'Transformers' stars discuss joining monumental franchise


By Karen Yuan, Daily Arts Writer
Published April 20, 2014

The “Transformers” franchise has three films, each directed by Michael Bay, and a TV series already under its belt, allowing for a sprawling storyline that can give room for new characters and plots. The enduring battle between Autobots and the evil Decepticons serves as a backdrop for a brand-new cast of characters in the upcoming fourth film, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

Though familiar robots will return, including Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), the next installment stars newcomers Nicola Peltz (TV’s “Bates Motel”) and Jack Reynor (“What Richard Did”) as Tessa Yeager, the daughter of a mechanic, and Shane, her love interest. Taking place four years after the events of the third film, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is not a reboot but rather an extension of the plot laid out by the prior films. This time, Tessa Yeager and her father (Mark Wahlberg, “Ted”) make a discovery that draws the attention of Autobots, Decepticons and government officials.

In a conference call with The Michigan Daily, Peltz and Reynor spoke about the opportunity to join an existing franchise.

“I think that when you step into a franchise that’s already been established, there is that stigma of whether are you going to be able to live up to the expectations of people who’ve been, you know, die-hard fans of the previous franchise and stuff,” Reynor said.

But both Peltz and Reynor added that their excitement to work on the film outweighed any anxiety.

“I am a huge fan of Transformers, and the film and what (Bay) has done with these films is so mind blowing,” Peltz said.

Both actors have loved Transformers since they were children, which influenced their decision to join the new cast.

“I wasn't even aware of the existence of the cartoon series ‘Transformers’ until I was about 14 or 15, but I did have, like, a range of Transformers toys when I was really young. And I used to play with those all the time, and I have very vivid memories of them,” Reynor said.

“I grew up with six brothers, so I was a huge - I am a huge fan of the ‘Transformers’ films and the cartoon, so it's so exciting for me to just get the opportunity to audition,” Peltz said.

As newcomers from smaller projects, however, the two still had much to adjust to in a big budget film. “Bates Motel” is a TV series now in its second season while “What Richard Did” is an Irish independent film. One of their major challenges was the interaction with CGI characters.

“It was a big challenge to step onto, you know, such a monumental franchise like this, and have to try and react to something that wasn't there. And you really have to rely on your imagination in that circumstance,” Reynor said.

“You’re doing these scenes and you're doing them against a pole, and then it's either, you know, Optimus's face cut out, taped to the top, or Bumblebee, and Michael always said, you know, ‘You might feel silly doing it, but you can't hold back. You'll have to completely go for it,’ ” Peltz said.

Another challenge the two faced was the physical training that the film required.

“Jack and I did what they call ‘boot camp’ the month before filming, and we really got in good shape. And we did boxing and a lot of cardio,” Peltz said.

“Physically and mentally and psychologically, it’s – yes, just kind of a hard process to go through. But we had a lot of support on it as well, you know, and it was all good,” Reynor added.

Being able to guide the “Transformers” franchise in a new direction made all the challenges worth it. Peltz and Reynor stated that the fusion of the original films’ and the fourth film’s plots would appeal to both previous audiences and new ones.

“This is just as much, if not more, action-packed than any of the three previous films,” Reynor said. “Again, you know, we’re revisiting some of the most beautiful cars in the world in this film, and, you know, people who are fans of the automotive industry are certainly going to want to reengage with the series at this stage.”

And beyond its entertainment appeal, Peltz and Reynor explained that “Transformers: Age of Extinction” also says important things about the world we live in today.

“This ‘Transformers’ is a little bit darker than the previous ones were maybe, and I think that it – I think that you're going to see the Autobots in this movie maybe reflect a little bit of a sense of anger and resentment that might be something that we see in contemporary society, particularly in the United States,” Reynor said.

The film gives out a lighter message too.

“In this film, you see that I get separated from my dad, and at the end of the movie you just see it come together so beautifully,” Peltz said. “That really shines in this film. It has a really beautiful human element to it.”