If you've seen any of Michael Bay's films, especially in the last ten years, you can see he's very particular about what kind of woman he likes to see on screen. Back in 2001, when he was working on Pearl Harbor he left an impression on newcomer Kate Beckinsale by repeatedly telling the press he specifically hired someone who wasn't too attractive. And it doesn't stop there.
According to Digital Spy Beckinsale, who has spoken about her issues with the Transformers director before, got to talking about the experience again.
“I don't think I fitted the type of actress Michael Bay the director had met before. I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren't bigger than my head and I wasn't blonde,” she said. “I'd just had my daughter and had lost weight, but was told that if I got the part, I'd have to work out. And I just didn't understand why a 1940s nurse would do that.”
Indeed. Beauty standards in the 40s were quite different than they are today. Though Hollywood's behavior hasn't changed much.
From Forbes.com interview in 2009, “Actress Kate Beckinsale told reporters Bay made her feel ugly on the set of Pearl Harbor. (Not true, says Bay. He asked her to work out more.)” And you may recall a report in which Megan Fox (who's since compared Bay to Hitler and then apologized) discussed her Transformers interview process.
She told me she went to director Michael Bay's house to audition and he made her wash his Ferrari while he filmed her. She said she didn't know what had happened to that footage. When I put it to Bay himself, he looked suitably abashed. “Er, I don't know where it is either.”
But Beckinsale's negative treatment by the director didn't stop after filming ended. Digital Spy reports her saying, “And then, when we were promoting the film, Michael was asked why he had chosen Ben [Affleck] and Josh [Hartnett], and he said, 'I have worked with Ben before and I love him, and Josh is so manly and a wonderful actor'. Then when he was asked about me, he'd say, 'Kate wasn't so attractive that she would alienate the female audience' “He kept saying it everywhere we went, and we went to a lot of places.”
Here's a quote on that straight from MichaelBay.com:
Q: What made you choose Kate Beckinsale?
A: I didn”t want someone who was too beautiful. Women feel disturbed when they see someone”s too pretty. I”m not saying Kate”s not pretty. When you look at Titanic, Kate Winslet is pretty, but not overwhelmingly beautiful. That makes it work better for women. Our Kate is very funny, could hang with the guys. She”s not so neurotic about everything, like some actresses. she was solid, and I think the three of them had some really nice chemistry.
In 2004 Beckinsale commented on this saying “It freaked me out because I was so pleased with myself, having lost the 70 pounds after my pregnancy…I did find that quite upsetting and my self-esteem took a real blow from it… I became quite insecure because I was told a lot that I wasn't pretty enough.” Her costar assured her this was all perfectly normal, “Ben Affleck was very open about it. 'This is what goes on,' he said, and I really needed somebody to tell me it wasn't just me.”
It's easy to hand wave this as Michael Bay being Michael Bay but this kind of treatment is rampant in Hollywood. Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie recently discussed the type of sacrifices she's had to make so far in her career to get along in this kind of work atmosphere. And when Bay's behavior is considered the norm, not the exception, that's a very serious issue indeed.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece originally contained a quote attributed to Mr. Bay by The Independent newspaper. The Independent has since retracted and removed the quote from its site, so we have removed it and reference to it from this article.