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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.

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