Megatron blasts Michael Bay

Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb

Ben Child, for The Guardian covered an interesting turn of events when Hugo Weaving mocked his role in Michael Bay’s Transformers. Suffice to say, Bay didn’t let it go quietly:

In remarks he later deleted – but not before several sites had captured a screenshot – Bay implied that the English-Australian ought to have taken the money and kept his mouth shut after voicing lead villain Megatron in all three Transformers films without, apparently, bothering to read the script in advance. “Do you ever get sick of actors that make $15m a picture, or even $200,000 for voiceover work that took a brisk one hour and 43 minutes to complete, and then complain about their jobs?” asked the director. “With all the problems facing our world today, do these grumbling thespians really think people reading the news actually care about trivial complaints that their job isn’t ‘artistic enough’ or ‘fulfilling enough’?

Read the full article here.

Rarely does someone admit that Michael Bay is right, but in this instance, he truly is. I’m not a fan of the Transformers films – indeed, I’m not really a fan of any Michael Bay films (Deep Impact has more heart than Armageddon; Con Air – and the bulk of other Bruckheimer productions – are superior to Bay’s The Rock) but we have to look at this situation, as Michael Corleone would say, as “strictly business”.

These are films which we can all agree are not created for artistic merit – you know that from the outset. The tragedy lies in the teenagers and children who are forming their opinion about cinema, defining what is good and bad, using Transformers as a bar for quality. When I was younger, I had films like Jurassic Park, Home Alone and Independence Day forming my initial opinions on blockbusters. Kids today have Transformers, The Avengers and Harry Potter. Two-out-of-three isn’t bad – but it is a separate argument about the quality of the films.

But it is a game of money and, Michael Bay is (above all) a businessman. He knows, quite simply, Hugo Weaving’s voice sells. V for Vendetta didn’t even show his face, but we all recognize it. His role in Captain America: The First Avenger equally didn’t require too much of Weaving’s face, instead replacing it for the majority of the film with his ‘Red Skull’. There was a time whereby, if you hired an actor, you were obliged to show their face as often as possible for the sake of the actor’s fans in the audience. So, for example, you don’t hire Sylvester Stallone and hide his face for the entire film under a helmet (a la Judge Dredd). From Bay’s perspective, Weaving was an important ‘get’ – and $200,000 for an under-two-hours job shows how far he went to get ‘that voice’.

But now Weaving jumps on the bandwagon – alongside Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox – criticising the series and undermining Michael Bay’s exceptionally successful franchise. We have all done it and, to some extent, it seems like the fashionable thing to do. But in all three cases, we are talking about cast who took the money and ran. When they, understandably, signed the document and played their role – any artistic integrity they believed they had was sold out to the highest bidder. In this case: Michael Bay.

So, (mind the pun) it’s a bit rich for the cast to now start stating in interviews how ‘meaningless’ the films are. And Bay is right, Nicolas Cage was only a small actor starring in small projects prior to The Rock. LeBeouf and Fox equally had nothing prior to Transformers. Indeed, where is Megan Fox now? Hugo Weaving knows the business and, as an actor who has starred in so many blockbuster series – The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Captain America and Happy Feet – he should know better. And, it’s not Transformers at fault – it is a false idea of self-importance. You’re an actor “Missssster Weaving” – so act with respect.

Simon Columb

Around the Internet…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Else-Harbeau/1232374532 Else Harbeau

    No, you and Bay couldn't be more wrong, and you're misjudging Weaving's words and intentions. Why should any gifted actor put aside the work they prefer to do thankless, mindless voice gigs, no matter how ridiculous the paycheck? (And no, I'm not insulting voice acting, which often does involve talent and preparation… neither is particularly necessary for the Megatron gig.)