has a reputation. No, not the one about him blowing up everything he sees for the benefit of his lucrative blockbusters. And no, not the one that his sense of humor leans toward misogyny, immaturity and baseless violence.
OK, so Bay seems to have a number of reputations.
But with Pain & Gain
heading to theaters, we wanted to specifically explore the notion that Bay is an uncompromising dictator on set who’ll battle anyone who disagrees with his vision.
You’ve likely heard the stories told by Transformers
starlet Megan Fox, who notoriously called the director “a tyrant” and compared him to Adolf Hitler. (To no one’s surprise, Fox was replaced in time for Dark of the Moon
.) Recently, J.J. Abrams puts his own spin on the Bay mythology, telling a fascinating story to Playboy
about his first meeting with Bay.
“I know Michael’s a guy who can be abusive and crazy and all kinds of stuff. I remember hearing things like ‘Oh my God, he’s so intimidating,’” Abrams recalls. “But when I was driving over to meet him for the first time, someone called and said, ‘He went to Crossroads,’ which is a private school down the street from here in Santa Monica. I thought, ‘He’s a Crossroads kid?’ Growing up in Brentwood, I knew kids like him. I had never met Michael, but this idea that he was a Crossroads kid suddenly demystified him for me. I met him and immediately started giving him sh*t, and he was giving me sh*t. He liked me because I wasn’t afraid of him and I understood who he was, which was someone who was a little freaked out by how big he’d become so fast.”
Bay, for better or worse, brings instant baggage to anyone’s opinion of him. Though few of us have met the man, we all feel like we completely understand him. How accurate, though, are these opinions?
I had the chance to interview a few of Bay’s cast members for Pain & Gain during a press event in Miami. What they told me about Bay will surprise you. Let’s see if they consider him a tyrant or a visionary.
“I made a movie with Michael back in the mid '90s called The Rock. How has he changed? I don’t know if he has mellowed. I think that he has established himself as a director with a lot of energy, a lot of passion and a lot of commitment to what he’s doing. I know that he wanted to make this movie for a long time. It took him a while to get it on the boards. And technically, things have changed a bit. We were working with film and video at the same time (on The Rock). Sometimes we had six cameras going at the same time. In that way, he’s obviously kept pace with that.
“In terms of working with him as an actor, it kind of felt like the same. I have a pretty good repoire with Michael. I like working with him.”
“Michael is amazing. I remember, with Transformers, he had little animated, rough sketches of what he wanted [out of every scene]. And by my standards, they were these wonderfully animated storyboards. He has this unparalleled cinematic eye. I honestly believe that Pain & Gain is his best film.
“Michael’s actually great at guiding an actor. He’s an expert at choreographing his shots. I think all of us just inherently trust him. I’ve never worked with a guy who… I remember on Transformers, I had a huge camera placed in my lap to look straight up my nose. He just came up with that on the spot, and it made the scene. It was amazing.”
“What Michael does well is… he has so much experience and technical skill, it makes it easy to place your trust in him. Where the camera is, what the camera is doing… you just try to focus on your task at hand so that he and his crew can take care of the technical part of it. It’s an exercise in trust and confidence.
“Now, having said all of that, once you see it on the screen, it’s altogether something different. Way different than you ever could have imagined. Even now, when I see [certain tough scenes], I have to shut my eyes!”
“There was a scene in the film where I get pulled into a pool. It was a terrifying scene for me. But we had about eight different cameras going at the time. Three were underwater. One was zooming right. One was zooming left. They were everywhere! So yeah, you are never worried that he’s not going to get the shot. [Laughs]
“I found [Bay] to be tough in a sense that… not in a simple, reductive way. He’s tough in that he’s a very, very hard worker. He demands the same of the people who work for him with his actions, and not with his words. And that is something that I really, really respond to. I like someone who is just direct. I’m really inspired by people who work hard. It really was contagious.”