Interview: Lorenzo di Bonaventura discusses "Bumblebee" and the future of the live action films
As part of the campaign to promote the upcoming "Bumblebee" movie, Paramount Pictures was kind enough to arrange for an interview with long time Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. In addition to his work on Transformers, Bonaventura has also worked on films such as 2005's Constantine and the recent hit The Meg. This interview was held on December 8, 2018 and BWTF was given ten minutes of interview time. After some technical difficulties the interview kicked off, discussing topics including the writing and continuity.
1. You have been involved with the Transformers franchise for over a decade now. What is it about this brand that appeals to you as a producer?
The essential concepts are eternally satisfying. The idea that your car is something more than it is. We have always challenged ourselves to provide a bigger, different kind of experience. Each of these big movies have their own challenge set. After we made the 4th we made the decision to change course after the 5th one, in part because we were running out of story telling room and...any franchise, we owe it to the audience to keep giving them something new.
2. Interviews have pointed to the film going back to Generation One for inspiration in tone, story and aesthetics. What was the primary driver for that when this film was being developed?
There are multiple sort of answers to that. The fans have long clamored for it and we like to llisten to our fans when we can. Travis, having grown up with G1, when we first interviewed him for the job it was one of the things that we liked was how attached he was to it. Stepping into the unknonwn, it meant what does it mean to look at G1 in a live action scenario? When we first took on "Transformers" and people first saw the look there was some outrage in some corners that it didn't resemble what their childhood looked like. My perspective at the time, and still is, if we had done a literal translation people would have said "I've already seen it." Now that we've learned how to manipulate a Transformer in a visual FX scenario we were allowed to go back to it in a visual design. The simplicity allowed to look at the emotion of the character. It is a nice fusion, more than a tip of the hat to G1.
One of the reasons Travis got the job (among many) is he said he would make bee's eyes bigger to have far more emotion, curiosity and all the different kids of expressions we were hoping to get out of Bumblebee. He also explained the ears could move and convey an emotional thing. He is someone who understands the animation process so well and was able to apply it to everyone.
3. The film feels very much like a prequel until one key scene towards the end which then suggests a reboot. In your mind, which do you consider this film to be?
(SPOILER ALERT: I have left out a small chunk of the interview where Bonaventura asked me what scene made me think 'reboot' and I told him. For those who have seen the movie, it is the scene right after the initial credits. Be warned the answer to this question contains a spoiler).
We definitely see it as a prequel. I don't think the 2007 film said it was the first time they came. Why couldn't they have come earlier and left again? Or been in disguise all this time. Our intention with that scene was to...as Hailee reunited with her family we wanted 'bee to reunite with his. We tried our best not to depend on the other movies from a mythology point of view. We saw that as a regrouping.
4. I understand the film's writer, Christina Hodson was part of the incubator group of writers. How was she ultimately chosen to write "Bumblebee"?
It was really her idea. It wasn't a question of picking her over others. It was where she was headed. We wanted to honor our fans as much as we could. Fans had always said to us "Please let us get to know a TF better." "There's too many TFs" that was one of the only things we said to Christina to do. We also wanted to give more emotional context. Christina came with the heart of it and that is what sold us. She picked a lot of the songs. Christina had the Judd Nelson appearance in the original draft. Travis is a very big fan of TFs so he understands them in a way that only someone who has that as the DNA of their childhood.
5. Where do you see the future of this franchise going?
What I really came out of the writer's room with is that we have the freedom to think outside of what we have done before. Where we have consensus is that we have a lot of freedom is to do the "big Transformer" movie (writer is being sought now). It will be influenced by this one in terms of what we have learned. I hope we figure out an Optimus Prime movie. The ending makes you feel like it is a buddy movie. Optimus Prime is a tricky character to do a standalone movie since he is stoic. What was so fun about Bumblebee is that he is so emotional and available but Optimus is the exact opposite but we'll figure it out. We are also working on a standalone animated movie set on Cybertron (currently being written). [Note: Bonaventura clarified that the animated movie is not necesarily set in the live action movie continuity].
Ben's World of Transformers offers its most sincere thanks to the folks at Paramount Pictures and Mr. Bonaventura for taking time out of their busy schedules (on a weekend to boot) to arrange this interview. You can read my Non-Spoiler Review of the "Bumblebee" movie here. "Bumblebee" opens nationwide on December 21, 2018.