'Transformers: The Last Knight' Set Visit: ''It's The Super Bowl Every Day''

We've already run through all the new story details and character information from Transformers: The Last Knight in the first part of our report from our visit to the sequel's set last summer. But that doesn't convey just what it's like to be on the set of a movie directed by Michael Bay. The man is known for getting worked up on set and working fast and frenetically, and he demands the best out of his cast and crew, so much that it even sparks them to become more innovative to satisfy his work speed. This is truly something to behold when it's all happening in front of you. As one of the crew members said, "It's the Super Bowl every day."

In the second part of our Transformers The Last Knight set visit report, we discuss what it's like to watch Michael Bay at work, complete with insight from his crew members that are always kept on their toes while completing 90 setups a day, and some details on the huge action sequences we're going to see play out in theaters next summer, including some with flares of Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.

It's August 5th, 2016, a sweltering day up in Pontiac, Michigan. Me and about a dozen other reporters and bloggers are standing in the middle of what looks like an abandoned lot, but is actually part of the land owned by a state-of-the-art movie studio that feels a bit out of place in the Midwest. It has all the production offices and sound stages of a studio you might find in Los Angeles, but here it is in the Midwest. We've heard that since the tax breaks in Michigan are no longer available, the studio rarely gets used anymore. But it's definitely getting used now.

Today, the production of Transformers: The Last Knight is shooting an action sequence with plenty of gunfire and explosions. We'd heard some bombs were going to go off today, but we haven't seen any explosions yet. That's about to change as we're each handed some ear plugs. Every now and then you'll get these on a set just because there are some people who don't like the loud noise that a film set can bring, especially a blockbuster. But it's usually an option. This time, we're very explicitly told that we need to have these ear plugs in, and a few short minutes later, we find out why.

Sitting in front of us is a piece of a crashed osprey (which is actually a disassembled CH-47 Chinook, a dual-engine helicopter), one of those vehicles that has the body and wings of a cargo plane. But instead of jet engines or vertical propellers, there are two horizontal propellers, just like the top of a helicopter. The destroyed osprey is sitting in the middle of a pile of black dirt, surrounded by film equipment including green screen walls, with cranes holding giant shades above to shield the set from being blown out with natural sunlight.

The vehicle is sitting in such a way that the back of it has split open, allowing a group of soldiers to run out of it, including Josh Duhamel and Santiago Cabrera, geared up, armed, and ready for a fight. The two stars are accompanied by a band of soldiers, all firing their weapons, hiding behind debris chunks, running up small dirt hills, taking cover as giant fans blow dirt in their face, all that good stuff. Some fireballs go off into the sky nearby, while chunks of dark, styrofoam are launched into the air around them.Transformers The Last KnightThe troops are escorting Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock, both wearing military flight suits, while Isabela Moner is wearing street clothes, taking cover and moving stealthily with their protectors. The soldiers fire at an unseen threat, but we're told there are a bunch of Decepticons descending on their location and attacking fiercely. Some of the Autobots are helping, but obviously, they're not on set. Though we do see on one end of the set a long stick with the cardboard head of Hound, giving us an idea of scale and position of at least one of their Transformers allies.

We can't tell you exactly where all this is taking place, but let's just say it's happening on a location that will be very familiar to Transformers fans. We can't spoil much more than that because this is a sequence from the third act of the movie.

Everything we just described is shot over and over again, just with different camera set-ups. Sometimes Michael Bay is right in the middle of the action, using his handheld camera to get in the face of the soldiers as debris engulfs him. One take sees him laid out on the ground, his head mere inches away from the Porsche Cayenne camera rig vehicle after it drives in swiftly for a sweeping shot of the soldiers attacking the off-screen Transformers.

Michael Bay is not fucking around. He's always moving fast, though he does take the time to talk to us several times throughout the shoot, which he jests is slowing him down a bit. After takes, he goes to video village to check out what they just shot. This particular sequence is using five cameras, so he has five monitors in front of him, glancing around at each one, making sure he picked up what he wanted on camera. We don't have any photos from this sequence, but this GIF that we've posted before provides the best example of what we were watching (though some takes had even more explosions):

One take wasn't up to Michael Bay's standards for a very specific reason. Apparently the prop guns that were being used on set were not firing properly. After a botched take, we witnessed the Michael Bay that we were hoping to see. Bay storms onto the set, yelling, "What's going on with these guns? These are the shittiest guns I've ever had on a set. I've got people in front of my camera who know how to fire guns, and they're not working."

Bay is referring to the real Navy SEALs who are part of the production, and he's not a fan of giving them prop weaponry that they can't effectively use for a take. This just goes to show you how involved Bay is in every facet of the production and how meticulous he is with regards to every single department. How do his crew members and the cast feel about that? Find out on the next page.

Transformers The Last Knight - Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg

Michael Bay is one of those filmmakers who gives each and every person he works with a story to tell their friends. He's known for getting worked up. He's known for changing the shooting schedule at the last minute and adding shots that no one was even prepared to tackle. Is that frustrating for the crew? In short, yes, but they all seem to love it and take it in stride.

Here are some choice words from a few of the crew members who have worked with Michael Bay on more than one occasion.

Mike Gunther, the film's stunt coordinator, says his job requires "a lot of Pepto Bismol." He goes on to explain:

I'm gonna tell you it's the Super Bowl every day, fast paced, hurry up offense, and you're dealing, you're just dealing with audible after audible after audible and you just kind of have to have everything ready to go in your toolbox, and you just pick and choose on the day what he might want or a combination of what he wants. But it's difficult. And you definitely, you know, you spend a lot of hours, you work every weekend, you think about it, like hey, what's coming down the pike. And then he'll call you on the way to work, go, "Hey, I wanna change this." Today we're doing ten bombs, perfect example. Yesterday there was no bombs on the call sheet, when we showed up today now there's three guys getting ratcheted and ten bombs.

Gunther adds that he's anxious every week because Bay "comes in and throws you ideas and you really just stay awake at night trying to figure out how to execute that in a short amount of time with the resources you have."

Special effects supervisor John Frazier, who has worked with Michael Bay for around 20 years echoes those sentiments, saying, "It doesn't get any easier. It does get better, but it doesn't get any easier." He recalls what Bay told him when they started working together, "He told me, 'Here's how it is. It's real simple. This is how I make movies. You either get on or get off.'" Frazier explains:

The thing about these movies is that Michael has a vision, and he's somewhat of a mad genius, a frustrated genius. It's all in his head, so we have to extrapolate that out of his head, not two months before or six months before but as he wakes up driving here. That's when we figure out what he wants to see that day.

But don't take Frazier's remarks as complaining, because he adds, "I've always said the same thing: We volunteered for this army. We did not get drafted. So you just take it. You know what? We're filmmakers, and there are a lot of directors out there that don't make movies like this. That's why we work for him because we don't do CGI, we don't work in a lab, we don't work in an air-conditioned room." These guys are happy to be out there, and even though they may be on their toes all the time, they wouldn't keep doing it if they didn't love it.

Transformers The Last Knight

The cast isn't safe from Michael Bay's intensity either. Josh Duhamel told us a great story about Bay giving him a hard time, something he apparently does frequently:

He's always giving me shit about something. But I love him, and he likes me. He's mostly just ribbing me at this point. He hasn't gotten really pissed at me yet, because I know better than to cross him. But the first day, we're up in this submersible, this little mini submarine that goes down to this ship that we find. And we're on this gimbal up on top, and there's green screen in the background, and it's hot as balls up there. And we think we're done, and he's like 'Okay, now we're gonna go to this part.' And I go, 'Fuuuck.' And I didn't realize he had the ear buds on. And he's like 'What was that? What did you say?' I said, 'No, nothing.' He's like, 'I thought I heard you say 'Fuuuck.' You got it real tough up there, don't you? You actors got it real tough. Look at the guys around you.' And they're all SEALs. And he's like, 'Why don't you tell those guys how tough your job is?' So that was the first day. It's always stuff like that.

So Bay doesn't let his talent get away with any complaints, and you have to respect that. And it's not as if he's just being a jerk, because Bay is always working. He's not the kind of filmmaker to wait around while everyone else does their job. Laura Haddock says he does everything, "He's behind the camera, he's goffering things to walls with tape, he's sweeping floors, he's holding lights, he's doing touch-ups on makeup, he just jumps in and gets involved."

It doesn't sound like Bay is quite as intense with Wahlberg. Or if he is, the actor just doesn't worry about it anymore. Wahlberg explained:

For Michael and I this is our third movie so we're quite familiar with each other and know where to push each other and bring the best out of each other. But I'm definitely not as young as I used to be, that's the biggest difference. So you need to have new people, young people that are super excited and super eager to get in there anytime we're doing something dangerous action-wise. It's pretty annoying but I get it, I understand the enthusiasm, I just give it a little time.

That definitely sounds like Wahlberg is getting too old for some of this shit, but he's in the middle of the action with the rest of the cast, so he's not down for the count yet. And when it comes to the action, this movie is certainly putting Wahlberg into some pretty hellacious sequences.

On the next page, we run through some of the major action sequences we heard about while on set, including one compared to Braveheart, another compared to Saving Private Ryan, and one that involved thousands of gallons of water.

Transformers The Last Knight

One particular sequence involves a gimbal with a huge flat platform on it. The cast slides down the side while thousands of gallons of water were dumped on it. Josh Duhamel described the sequence, which you can see in action in the photo above:

There's this giant gimbal with these hydraulic pumps underneath it, built with these giant I-beams forming underneath that will be the side of a ship. And there's three, 20,000 gallon drums that they dump to make it look like there's a giant wave coming up. First of all, it's dangerous, but fun. It's like a giant water park. And just the ability to design this thing without it breaking. You dump 20,000 gallons of water on anything, that's a giant force of nature.

Here's a shot of Mark Wahlberg shooting on the platform and sliding down while water is dumped on it:

Transformers The Last Knight - Mark Wahlberg

The sequence involves the side of a ship that gets bombarded by water. This might have something to do with the submarine Transformer that we talked about in the other part of our set visit. This is just one sequence involving practical set pieces and stunts like this. The stunt coordinator mentioned their use of rolling rooms as well, not to mention all the ratcheting that goes on where soldiers get yanked into the sky.

Transformers The Last Knight - Michael Bay

Two sequences were also singled out by Mike Gunther in our discussion on the Transformers set. One of the more buzzed-about sequences involves a flashback to medieval times. Described as a sequence that emulates Braveheart, Gunther indicated that there was going to be a huge horse battle. We're not talking about Transformers that are horses, but something like "a hundred horses coming at each other."

This was part of the production that took place in the United Kingdom, around real castles, with knights and all sorts of medieval production design that we're not used to seeing in a Michael Bay movie. But that's not the only major battle we'll see taking cues from war movies of the past.

Another sequence was described as being akin to Saving Private Ryan. We found out that the scene we watched throughout the day was actually just a small part of a much larger sequence. And knowing just how much gunfire, explosions, debris and whatnot was being tossed around that day, I can only imagine what a full sequence at that level of intensity will be like with giant robots added into the equation. Guther says, "This osprey goes down, they're running, it's Omaha Beach, it's just crazy."

Transformers The Last Knight Set Visit - Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg

Finally, Mike Gunther only briefly told us about what he thought was the most difficult stunt to pull off for Transformers: The Last Knightt. There is some kind of drone sequence where a 28-story building is knocked over onto a 10-story building after one of the Transformers gets knocked into it. We didn't catch a glimpse of this sequence, so it's kind of hard to imagine without a frame of reference, but perhaps we'll know what this sequence is when we see it.


That's it for our report from the set of Transformers: The Last Knight. If you missed our first part with all of the new story and character details we discovered on set, you can check that out over here. Also, stay tuned, because we'll be posting our full interview text from our chats with Michael Bay, as well as some details from executive producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura about the future of the Transformers franchise.