Billion Dollar Auteur Michael Bay Sneak Peeks Transformers 3

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In a Robots vs Wizards smackdown, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opening July 1, might just best Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows finale as the summer's top-grossing popcorn spectacle. The first two Transformers movies overcame critical grousing to make more than $1.5 billion in worldwide box office, and most of the credit goes to director Michael Bay. The whippet-thin, hard-driving, obscenity-spewing champion of macho action fare, including Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys, blows stuff up better than any other filmmaker working today. 

Transformers 3 Robot.jpgA few days ago in Hollywood, Bay unveiled 20 minutes of footage from Dark of the Moon on the Paramount Pictures lot. The premise: evil Decepticon robots lay waste to the city of Chicago, where unemployed hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) hooks up with a gorgeous aide to President Barack Obama (newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Highlights from the 3-D clips include excellent scenery chewing from John Malkovich, who plays a sinister corporate overlord, and devastatingly effective vistas of Chicago in its leading role as Urban Wasteland. 

The most exhilarating sequence, not included in trailers now being shown online and in theaters, follows a crew of wind-powered "Bird Men," hired by Bay after they appeared on TV's 60 Minutes, as they leap off a Chicago skyscraper and sail through the city.

Transformers 3 Michael Bay.jpgHolding court at a picnic table outside the studio screening room, Bay, dressed in baseball cap and tee shirt, offered a straight-shooting recap of his career up to and including Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Michael Jordan Showdown: "When I was 24 I started directing Nike commercials and worked with the world's most famous athletes, who are always coddled, right? Michael Jordan just retired from basketball.  We'd been shooting a commercial for three hours that we're supposed to shoot for eight and Michael Jordan says 'I want to go.' I said to Jordan, 'Mike, I'd love to go, my crew would love to go. We have a shitty commercial right now. What do you want to do: you want to sell your shoe or work to make it good?' If you put it right back at 'em, they all of a sudden respect you."

Sean Connery Schools Tardy Owen Wilson:  "Sean Connery had the greatest work ethic. On my second movie, The Rock, he'd always be talking about how the young whippersnappers in Hollywood misbehaved. So when I put Owen Wilson in Armageddon, my third movie, he was an hour and a half late to set. That's a lot of money on a movie like that. When Owen finally arrived, I put my arm around him and I'm like: 'Okay, you're an hour and a half late. Sean Connery was never late.' Owen Wilson was never late again."

Transformers_3_Shia_Rosie.jpgThe New It Girl: Megan Fox became a fan boy sex symbol in 2008 when she appeared in Transformers, but quit the franchise after completing 2009's Revenge of the Fallen sequel.  Bay replaced her with British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who promptly jumped to the top of Maxim's "Hot Hundred" list.

"We looked at 500 girls, then cut it down to 30. My casting director said 'You really should take a look at Rosie' and I did. She's got a good head on her shoulders."

Shia LeBeouf: Grumpy Young Man: "There could be a [fourth Transformers] re-boot. It won't be with Shia LaBeouf. He's turning grumpy in his old age. He's like a little brother to me. I say to him, 'I'm never going to work with you when you're older.' He says, 'Why?'  I say, 'Because you're just a grump!'  You put Shia on a wire and he just turns into this evil monster. Other actors say, 'This is really fun.' He's just the opposite."

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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