Transformers 3 opens at midnight tonight, sure to make eleventy kajillion dollars, and with that in mind, there’s been a lot of discussion of its angel-haired mastermind, Michael Bay. Now, we could sit here all day arguing about whether or not Michael Bay is a “true artist,” but frankly, I don’t think I could get through that without wedgieing everyone. One thing I think we can all agree on, however, is that he’s is an interesting guy, and has hair like a Norse God of myth. GQ finally published their full oral history that was previously teased, and I’d urge you to check out the whole thing. But just in case you’d rather stay here and keep making money for daddy, I took the liberty of excerpting some of my favorite bits. There’s a lot of fun stuff after the jump, but I think you could sum up Michael Bay’s entire career in these top two quotes:
Bruckheimer: Michael even had to write a check for an action sequence that Sony wouldn’t pay for.
Bay: The scene [in Bad Boys] where Martin shoots the guy out of the plane. I said to the line producer, “This is where the audience claps. This is the end of the movie.” He was like, “I don’t care. We’re not doing the shot.” He was just a studio flunky. I was literally going to punch him out.
Peter Devlin (sound mixer, various Bay films): The scene cost $25,000. That’s a lot of money. I believe the studio cashed the check as well.
Bay: I don’t change my style for anybody. Pussies do that.
And with that, I like to imagine a pair of sunglasses magically appeared on his face and the contrails of an F-18 spelled out “DEAL WITH IT” in the sky behind him.
Steven Spielberg (producer, Transformers): He has the best eye for multiple levels of pure visual adrenaline.
Ugh, what does that even mean, you schmuck? That’s like something Pete Hammond would say about a Steven Spielberg movie.
Jeanine Basinger (Bay’s film professor, Wesleyan University): I always tell my husband, “My tombstone is going to say, ‘She taught Michael Bay.’ ”
Michael Bay: I’m, like, a true American.
Yes, Michael Bay went to Wesleyan.
Bay: Wesleyan was very cliquey. They all wore dark clothing, and they were always uggghhhhh.
Basinger: “All the film majors wore black! They liked death!” He sees them as one giant goth! Wesleyan was not a very big frat school, but Michael belonged to one.
Shocking. MAKE 10 LATTES, PLEDGE! THEN BRING ME THE BEST ONE SO I CAN DUMP IT ON THESE HIPPIES!
K. C. Hodenfield (first assistant director, various Bay films): I had started a softball team at Lucasfilm, and there was this whiny teenage kid who would come around with the president of the company’s son, wanting to play in the games. So I gotta get this kid some playing time. Ends up it was Michael Bay.
Brad Fuller: The first time I saw Michael on a bigger set, he was doing a video, and there was the hottest blonde girl I’ve ever seen in my life, and she’s got a wind machine on her. She’s dancing, she looks hot, she’s wearing a short skirt. He’s shooting her from a low angle. And he looked at a few of us, and there was this look in his eyes, like he had reached nirvana. It was childlike wonderment.
Hmm, sounds more like adults-at-a-strip-club wonderment to me, but tomato tomaahto.
On what Bad Boys might have looked like, in a parallel universe:
Joe Pantoliano (actor, Bad Boys): I remember Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer had this movie Bad Boys going. It was going to be Jon Lovitz and somebody else—
Jerry Bruckheimer (producer, various Bay films): Dana Carvey. We’d looked at a bunch of commercial directors because we’d had success with Tony Scott, and the one reel that stood out was Michael’s. It had a wonderful sense of humor and a unique visual style—like nobody else. Michael did a test scene with Jon and Dana, but Disney didn’t like the test.
Bay: Jeffrey Katzenberg didn’t think it was funny. Maybe it was too goofy.
On his relationship with “the blacks”:
Bay: By week two, Martin [Lawrence] was being a dick to me. And I was like, “What is this attitude?” He didn’t trust the white man. That was the deal.
Yeah, either that or Martin Lawrence is just a notorious pain in the ass.
Lawrence: That’s exactly what it was. You know, Michael—he has a certain bravado. One time he said to me, “I need your notes on the script,” and I looked at him, I said: “Michael, yeah, I’ll get the notes to you when I get to it.” And he just looked at me with this blank stare like, “Oh, he did not.”
Bay: [Eventually] I took him aside and said, “Dude, what’s your deal? I’m busting my ass to make you look good, make you look funny. And you just keep belittling me.” And then here’s the speech, almost like it was ready to come out. He says, “I’m a black man that made it from nothing!” And I said, “You know what? I’m a white guy who made it from nothing, too. I grew up in the f*ckin’ Valley.” Instant respect.
Really? Growing up in the Valley gives you instant street cred? …Huh.
Will Smith, on his iconic, running-with-his-shirt-unbuttoned scene in Bad Boys.
Will Smith: That was the moment for me where I learned how important single images are. That single image took me from a comedic television actor to a potential movie star. The scripts that I started to get offered changed dramatically. It was the first time that I heard women react to me with an audible gasp. There was a transformation from the cute guy next door who could make you laugh to a guy who might be able to handle himself in a bar fight and a bedroom.
Are you beginning to see why I think Will Smith is such a douche?
Fun with Nic Cage and Sean Connery on The Rock (my God, that must’ve been the most insane set):
Bruckheimer: He did a terrific job of getting Sean to loosen up. I shouldn’t say loosen up, because he’s pretty loose—getting Sean to accept some of Nic’s craziness. I shouldn’t say craziness—I should say his creative dialogue.
Bay: One day I showed up on set and Cage came out for a scene in his apartment dressed in a purple Speedo. And I’m like, “Oh, I get it. Okay. You don’t want to wear the wardrobe because you want to show your muscles. OK, let’s just get it all out in the beginning of the movie.”
Bruckheimer: It wasn’t always a cakewalk. Sean Connery’s like another producer. He’ll come out on set and say, “Why is that here? That crane’s been out here for two days and nobody’s using it. You’re wasting money.”
Bay: He kept calling me “boy.” And one time he called me a “cock.” [In Connery accent] “You cocksucker!” It was his last day of the shoot, and he didn’t like holding his breath underwater. I had United States SEALs holding him down because there was a fireball going over the water, and if he came up, he would burn his face off. So whatever, he called me names.
Navy SEALS holding you underwater while fireballs go off above your head is what Michael Bay likes to call “foreplay.” Oh, right, the part about Michael Bay loving Bottle Rocket…
Bruckheimer: Casting Owen Wilson [in Armageddon] definitely was Michael’s idea. Michael saw Bottle Rocket; he said, “We gotta hire this guy.”
Bay: [The first day] Owen came to the set an hour, hour and a half late. We put the PAs out on the Warner Bros. lot, said “Call me when you find him.” On Armageddon, each day was a big expensive day, $250,000. I put my arm around Owen, who’s a great guy. I said, “Owen, you know what, I worked with Sean Connery and I gotta tell you, he was never late.” And Owen was never late again.
On Ben Affleck’s baby teeth:
Bay: Jerry [Bruckheimer] had a problem with his teeth. “He’s got baby teeth. I fixed Cruise’s teeth. We’re going to fix his teeth.” So Ben got a beautiful set of teeth out of it.
And Jerry Bruckheimer knows what makes men attractive. I mean look at that scarf!
Scarlett Johansson (actor, The Island): I ran into him leaving a party once and asked him if I could be the Easy-Bake Oven Transformer. He looked at me in all seriousness and said, “There isn’t one.”
I like to imagine that shortly after that, he suggested she play a new Transformer, “Motor Boat,” and then winked and clicked his tongue a lot. Not to get all highbrow so soon after my awesome joke about ScarJo’s big titties, but there’s an old Joan Didion story about John Wayne, where she sort of paints him as a guy who helped create and then came to believe his own mythology. I get the feeling Michael Bay is kind of like that. But with hair that smells like an autumn breeze.
[full GQ article here]