Michael Bay goes to work on The Island

On day 75 of 86 on The Island, Michael Bay celebrated his birthday with balloons around his playback monitors. In between shots of Ewan McGregor and the guys crammed into an elevator, Bay answered questions, showed us footage and called to his crew to keep working. Bay's calls of, "Let's go, Josh" were delivered with self-aware deadpan, but the crew continued working diligently, so it worked.

The Island tells the story of escapees (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson) from a colony of clones 20 years in the future. The set Bay opened to journalists was of Centerville, where the clones live and work. Office cubicles, grey corridors and recreational areas (a gym and a bar) were all connected in a single set, though the elevator was off to a side to accommodate the camera crew.

"Today is a slow day here," Bay said. "This starts like three minutes into the movie, they're going down an elevator, and it's a lottery recast of the past winner. Mike Clarke Dunkin is the one who just won a spot on the island. So they're just getting a recap of it as they're going down this elevator. We do this big pull out and reveal the whole place where they are."

The clones, who actually believe they are the survivors of an apocalypse, think that the island is the dream destination. It's actually a hoax and going to the island means that your owner is harvesting your body parts. That's why he paid to have himself cloned. When our heroes learn about this, they escape from Centerville and the chase is on.

Bay writes his own action scenes and now has five previous movies to top. "It's doing stuff that would still interest me to do, stuff I haven't done or what's right for the characters."

The veteran of five blockbuster hits admits he never believes his next film is a sure thing. "Every movie you go out, if you're cocky about it, you're going to fail miserably. You think every movie you do is going to be a flop. You've got to go in and just do the best you can and keep that fear because that fear makes you do a better job. I don't direct out of fear. I direct very confidently but you want to always try to make it better. And you've got to make it better for a price."

Production only began in October and the film is scheduled for a July 22 release. Bay imposed this deadline on himself, a fan of summer release dates. The schedule has rushed sets to completion for immediate filming. "I think the hardest part is the movie has been chasing itself, because the sets are so big and it's just like you're on one big set and boom, you go to another set. It's just the pace is so quick it just makes it really taxing some times. We literally moved from Vegas, the deserts in Nevada, to Detroit in one day and we were shooting the next day, and that's like a massive undertaking. We had to move from the Palm Springs desert to Nevada desert when we had 14 planes load the crew at four in the morning and we were shooting that morning."

For both budget and aesthetic reasons, some of the film's locations are faked. Detroit stands in for downtown Los Angeles, even though Bay filmed a bit in LA as well. "LA is so hard to shoot, it's depressing. It's like, we've all shot on the same block, 6th Street and whatever, Broadway or whatever it is. They only let you shut it down on the weekends, and [production designer] Nigel [Phelps] showed me a picture of a train station that had never been shot before. It's an old, dilapidated, I think it's 1913 train station. We shot that. The guy bought the building for $250,000 dollars and it's an amazing building. I'm like, ‘Okay, we've got to go scout in Detroit.' Detroit's got a lot of kind of the old LA look. We were able to shut down eight blocks at a time, six blocks this way, that you just can't do in this city."

Before production even began, Bay was hard at work on the script. "The writer, in the original script, he didn't show how they were birthed. And I'm like, ‘Dude, you've got to do that. Everybody's going to wonder how are they born? How are they educated?' So I wanted to see that and the first thing I think about a clone is I think of a baby. You've got to hit the nail on the head, you've got to show why little babies don't work as clones. So our hook here is we birth adults. They take your age and they birth clones. It costs you five million bucks, $250,000 each quarter to keep your clone alive in this facility. The thing is, the clients have no idea that they have consciousness, so that's kind of the big secret. And the reason this facility gives them consciousness, because they can't make a good product without human experiences. So that's how it makes the body better, function better, and better product. But it's just so wrong. I mean, when we were birthing these things, literally, you just go, ‘Ugh, there's something so wrong about it.'"

The Island also represents the first time Bay has directed a feature film without producer Jerry Bruckheimer. But Bay assures all is well. "I didn't lose him. I gained a guy named Spielberg and Walter Parkes. Jerry's a little jealous. No, I'm good friends with Jerry, so I really have a good time working with him. The camaraderie's not there that I have with Jerry. I love working with Jerry. I want to find something else with him."

The Island is scheduled for release on July 22.