Transformers: Age of Extinction released last weekend, to an amazing box office result. We were lucky enough to meet one of the new young stars of the Transformers trilogy: Jack Reynor. With an Irish accent and devilishly good looks, he shines as much off screen as he does on it as his character, Shane Dyson -- and he had plenty to say about the films he worked on.
Many actors seem to have everything on their paths to stardom predetermined, but Reynor says that success, for him, isn't about trying to figure everything out. "It's about going with the flow of whatever's happening. Being an actor is incredibly important to me, but being a movie star isn't quite so much." Despite the high profile of his latest project, he jokes that he doesn't want to be the guy with a million fans like One Direction. "I wanted to do Transformers because it was an opportunity to do a blockbuster and something I'd never experienced before," he says. "I want to do more films like Macbeth, What Richard Did, and Glassland."
Reynor co-stars in Macbeth alongside Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and the actor had plenty to say about working with the two. "I grew up watching all of Marion's movies. The first one I saw her in was Taxi, and I thought 'Jesus, she is the most beautiful woman in the world.' She's such a radiant woman and she's really inspirational, for want of a better word cause that sounds so wanky," he laughs. But it's really Fassbender who prepared him for his role in Transformers, before he even started shooting.
"Michael is certainly my favorite actor living today and he's a good friend. We see each other and have pints from time to time, but he's full of great advice for me. He told me that I needed to be aware that it's a long journey to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster, and that it's on a very different scale than anything I'd ever done before. Michael was the only person who said I was going to find it difficult, but that it was going to be rewarding and have a great product at the end."
One would expect Fassbender to have talked to him about working with all the special effects that come with a big-budget feature, but that's when Reynor revealed a surprising detail about director Michael Bay's technique: "There isn't as much green screen as you'd think there was. One of the great things about how Michael Bay makes a film is that anything he can do as a practical effect, he'll do instead of CGI. He shoots them so dynamically, and this practical way of making these action set pieces is a unique opportunity."
Of the many massive action sequences in the film, one stands out the most: the film's centerpiece that takes place aboard the massive prison ship. The scene has a very James Cameron aesthetic, Reynor agrees. "The first thing I said when I got on the set of that prison ship was, 'Holy shit, this is Aliens!' It was pitch black on set, the water was dripping down, and it was terrifying. It was amazing to be there."
Considering it was the film with the biggest budget he'd ever worked on, Reynor was astonished at the massive set. "The armory and the massive swords and axes within it were all real, and it blew my mind right after coming off a million euro Irish film. We shot in that room for five hours and that was it," he says, feeling a little heartbroken about its dismantling. "They'd spent probably over a year designing that set and we were in there for five hours and nobody will ever film on it again. That's really crazy." It's the kind of thing you'd wish theme parks nowadays would preserve and present to tourists, but instead we just get more thrill rides.
While many wouldn't credit Bay with drawing well from the works of others like the aforementioned Cameron, Reynor says there were nights he'd spend just listening to Bay talk about cinema. "You'd kill to be a fly on the wall for a conversation between Stanley [Tucci] and Michael. I had one night where we just crushed a bottle of Jameson 18 and I just sat there listening to them go back and forth between their philosophies on film and life. They have so much respect for one another and it's so much fun to see that."
And yet, even with the praise those who work with him give him, Bay is still a critically derided director. But Reynor says he loved working with him: "I think he has a lot of respect for me and I certainly have a huge amount of respect for him, not only as a filmmaker but as a person as well." As for those who critique Bay negatively, he says, "I think the critics aren't really justifying the things they say about Bay. This is a man who can essentially cause anybody to transcend what is happening in their lives for two and a half hours and give them a spectacle that just eradicates everything else that's going on."
Still, in the future, Reynor's set on pursuing films of a smaller scale. "I want to tackle films that have something to say about culture, and I feel like it's not good enough to just entertain people in this industry. You have to impart some knowledge because where are people going to learn and where are they going to be inspired if not through film?"
He, like so many others, has issues with all those theatergoers who have to constantly check their phones. Tweeting is fine, he says, but not when it takes us out of the moment in a film. "Most people can't even watch a two hour long film anymore without checking it. We're all so driven by tech that we can't experience the world around us anymore. As an actor, it's my responsibility to reintroduce people to that."
Even Transformers: Age of Extinction, while dismissed by so many, echoes that sentiment, and that's one of the reasons Jack Reynor was proud to be a part of it. "The film outlines the dangers of developing technology without being responsible for it, and that's a great theme for a movie," he says, defending the film he worked on as one that has something important to say. "I defy anybody to say that Transformers is a bubblegum blockbuster with no substance or depth because this one is saying some important things."
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