Michael Bay is adamant about one thing: There’s nothing he hates more in the movie business than waste.
“Hollywood is so rife with waste,” he says, sneering. As an example, he cites directors who building “elaborate, million-dollar sets” then decide not to shoot on them. “That would never happen on one of my shows.”
Instead of building million-dollar sets, Bay got to take the $200 million US production of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to Egypt to film on the pyramids, something most filmmakers can only dream of.
And it was all thanks to Zahi] Hawass, the Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. “Dr. Hawass was a big fan of Transformers. That’s why he let us shoot there.”
Bay’s “it’s got to be loud” philosophy has led to bombastic hits like The Rock, Bad Boys and Armageddon. But it’s also led to lemons like The Island and Pearl Harbor. Naturally, he doesn’t think his latest giant robot opus will fall into the latter category.
Strapping in for the roller-coaster this time around — along with returning stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox — is Ramon Rodriguez, a young actor with a season of The Wire and this summer’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 under his belt.
Bay sees Ramon’s role as an extension of the audience. “He’s never seen any of these things. So that adds for comedy,” Bay explains. “And Ramon’s quite funny.”
“I end up getting sucked up into this world of robots and my world is completely flipped,” adds Rodriguez.
For Rodriguez, working for the notorious task-master was more than a little intimidating, but he found his feet quickly thanks to a particularly exhausting audition.
“For an hour and a half, he had me running jumping and diving all around his furniture, acting like I was running from robots. And I left the room completely sweaty and drenched.”
All the sweat paid off, but the 29-year-old, who was raised in New York and Puerto Rico, didn’t realize that was just the beginning. For one shot, Rodriguez found himself holding tight to a pole while Bay pointed two fans blowing 100 mile-per-hour wind.
“While the fans are going, he had two guys pulling my legs with these wires,” he remembers. “It’s 100-plus degrees, my shoulder pops out because the guys were pulling me. I have dirt and soot going into my eyes, I can’t see anything.
“All I can hear is Michael saying, ‘Open your eyes! I need this shot!’” It took a good 45 minutes for Rodriguez to rinse all the debris from his eyes. “I thought I’d lost my eyesight,” he says. “But it’s a cool shot.”
• Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens in theatres this Wednesday.