10 Stories About Michael Bay, As Told By Michael Bay

Without question, one of my favorite parts of my job is the Michael Bay stories. If somebody has worked with him, they usually have a good story to tell. Few filmmakers, if any, direct and act like Michael Bay. He's one in a million, which is maybe why his movies tend to make hundreds of millions of dollars.

Someone else who has some great stories to tell about Michael Bay? Michael Bay. The filmmaker (and huge dog lover) usually discusses his work and collaborators with candor. His commentaries, for example, are highly entertaining. After listening to all of them and devouring his movie's extensive bonus features – and having my mind consumed by Bayhem – I decided it was time to compile a list of the best Michael Bay stories...as told by Michael Bay.

Below, get to know the director of Transformers: The Last Knight a little more intimately.

Michael Bay Knows His Audience 

When the director is making a movie for an audience, he wants to know which specific audience, which surprised one writer on The Rock:

I had a fight about the [inserted second act] car chase with one of the writers. I felt it was a way for me to help, after all this complicated setup, to help suck the younger audience back into it. I know that sounds weird, trying to make movies for demographics and whatnot, but that's basically what it was. I had a fight with one of the writers. He said, "I've never heard a director talking about demographics." I'm like, well, this is a writer who's never actually had a script made into a movie. I said, "Let me tell you something. If you're given $60 million, you better fucking know who you're selling this movie to, because it could be the last time they ever give you $60 million. We're in a business.

Michael Bay and the Deadheads

The Pain & Gain director graduated from Wesleyan University after majoring in Film and English. Ever wonder what Bay was up to in college? He was rooming with a deadhead:

I remember the day when I went into Wesley University and met my roommate. My roommate was a deadhead. I didn't know what a deadhead was, because I'm from Los Angeles, so I didn't know what a deadhead was. Very nice guy. It was not fun when the Grateful Dead actually had concerts in Connecticut and no less than 20 deadheads sleeping in his room on the floor. I had an inside room, in a double room. I remember the stench of...I don't know what they were smoking, but I remember it was wafting into my room. I had to get into my room and his head was in my doorway. I had to get rid of that stench, so I had to slowly push the door against his head and push him back into the other room and shut the door.

Epic conclusion, right?

How Michael Bay Rolls With Actors

On the set of Pain & Gain, sometimes Bay would point out to Anthony Mackie how much bigger his co-stars were. He'll sometimes resort to public humiliation, as Ben Affleck learned on Armageddon:

Ben's a big trooper. He's a great guy to work with. He's always there, willing to do anything and take risks....I just wasn't getting what I wanted [in one scene]. I do this nasty trick, and I said in front of everybody, "Ben, I know you haven't done a lot of action movies, but this is how we would do it next time." You say it so everybody hears. It's partial public humiliation. I know what I'm doing by...I don't mean it in a bad way. Everybody hears and Ben gets fucking furious. He goes, "I'll show you how it's done!" You amp him up until a point he gets mad and does it right.

For Bay, every actor has a button that needs to be pushed sometimes.

Michael Bay Sticks With His Crew

Bay has been working with a lot of the same crew over the course of his career. On Transformers, he wouldn't shoot without them, which came at a cost:

I do like to have a good enviroment on the set. I especially work with people I like being around, who look at it as a career, not a job. Let me tell you, I know everyone's job on the set. I've been doing this since I was 24. I will be the first to point out to you when you're not doing a good job. A director is only as good as his or her crew. The studio wanted to ship me off to Australia and then to Canada. I was trying to make it work [in Canada], but it'd be a waste of money. There's no way the crew could do the serious kind of stuntwork we do on our sets, because they just don't have a lot of great stuntwork up there. You have to ship up too many people. It'd be a lost cause. The studio gave me some grief, so I gave up 30% of my fee so I could shoot with my crew in America. That's because I'm loyal to my crew. I just think they're the best.

Michael Bay Feels the Love From Spielberg

Bay worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and thought it was going to "suck," but it ended up having a huge impact on him. He cites it, along with Star Wars, as two of the most important movies to him. It was Spielberg who hired Bay to direct Transformers and When he showed his producer a clip from the movie for the first time, his reaction clearly meant something to Bay:

The first time I showed this scene to Steven [with Transformers walking around Sam's house]... I said, "Steven, I'm almost done with my rough cut. I want you to see some scenes. He goes, "No, no, no. I want to see it when it's all done." I go, "Come on, Steven, I want you to see this scene. He was watching this scene with the robots around the house. It was hysterical. He kept hitting me on the leg and laughing, like a kid. He goes, "I have never seen robots do this." It was a funny moment, considering I filed this guy's Raiders of the Lost Ark storyboards, and now this guy's slapping me on the leg, saying he's never seen robots. I'm like, "But you're the dude who invented dinosaurs. You've seen everything." He said he's never seen this. That was kind of a fun moment. Another funny moment was when he saw the first cut at my house in the screening room, he kept giving me high-fives during the movie [Laughs]. Spielberg giving me high-fives during the movie. When a good scene came up, you'd see his arm come up.

The scenes with Sam's parents, by the way, reminded Spielberg of a Robert Altman film.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.