The news that Michael Bay would be back to direct Transformers 4 didn’t come as a surprise, exactly, but it did run counter to some of Bay’s earlier hesitations about returning for a fourth installment. In a new interview, Bay discusses why he decided to come back after all — as well as the resistance he got in trying to shake things up with the relatively low-budget, non-Transformers project Pain & Gain.

Meanwhile, director M. Night Shyamalan, who also knows a thing or two about critically derided franchises, is said to be mulling over three separate projects for his follow-up to After Earth. Could one of them be The Last Airbender 2? Uh, maybe, but it seems like a stretch. Read about both Bay and Shyamalan after the jump.

Bay’s discussion of Transformers 4 came in an interview with The Huffington Post. The whole piece is well worth reading, but some of the most interesting bits have to do with Bay’s decision to direct Transformers 4:

I thought I was done. Then the ride came out [at Universal Studios Hollywood] and the two-and-a-half-hour lines. And then you’re thinking, Oh my God, someone’s going to take this over. And you start doing a lot of soul-searching. Like, OK, I’m about to do a little movie, “Pain & Gain” … and the studio says they want to restart the franchise. And someone could come in here and screw it up, you know? So I’m thinking that if I do this last one, we set it on a new footing, we change a lot of things — but we keep the history of the three in place. But we broaden it so it can be set up and be carried on — it would have a better chance for survival, I guess. You know?

Right.
So it was just one of those things. It’s like, when you look what’s going on in the film business with the franchise frenzy right now, why is Cameron doing two more “Avatar” movies? Why is Peter Jackson doing three more “Hobbit” movies that are in the same world as “Lord of the Rings”?” he says. “When you have a franchise, it’s very hard to give it up.”

Bay avoids explicitly framing Transformers 4 as a trade-off for getting to do Pain & Gain, but it’s clear the two projects aren’t unrelated.

Do you still feel that way? That people don’t believe in you, as far as a smaller movie is concerned?
They wanted me to do something bigger. There are not a lot of people who do these big movies. So that’s why you have to twist their arm a little bit to do this. So I basically said, “All right, I’ll do ‘Transformers 4,’ we’ll do this little movie — we’ll do both.”

Is that how it happened? That was the deal?
Well, it’s kind of like a little bit here and there, you know? They would have done it. [Paramount chairman] Brad Grey says, “We’ll make whatever you want.”

But it helps that you’re doing the fourth “Transformers”?
But it’s also that I’m friends with the people at the studio. It’s exactly like I said: it’s just from the heart. You don’t want to leave “Transformers” in bad hands. Do you know what I’m saying? So we can set it up in the right way so it can kind of continue on.

One filmmaker who may understand Bay’s reluctance to move on is Shyamalan, who tried to start his own Paramount franchise with 2010′s The Last Airbender. While the film proved a critical and commercial disappointment, it raked in enough ($300 million globally) that it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the studio to greenlight a sequel. Now some fans are wondering if Shyamalan himself will be back for the potential follow-up.

MNightFans.com picked up on a recent tweet by Shyamalan in which he discusses where he might go after his current sci-fi picture After Earth. “Deciding between 3 [projects],” he wrote. “One I’ve already written and 2 that are just in outline form. They are all fighting in my heart right now.” Although Shyamalan doesn’t go into detail about what the films are, MNightFans and Avatar Wiki surmise that the already written script is The Last Airbender 2. They’re not entirely without justification — Shyamalan said back in 2010 that he’d already completed a first draft for the sequel that he was “very happy” with.

Still, it requires something of a leap to assume the movie in question is definitely The Last Airbender 2, and not just some other story we don’t know about yet. And then there’s the question of whether Paramount even wants him back. Even if the studio moves forward with Airbender 2, there’s no real reason they’d have to do it with Shyamalan. Reviews for the first Airbender were scathing, and though as we all know, critics don’t always make or break the box office, it seems to make more sense for Paramount to hand over the reins to fresher and cheaper talent for the second go-round.

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