Writers and Voice-Actors Talk Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen DVD and Blu-ray
Without a doubt the biggest film of the summer was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and starting tomorrow you can bring the action-packed film home with you on DVD or Blu-ray. Recently the writers of the film, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who are also the writer's behind this summer's Star Trek re-imagining, were joined by some of the voice actors from the Transformer films at an event in Santa Monica to discuss the films and celebrate the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on DVD and Blu-ray, on October 20th.
Although the film was a juggernaut at the box office, the film did meet with some divisive criticism from fans and critics alike. Orci spoke first to this issue. "I expected it to be divisive. Sequels you know are easy targets number one. It was taken under the pressure of a Writer's Strike; which makes us targets. It's longer is also a debate. It was bigger, louder and longer than the first one was all the same because there was controversy on the first one as well," said the writer.
"It's very hard to gage what is going to work for people and what is not going to work for people because what one person says is way too long my twelve year old cousin might wish it was longer. That just totally confuses me, so I think that at the end of the day Michael has his rhythm and his pace and ends up determining in editing how long he wants to make the movie," added Kurtzman.
In writing the sequel, knowing the actors who had worked on the first film and the parts they had played made it considerably easier for Orci and Kurtzman the second time around. "Knowing them and their voices is huge, it's huge. It's a great thing to have because you know, we've made three movies with Shia (LaBeouf) and he is an incredibly fun actor to write for in that he can do dialogue at any pace and not every actor can do that," explained Kurtzman.
"Shia has a real good, I'll call it Cheese Alarm. If he thinks something is cheesy, which I really think means unauthentic, he won't want to do it. So when we're writing we're often thinking of knowing where his instincts tend to go in terms of scene work and what he likes to do," continued the writer. "I think for him he cannot act a scene unless he feels the truth of it somehow. It has to be truthful. It can be funny, it can be broad, and it can be lots of things. He could be talking to giant robots but there has to be some truth in it. If there isn't, he can't do it so that is very helpful in terms of knowing what he is going to be looking for in a scene."
"For Shia it's the scene with the parents," explained Orci. "That's where you really have him in your mind. That is how a Dad is supposed to behave when his son is leaving. Once you know Shia you know that he is going to be able to do that type of stuff with the parents."
Kurtzman went on to discuss writing for Megan Fox and figuring out Mikaela's role in the second film. "I think Megan was really interesting in the first movie because she was very surprising, there is a sweetness to her. That was what made the relationship dynamic work really well and I think for us knowing that it would be about her character dealing with whether or not the boyfriend who's going of to school and leaving her behind, whether or not that relationship is going to survive," said Kurtzman. "Thinking about how that relationship was going to play out over the course of the movie I think gave us what we needed. We talked to Megan a lot in pre-production. We would have a couple of days where we would all sit in a room and talk about the script and go over scenes and riff stuff out and I think that's where the actors' voices really become great because you've been living in your head for so long, then you bring it to them and you start rewriting once they get there hands on it."
As I mentioned, one of the other biggest films of the summer was the re-imagining of Star Trek, also written by Kurtzman & Orci. The two writers were asked how it feels to have essentially reboot two different franchises within a couple of years? "Well I think in the case of Transformers we didn't see it as re-imagining because there was no movie, it was just a cartoon so that was actually imagining," said Kurtzman. "What is this going to look like? The standards of storytelling were so different when the cartoon was first invented. It was a cartoon because they literally didn't have the money to do a live-action version," he continued. "So figuring out what the balance of robot to human time was going to be, what the access points for the audience was going to be, who were the characters they were going to follow in to that world and why, what's that story? So following the story of a boy and his car felt right," Kurtzman concluded.
Since the character of Bumblebee was changed from a VW Beetle to a Ford Chevrolet Camaro in the first film, Orci was asked if characters like Bumblebee were changed from their original models because of what car companies the studio was collaborating with or what cars they had available? "When it came to Bumblebee, not making him a bug but a muscle car I think led us to making him more of an action character than he was in the original series where he was sort of the child and the youngest one and he hung out with mostly kids," said Orci. "Here he is close with Shia but also the robots too, he's one of the soldiers. You find out he lost his voice as a result of war. So it does change that a little bit but so many things go into figuring out the character," he continued. "You write it one way, then you get to see what the car looks like, then you try different voice actors. Different voice actors will bring different things too it so then you adjust to. So it's a lot of different things being put together."
Speaking of voice actors, many of the actors who voice the robots in the film were on hand to talk about their work on the film. Marc Ryan may play the voice of Jetfire in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen but he's been with the film franchise since the beginning, the actor explained. "I got involved at the very beginning as they were looking for a British actor who had stage experience to be the voice of the robots on the set to interact with the actors. That led to eventually at the end on the first film being Bumblebee for the first film. For Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I laid down the scratch voices and then these guys come in and record much better voices. We lay down the scratch track so the CGI guys can start creating the robots."
Ryan talked about creating the voice for Jetfire with Michael Bay and even some rewrites that happened in the eleventh hour. "For this film I did the voice of Jetfire and Michael wasn't completely happy with it so we made him older and angrier. We played with the dialogue a bit and I think we finished that with the help of Alex (Kurtzman) who came in and wrote some additional dialogue for that about four weeks before the film was actually released. So it was pretty tight."
Charlie Adler, who is a legend in voice acting and has been doing it for over thirty years was an actor on the original cartoon series, plays Starscream in the films and had a similar last minute experience working with Bay on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. "I think in the hatchling scene in the second film Michael kept coming back and writing new lines," said Adler. "What was thrilling about this was there would be scenes that we kept coming back to and in the process of working would say, 'I think this would work better' and Michael would say, 'Yeah, let's try that and maybe do this.' I would say, 'But Michael it won't match the animation.' He would say, "Don't worry we'll reanimate it because this sounds better.' I think it was an ongoing thing up into about two weeks before release," explained the actor. Jess Harnell who is the voice of Ironhide could also relate. "I was doing a line where Ironhide says, 'Stay Down' and I thought it would be funny to add, 'Stay down ... Bitch.' Michael loved it and changed the animation to fit it in and that was like two or three weeks before release."
Adler went on to discuss the answer to a question that he gets from fans all the time, "Did you look at any of the old cartoons and incorporate anything from the voice of Starscream on the TV show in to your film performances?" "I don't remember anything about anything from the TV show, said Adler. "I know that I was Silverbolt in the original series. Some people have written to me about the original Starscream on the TV show and I didn't remember until someone mentioned that Chris Lott did the voice and I loved him, explained Adler. "I remember working with Chris and then I remembered that Chris had passed away and that was very strange to me. I didn't know that going in to the first film, I just knew about the character and did my best. Plus the style of the film and the 20 odd years since the series has changed everything," finished the actor.
Finally, when asked if they would like to return for the recently announced Transformers 3, Charlie Adler had this to say. "We would be thrilled. It's very personal now because we've done the first two so I don't want to see someone else playing Starscream, I gave birth to that 80 foot monster."
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is available on Blu-ray and DVD on October 20th.