q: Hey Michael. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is coming out on DVD. What’s different about this Transformers, the third in the trilogy, to the first two films?
a: We upped our game in every facet. The acting is better. From day one I said to Shia (LaBeouf) we were going to lift the acting on this one. I set about casting the best ensemble possible. I wanted actor’s actors. That’s why I went after John Malkovich and Frances McDormand. Patrick Dempsey is one of the best actors on TV and film. Ken Jeong is a sensation and I wanted to work with him from the moment I saw him on the first Hangover movie. We also got Leonard Nimoy to voice Sentinel Prime. That was a key move that fans really enjoyed. We also have new Decepticons, like Shockwave, who has a giant drill. That proved to be another great move.
q: Megan Fox is not in this film, but you went with English supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who does a great job. Why did you cast Rosie? Did you feel it was a risk casting her considering it was her first movie?
a: No, not at all. I knew she wasn’t a risk. I first met Rosie on a Victoria’s Secret commercial I made a few years ago and I knew she could cross over into film. I had no doubt. She has that spark directors look for. When she came in to audition everyone agreed she was special and she didn’t let us down. Rosie came on to the set and was fearless. She was up for anything.
q: How many actresses did you audition for the role?
a: We auditioned something like 500 women, but like I said, there’s something special about Rosie. I love her English accent. She’s gorgeous. She’s smart. She’s also fearless. Rosie had all of the ingredients of what we were looking for.
q: You actually shut down Chicago’s central business district for some key action-battle scenes for the movie. Was it easy to convince the decision makers in Chicago to let you take over their city?
a: The people of Chicago were amazing. I met with the mayor and the council and became friendly with them and they agreed to give us 12 blocks of their city. That is amazing. In Los Angeles, they basically didn’t want us. In Chicago they welcomed us with open arms. They allowed us to shut down Michigan Avenue which, in the history of the city, has only happened twice before. It happened for Oprah Winfrey. It happened for this movie (laughs).
q: But didn’t Chicago’s locals get upset that this Hollywood movie had created chaos for them. I imagine there were traffic jams and pedestrian access was difficult while you were there.
a: What we did was make it a great experience for the locals and all of the tourists in the city at that time. It was the middle of summer and so there were a lot of visitors in the city. We let them get close to the action. They could watch the explosions. We had thousands and thousands of people lined up watching as we shot. People could get really close to the action. I think that made up for any inconvenience the filming had on their travel plans.
q: You are known for orchestrating amazing action scenes in your films but you topped yourself in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. There are some crazy sequences, but the most incredible was the one involving base jumpers who literally fly with wings through Chicago’s skyscrapers. From what I understand, you actually hired the world’s top base jumpers to do this. What we see is not visual effects. It’s the real deal. It’s flying humans.
a: Yeah, that’s right. I remember watching 60 Minutes one night and they had a story about these guys jumping off cliffs in Norway. The footage was amazing. I’m always looking for something fresh, something that hasn’t been done before and I knew instantly how I could use them. I invited them to come and see me. They did. I told them what we wanted to do, which was to jump out of a crashing helicopter and then used their winged suits to fly through the city at 150 mph. They were in. I thought the hardest thing about it would be to convince Chicago to let us do it, but they were OK with it too. They let us jump off Sears Tower (laughs) I still can’t believe it.