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INT: Michael Bay

The Arrow interviews Michael Bay

In my wildest dreams, I never thought that Michael Bay would ever appear on "Arrow in the Head" . Bay is responsible for directing such entertaining Hollywood fluff as "Armageddon", "Bad Boys", "The Rock" and that snore fest "Pearl Harbor" (affectionately known in my household as Pearl Garbage). But behold, the man didn't have enough coin in his sack, so he decided to help produce the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". This interview was conducted in New York. I was part of a roundtable with other journalists and this is what came out of our talk with Michael "filthy rich and knows it" Bay.

Why take on this movie?

MB: I wanted to help new directors. It was an idea for me. I put together two very close friends and became partners with them and they had a friend who was moving in on the rights (to the film). I thought this is a potentially amazing title if we get it right and time will tell. We’ll see. I wanted to do an old school horror movie where it’s just straight ahead, no jokes, just sheer terror. I knew that in creating this company, I wanted something you can do without stars, where it’s concept driven and I thought it’s like, there’s that amazing title that everybody’s heard so many times. It’s in the horror lore and people think that it’s all true.

You seem to have a lot of faith in the music and video world with producers and directors.

MB: Well, it’s where I came from. I think music video people have gotten a bad rap. I had always wanted to do features when I was a kid, but it was like when I got out of film school that was the thing where you can do a small movie and I did a lot of story videos. Back then, we did a lot. It was a way of making money every other week. It was the goal of doing a feature.

Do you think you would have gotten into film if that opportunity had not been there?

MB: I have no idea. I had a six month plan. My grandfather told me I would be working in his jean stone washing place so I thought I better get going.

How do you think the spawn of video directors influenced the style of editing?

MB: I think editing has increased because it’s just what’s going on in our culture. You look at commercials. They have done studies where kids are retaining at a much higher retention rate of images on screen. I cut fast on “Bad Boys” honestly because I had no money. It cost nine million dollars to make my movie and Jim Cameron was coming out with his and he’s got all the money in the world, so I was like, “Cut fast!” because I had bad art direction here and a lame stunt, but we made it look better. That’s the reason why I cut that one fast.

How do you see yourself from the scale of 0 being completely accommodating and 10 being a dictator as far as being a director?

MB: I think about a 7. I love what actors can bring. The thing is that when you’re a director you put the movie in your head before you go out and shoot a frame. Movies start to take a life of their own. I told Marcus (the director) that the first week of shooting is so important that you get a vibe for the movie. You do a little of this where you do a dramatic thing. You do something where it’s exciting to shoot. You keep the pace going because that sets the tone for the crew. I’ll take suggestions from anybody. If there’s a PA who’s got a great idea (I’ll take it). Constantly while I’m on the monitor, I’ll ask some stranger if that’s bullshit.

How did you go about in selecting the cast?

MB: Getting anyone who would take scale. (Laughs) We had no money so we saw, for some reason there were a lot of people attracted to the title, and after auditioning hundreds of women, I saw Jessie (Jessica Biel) and was like, “She’s the one.” I just think she’s going to go far. She’s got that thing where people like her. She’s very attractive, but she’s tough. She’s got that tomboy thing. She’s not too girly. She’s really a good actress. I’d love to work with her.

Did you learn anything about producing from Jerry Bruckheimer?

MB: Yeah, a lot. I don’t know. It’s a bad answer, but I don’t know.

Is there a sense of relief that the director is going to handle a lot of the stuff?

MB: Yeah, but my name is going on it so I’m just as terrified as if I were directing one of my movies. This company, this little thing, lives and dies by how well this movie will be received.

Is it hard to stay in the background?

MB: With shooting, I totally stay in the background. It was interesting to walk on the set as a producer, and see what’s going on. It’s very odd. Jerry must walk on the set, but he can’t shoot. He would have no idea, but it was fun.

In some of your films, you manage to get yourself on screen. Did you consider doing it for this film?

MB: No. The only reason why I was on "Bad Boys" was because the stunt guy didn’t show. My mom was on set that day and I was looking to get the shot done. That’s the only reason.

What will be your next directing project?

MB: I’m actually looking to change it up. Smaller character movies. Serious. I’m tired of action (movies) right now.

Why?

MB: Come on. I’m just tired of it.

What’s your dream project?

MB: In the past, if I were to do "Gladiator", I loved that it was a serious epic and Ridley Scott creating a whole new world. Recently I met with Scott Rudin and that producer has got amazing taste with very corky, character driven movies. I’m just looking to expand. I’m young in my career and have a long way to go and have lots to learn.

Tobe Hooper is listed as one of the producers. What input did he have on this film?

MB: None. We just got the rights from him. The original idea came from him. My two partners brought him in the office while I was in Europe doing press. He came in and was glad the movie was being remade. He loved the materials and the commercials. He hasn’t seen the movie yet.

"Bad Boys 2" will be coming out on DVD soon. Can you talk about some of the extra features on it?

MB: I think it’s bullshit to put too many extras. Some movies have it. Everyone’s trying to put their kitchen sink in it. I didn’t do a commentary this time. We made it interesting with the first Bad Boys but I think we say enough on the extras. We don’t need to beat a dead horse.

Then why do a huge "Pearl Harbor" Special Edition DVD?

MB: Because it was one of those unique movies. The making of it was an incredible accomplishment. (We did) Things that had never been done before.

So what did make it on BB2 DVD? Any gag reels?

MB: A couple of deleted scenes. Some gag reels may have made it. I felt it was too inside. It’s more for the crew. It’s how we did the car chase.

How would you respond to the level of violence in the film?

MB: I talked to a lot of people and I’m glad we went to an old school like 48 hours violence. I’m tired of the watered down PG-13. Me personally, I’m tired of that. I came from Pearl Harbor where I was forced to do PG-13 and the thing that pissed me off was the FDC report. I was on the Director DGA Anti-Violence Movie Committee and there was this whole thing when Gore and Lieberman were running that basically said that if you don’t clean up your act, we will. How would you take that? I didn’t take too kindly to that. A little of my response is in Bad Boys 2.

How much violence is too much for you?

MB: In comedy, you’re allowed a lot. In “Fargo”, you feel the violence more when he shoots the cop in the parking lot cause it feels so real. In "Bad Boys", there’s a sense that it’s not real because when he executes the guy and the arm comes out, you know we have seen it a million times before. You go right into a joke. You can get away with that.

After seeing the film with an audience, do you feel you should have changed something?

MB: Yeah, of course, but it’s like listen, we made this for nine million dollars, and you run out of time, and it’s 40 days of shooting. There’s tons of stuff I would have done but that’s what we could afford. That budget is so tight. I called in so many favors. I was asking music guys to do stuff for $25,000 and these guys get paid $100,000 for their work.  I just wanted to go back to if I were a kid trapped in a town, just sheer terror.

What do you hate about the industry?

MB: The press. Dead serious. It’s not you. I hate the fucking talk shows. I hate how they talk about what it made on Friday or Saturday. It’s like do normal people care about what it cost? “Oh, it cost $75 million dollars.” Who cares? You pay $7.50 or more and it’s doesn’t matter. Either you enjoy it or you don’t. Talk shows have gotten me down like that scandal show on E! Have you seen that? It’s crazy and people think that's entertaining.

What do you think about junkets?

MB: Junkets are okay.

So far all of your films have been hits. How will you handle failure?

MB: I don’t know. You’ve raised a really good point.

In regards to politics, did it come into play when thinking about the release date for this film?

MB: No. I had nothing to do with that.

Considering doing sequels for this film?

MB: No, but there could be a prequel.

Which of your films holds up the best?

MB: I don’t know. I think “The Rock” is fun, I’ve watched "Bad Boys" more than you want to shoot yourself. That felt like a student film but there’s a lot of charm in there. No money, no script, and I look at it from that factor. I haven’t seen "Pearl Harbor" in a long time, so I don’t know. I would bet that Pearl Harbor will last a long time.

How do you feel you have grown as a filmmaker?

MB: Tons of things and you will probably ask me to list them, but I don’t have a list. I love working with actors. I’m a lot more comfortable with them. You want to do movies that mean something. I would love to do a movie where it’s 40 days and just actors. I don’t want to worry about if you’re going to kill someone on the car set. Those are things you worry about. It’s a dangerous business.

You said you used fast cuts edit "Bad Boys". How did you edit BB2?

MB: That’s part of the style. That’s part of my style. Pearl Harbor wasn’t fast cut.

Do you like to do the sweeping low angle shots?

MB: I always do those. I did that as a joke. We had no money on the movie and they were like, “We have to go” and I was like. “I have this idea.” “Dude, just trust me.” I do that as a funny thing.

With the release of “Wrong Turn”, and “House of 1000 Corpses”, is this the right time for this film?

MB: You know what, it’s that we just gambled. I told my guys who are producing with me, “You know, this company will live or die with this, but at least we didn’t spend too much money on this.” They do this tracking survey and I got a call from different studio presidents with their $90 million dollars movies coming out in the next few weeks and they’re like telling me that my film is tracking huge. We’re tracking better than some of these bigger movies. That’s pretty cool.

Are you working on anything now?

MB: I just shot Victoria’s Secret selling panties. (Laughs) If you want to know the truth, that’s what I’m doing. That’s fun once in a while.

Have you seen the latest "Got Milk" Campaigns?

MB: I think I saw one. I don’t know. They were fun when we did it. I was the first guy to ever do them. I didn’t know that they even show them out here (East Coast) because it was just for California. I think the joke has gotten old, but the guy who’s on the California advisory thinks he’s created something but he had nothing to do with it.

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