Michael Bay

Michael Bay worked on advertisements and music videos whilst in his 20s. He was responsible for creating music videos for, among others, Tina Turner, Meat Loaf and Lionel Richie. He also made advertisements for Nike, Reebok, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Miller Lite. In 1995 Bay directed his first feature film, Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which grossed more than $160 million worldwide. His follow-up film, The Rock (1996), starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, was also hugely successful. Sci-fi-online caught up with Bay as his latest film, Transformers, was due to be released in UK cinemas...

Sci-fi-online: Are you pleased with how Transformers turned out? When you're so close to a project like this, how do you come at it fresh when you're checking the final edit?

Michael Bay: Well, I see it way early when it's totally crap - you know when there's stuff that's not there. And then what I do with my process is I then cut it more and then I'll put it in front of like 30 kids.

And then I'll show the movie to another group of 30 kids. And they'll tell you what they feel. I have somebody who will personally do a focus group, which helps you in the editing process.

But then when I saw it with a real audience, I think it was 450 people, and there was major laughter and major applause, I was like: "Wow. They like this movie?" That's how you always feel about your movie. It's like you just want to know a movie works, you know?

So I think it's been well received. I've seen it now in Australia and Korea, Italy, United States and the audiences are all laughing and applauding in the same places.

SFO: This is predominantly a story about robots, so is the human aspect of the film important to you?

MB: It has to be, because you have to focus, ground your story in someone's human story - you know? So I think it's the most important part. It helps to draw the audience in to, you know, these gigantic things. It also gives you scale and it just makes it more involving, I think.

SFO: Around the world there are millions of fans of the original Transformers. Their reaction to the film has been pretty diverse. How do you feel about that?

MB: Well, before the movie was released, as you've probably seen on the Internet, it was all: "Death to Michael Bay"; "Michael Bay, you wrecked my childhood"; "Why are you changing the robots?"

And now when they see the movie, they're like: "Thank you Michael Bay"; "We love the movie".

You have to reinvent it so it could hold up on a big movie screen. Make it fresh.

So that was just my vision for it, so I've seen enough fans around the world that are really liking it.

SFO: What was working with Steven Spielberg like? I understand that when he saw the finished article his reaction was very positive.

MB: I first bought him into the edit room when I showed him... he wanted to see the whole movie when it was done. I said: "Come on, just see a scene".

So I showed him a scene and he started slapping me on the leg. This is my idol, slapping me on the leg and laughing. I'm like: "What are you laughing at?" and he's like: "I have never seen robots do this, I've never seen this".

I said: "Well you invented dinosaurs". And he was: "But I've never seen robots do this". So, when he saw the end product, he was just amazed about the heart of the movie.

SFO: The effects are pretty impressive, is it true that some of the frames took 38 hours to render?

MB: Well, that's if you have three robots in a frame, cause they are so complicated. It's called ray-tracing, with the light and how it bounces around these robots. They average about 10,000 parts per robot, which is the largest digital models ever made.

My thing with effects is that I push to make them very realistic. Lot of effects are very, kind of what you call pastel, they're lit bad and they look fake. I work really hard to make it look as real as possible.

SFO: Shia LaBeouf is playing an iconic role in the movie, what did you make of his performance?

MB: I think, he's like a young Tom Hanks and he's really going to break out after this. I think he's got the everyday, everyman kind of quality. He's got a great thing going on with his eyes, and you just see the window to his soul, so well.

He's really funny, so he's going to go quite far. But I will know that I broke him.

SFO: There is the potential to make another a sequel movie. Is that something that you'd be interested in being involved with?

MB: Yeah, I mean, you know, we want to start working on a sequel right now. So we'll see.

We spent about a year and a half on this - because it is just the amount of artists that have to draw and, like you know, conceptualise. It's was a lot of work.

SFO: Thank you for your time.

With thanks Stuart Coles at Way to Blue

Transformers is released through Paramount Pictures from 27 July 2007.

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