Michael Bay on the set of Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay Knows a Bad Space Suit When He Sees One

Mr. Bay can tell this story himself:

He makes some valid points. A poor choice of space suits would’ve been a distraction in the last hour of Armageddon.

Michael Bay as a NASA Scientist (uncredited) in Armageddon

Michael Bay Doesn’t Take Sick Days

The director doesn’t want to waste a second on the set – he wants as many setups as he can get. He’ll shoot without a camera if he has to, which he said during the Pain & Gain shoot. The only time the pace seems to slow down on a Bay set is when he’s sick:

I never get sick when I shoot. You just have this kind of adrenaline that carries you for a full year and a half to two through a movie…I was violenty sick with the flu [one day on Transformers]. I was like, “I’m OK, I can direct.” I had to lie down on the asphalt because I was so cold from shivering. My producer, Ian Bryce said, “Buddy, you gotta go.” I said, “No, no. I’ve never gone home ever in my career. I’ve never gone home sick. No.” Then we had some gignatic days. Literally two days away, we had to shoot downtown at the cost of $375,000 each. It’s a big deal to shutdown all that stuff downtown. Then the set doctor came by and said, “You got 102. You gotta go home.” Anyway, I kind of kicked it the next day, but I was sick and had to direct in my trailer, so I had a microphone. They were so slow without me on the set. We went from 50-something setups in a day to 15.

Bay Pearl Harbor

Michael Bay Has Had Some Close Calls

Bay likes to get in on the action while shooting, even operating a camera himself. While on The Island, a dangerous camera position was almost fatal:

Right when Ewan McGregor takes a chain and whacks a guy [during The Island chase], there’s a low-angle shot by the truck, and that’s where I almost lost my life. A pole came by my head at about 45mph. I will often operate from very dangerous camera positions because I operate a lot. I had my little camera, was leaning against the guard rail, and at the very last moment, another operator way down the way told me to move my head 12 inches, so I’m not in the shot. Lo and behold, I shot this thing – great shot – and attached to the wasp’s ass is a gigantic metal pole I did not see [coming]. It went right by my ear. I guarantee you if I did not move when my cameraman told me to move, I’d be dead.

Bad Boys 2

Michael Bay Had to Fight For a Signature Bay Shot

“Shit just got real.” We all know the quintessential Michael Bay shot, the one that’s appeared throughout his work. Bad Boys II is where the MTV Movie Award winner perfected it – a camera dollies around two intense figures – but he had to push for its creation in Bad Boys:

Now, the shot where they stand up was kind of a signature shot for Bad Boys. The way it came about, I told my line producer, “We gotta shoot this shot. There’s this shot in my head.” He said, “It’s not in the script.” I said, “Trust me, we’re going to dolly around these guys, have them rise up, and this shot will be a trailer shot.” Of course, it was the signature trailer shot they used. Sometimes it was such a fight to get shots going. When you’re a director, sometimes you gotta think of it on the set, and that’s what makes movies better – creating as you go. I plan most everything, but I do allow time to come up with new jokes and new shots, and the movie takes on a life of its own.

Sequel Bits Michael Bay

Michael Bay Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

Michael Bay spent a quarter of his Bad Boys directing fee on one shot. After Marcus Burnett drops a one-liner – “You forgot your boarding pass” – an explosion goes off. The director paid for that explosion, which now looks quaint compared to his other movies:

There was a major rainstorm and we couldn’t do the shot because the explosion would be way too bright for the outside. We were in an openair kind of airhanger. The week before the movie was going to end, Bruce, the line producer said, “We’re wrapped.” I said, “Well, when are we going to do the shot?” He goes, “No, no, no. We’re not doing the shot. It’s not in the movie.” I said, “Wait a minute. This is where the audience claps.” He says we’re not doing the shot, so I go, “No, no, no. What do you mean we’re not doing the shot? We’re doing the shot. How much will it cost to force the crew in the morning?” Forcing means you bring them in before their call time and pay them time and a half. He goes, “$25,000.” I go, “OK, fine.” At that time, it was a quarter of my fee. I said, “I’ll write you a check right now.” He couldn’t believe I was ready to write a check to Columbia pictures and said he couldn’t take my money. I said, “You better fucking take my money.” Sometimes I had to use language like this to get things done. Sometimes directors have to play this game to get what they want.

You gotta know the right time to do the song and dance bit, because it doesn’t work everytime. After a while when you really want something, you do the song and dance. I said, “You either take my money or I’m getting on a plane and going home, because I’m through with this movie business. I was completely happy with my commercial business. I was doing fine.” Studio president gets on the phone and says, “We can’t take your money.” I said, “You better take my money. I swear, I now have a plane ticket and I’m leaving in an hour and a half.” He said, “We’ve never taken money from any director, besides Tony Scott.” I said, “You know what? Tony puts his money where his mouth is, and I do too. Take my money, let me pay for the scene, and we will all be happy.” Finally, they took my money and before we shot the shot, I put on a close focus lens and put the check in front of the lens and photographed: to Columbia Pictures from Michael Bay, $25,000.

They cashed Bay’s check. Not until the movie made $60 million did they pay Bay back. The director looks back on the experience as a character builder.

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