travis is never stressed,” Cena said. “He’s responsible for redefining a franchise, has completely chosen boldly to make it [set] in the ’80s, change the animation of the transformers, female lead, female written script.”

Steinfeld said she has been “speechless” over the praise the film has received.

“Any time you get to work on something you love and are passionate about and get to share it with the world, you can only hope that they love it and they relate to it,” Steinfeld said. 

The actress also wrote and recorded a song for the movie called “Back to Life.”

“It has been on my bucket list to have a song of my own in a film of my own, and I was able to do that with this movie,” she said. “This film takes place in the ’80s, and it was important to me to dive into that era with music.”

“Bumblebee” hits theaters Dec. 21.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Azim Rashid

    Columbia Records Names Azim Rashid Head of Urban Promotion

    Azim Rashid has been named senior vice president and head of urban promotion at Columbia Records, SVP Promotion/Operations Jim Burruss announced today. The Sony Music label’s urban roster includes Lil Nas X, Taylor the Creator, Russ, Dej Loaf Dominic Fike, OBN Jay and Polo G, among others. Rashid arrives from Roc Nation where he also served [...]

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Universal Music Says ‘Many’ Suing Artists’ Masters Were Not Damaged in 2008 Fire

    UPDATED: Late Friday the attorneys representing Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac amended their lawsuit against Universal Music Group over damages to their music archives as a result of a 2008 fire. While most of the amended complaint updated details in the original document — adding information about UMG’s alleged [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Music fans listen to the band

    Woodstock Gets a Low-Key 50th Party With Ringo, Santana and That Album Cover Couple

    After efforts to stage a massive event celebrating Woodstock’s 50th anniversary failed to materialize, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York’s Catskills region became the only game in town. For months, organizers quietly promoted a weekend of concerts that would put the focus on the 1969 event and its musical and cultural [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content