Michael Benjamin Bay (born February 17, 1965) is an American movie director. He's known for an incredibly energetic direction style that some claim is impossible to follow, while a lot of other filmgoers don't seem to mind.
Bay got interested in action films when he set firecrackers on a train set, filmed it with his mom's camera, and got grounded — an approach which seems to have continued into many of his higher budget movies even today. As a teenager he was a clerk for Lucasfilm in the early '80s, and worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He thought it would suck, but ate his words when he saw the final product. That got him interested in directing.
He started out directing commercials and music videos (most notably the very first "Got Milk?" ad, and "I Would Do Anything For Love" by Meat Loaf), then Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer hired him to direct Bad Boys. The film was a modest hit and kicked off Bay's film career. When The Rock (one of his more well-liked movies) came out it solidified him as someone capable of making energetic, entertaining and profitable action films.
Around the time Armageddon rolled around he gained many detractors, it seems for mostly the same reasons. The fact that every film has been a substantial hit (although The Island earned significantly less than expected) seems to have made them angrier. If you look over his interviews, especially for Transformers, you'll see that he is more than aware of it, and even makes fun of the fact.
He's well known for being a tough General on set, because he shoots and moves at a very fast pace. The movies he makes also probably would have cost 30% more and taken another year to film in the hands of another director (which, when you consider the amount of stuff that's demolished, smashed and blown up in his movies, is a damn impressive thing). Despite a belief that everyone in Hollywood hates him, his ability to work within a budget and demanding a strong work ethic from his crew and actors has earned him a great deal of supporters just for turning film-making into an actual work experience. He is ranked up among the most elite directors in Hollywood today, with strong relationships with friends James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.
But his aggressive directing style and occasional jerkish behavior has earned him some enemies. People like Bruce Willis, Scarlett Johansson, Megan Fox (who compared him to Hitler and Napoleon in an interview) and Kate Beckinsale (who claimed that Bay made her feel "ugly" on the set of Pearl Harbor) have spoken out against Bay and refuse to work with him again.
In 2008, possibly to hype Postal, Uwe Boll called out Bay (among others) for his supposed lack of talent (at least from Boll's point-of-view) while insisting he's "the only real genius in the whole fucking business." Bay's response is pretty awesome.
While he may be hated by many critics and film buffs, you should always remember one thing: You mess with Michael Bay and you mess with America!
The films he's directed to date:
- Bad Boys (1995)
- The Rock (1996)
- Armageddon (1998)
- Pearl Harbor (2001)
- Bad Boys II (2003)
- The Island (2005)
- Transformers (2007)
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) his first 3-D film.
- Pain and Gain (2013)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
- Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
- 6 Underground (2019)
Tropes about him or his works:
- Adam Westing: When he plays himself, he will play a satire.
- America Saves the Day: He uses this a lot—as noted below, he likes the US Military, and they like him because they always look good in his movies. One exception is The Rock which was a major aversion—Sean Connery Saves The Day instead. The United States Army even lent their tanks and helicopters to Bay for the first Transformers movie.
- Artistic License: A few of Bay's films take certain liberties with things like history or astronomy in the name of telling a story.
- NASA managers are, as part of the training, required to view Armageddon and record any inaccuracies they find; to date, 168 have been caught.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Bay's friends and family describe his behavior when growing up as a kid with ADHD, and that sometimes when they talk to him even now he seems to mentally wander off.
- Author Appeal: Bay likes to make the US Military look good, but he's less charitable toward the faceless bureaucracies that give them marching orders. A great deal of his films have heroic military members screwed over by the government, and it sets off the whole plot of The Rock.
- Chase Scene:
- At least in three movies, always involved a truck/semi, usually with stuff flying off. Simply dodging traffic at high speeds just isn't enough.
- He did Transformers partially because he felt that he had done plenty of chase scenes, but none that had giant robots transforming at 80 mph.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
- Apparently they're so thick his assistants have to translate for the special effects people.
- For the movies themselves, both Bad Boys films.
- Concept Video: His video for "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)", by Meat Loaf, features Loaf and Dana Patrick as a motorcycle-riding Beauty and the Beast.
- Creator Cameo: He's a NASA scientist in Armageddon, has his car nearly Flashed Badge Hijacked in Bad Boys II, is the poor bastard flicked by Megatron in Tranformers and is in the airplane carrying Optimus Prime in Revenge of the Fallen. Additionally, a really strange example of this is also in Transformers: Blackout's tail number is the same as his private jet's (as revealed by him in the Director's Commentary)
- Creator Thumbprint: Helicopters or planes flying into the sunset are very commonly found.
- Cue the Sun:
- Death by Cameo:
- That random bystander who Megatron flicked like an insect with his finger in the first Transformers? Yep, that was Mr. Bay himself.
- In Mystery Men, he plays the leader of The Frat Boys (his line: "Dude, can we bring the brewskis?"), who are all killed by the movie's Big Bad at the climax, For the Evulz.
- Everybody Smokes: Averted. Bay hates smoking and you'll rarely see anyone smoking in his films. Pearl Harbor, set during a time when smoking was much more common, doesn't show anyone smoking. If you do see someone smoking in one of his films, chances are they're a Jerkass, Corrupt Corporate Executive, Obstructive Bureaucrat, or all three.
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite his reputation of inserting Ms. Fanservice characters, he does seem to draw the line at R-Rated nudity. He reportedly turned down Scarlett Johansson's request to go topless for The Island (mostly to preserve the PG-13 rating), and he walked out of the premiere for Friday the 13th (2009) because he felt the sex scenes were too excessive.
- Explosive Instrumentation: Devastator, the most complex of the Transformers in the films, caused probably the closest as you'll get to this trope in real life. According to some of the crew, Devastator had so many moving parts and was so complex and detailed to animate that his animation model ended up frying one of the animation computers' motherboards!
- Genre Savvy: He knows that no matter what he does or how hated his movies are going to be, they'll be commercial successes anyways. In other words, he knows that people Love to Hate him. The exception to this is The Island which was less than successful to say the least. In fact, Roger Ebert (not usually Bay's biggest fan, repeatedly saying that he is disappointed that Bay stopped making "real movies") said in his review that the main problem with The Island was that Bay seemed to be Playing Against Type trying to make a more cerebral movie and that the movie reflects Bay as not really enjoying it. He essentially admitted that while he might not always like Bay's movies, they at least usually conveyed Bay's own sense of sincerity, fun, and belief in the Rule of Cool.
- Godwin's Law: Megan Fox compared him to Hitler in an interview, although in the dictator sense than anything else.
- Hidden Depths: Bay is a lot more intelligent and observant than people give him credit for. He normally doesn't care much about the critical hatred he gets, but he did once make a poignant observation that movie critics have their own quasi-fandom and thus will often say things that would make them popular controversial, and hating Michael Bay is pretty popular.
- This is a guy who graduated top of his class in film school, and directors like the aforementioned Steven Spielberg (who pioneered the concept of the special-effects laden blockbuster) and James Cameron James (who invented deep sea submersibles, 3D technology, and advanced film animation you see in every major movie today) ask for technical advice. And there are also reports that his crew are fiercely loyal to him, as he never asks them to do something he isn't willing/able to do himself.
- Irony: Bay is a man disliked by critics of films, but is respected by makers of film. Odd thing ain't it?
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: In regarding his use of 3-D in Transformers 3, he stated outright that people may hate his movies, bashing the characters, storyline and plot holes, but you cannot fault the technical side of things. The special effects, camera work and sound design are all "technically precise."
- I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Initially turned down Transformers due to this, until Hasbro made him a fan.
- It's Always Sunny in Miami: And it is also always sunset. With big clouds of steam (or something else) coming out of the manholes.
- It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: Their quality aside, the man knows the type of films he wants to make and is well-aware that they are not going to get him awards anytime soon.
- It Will Never Catch On: While working on storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, he didn't think it would be any good. When he saw the finished product, he not only ate his words, it made him want to direct films himself.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- He has a reputation as an absolutely tyrannical director, but when he's not actually doing anything regarding movies he's reportedly quite nice, and he's shown himself to have quite a sense of humor on a number of occasions.
- He may just be prickly with actors. The crews who've worked on his films are full of praise for him. Moviebob says that they speak of him like Julius Caesar, a general who would rather fight on the frontline with his men.
- Jitter Cam: Has used it a few times in his movies, but uses it sparingly when he has the budget to do fights more elaborately.
- Just for the Heli of It: In an ad within an ad, we see Michael Bay is spoofing his Signature Style, including having seven helicopters. The people to whom he's pitching the ad have no idea why the copters are there.
- Mad Bomber: Not in any of his films... the man himself. He's a nutcase pyromaniac. When you consider that his films are probably 80% practical effects at minimum, and that most of those explosions are real? So if you see a Decepticon blowing up a car with a missile, the Transformer is CGI, but the explosion from the car is real.
- Made of Explodium: A big fan of Stuff Blowing Up.
- He even parodies this."Awesome barbecue!" *BOOM!* "Awesome pool!" *BOOM!
- "What is your favorite thing to blow up or demolish?" "Well, I dont have a favorite, as I like to blow up a lot of things."
- This is a prevalent opinion as evidenced by the Michael Bay Presents: EXPLOSIONS!!! Robot Chicken skit.
- Notably, during the making of the second Transformers film, one of the computers melted while trying to animate Devastator. Also, 4 terabytes of memory was needed to store the data for Devastator. Awesomeness Is Volatile indeed.
- He even parodies this.
- Mean Boss: If Bruce Willis is to be believed, he's hard to work for.
- Mundane Made Awesome: If it's not awesome already, Bay will likely make it so.
- Necessarily Evil: His reputation as being an overly-controlling director might be an act, according to some of his film crew. After he shouts at some people on the phone, he then hangs up and comments that should get something done.
- Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Has a habit of making sequels with elaborate names filled with overused words. Bad Boys II was an aversion.
- Ominous Multiple Screens: Multiple screens showing same thing. Best example is when Bruce Willis is talking to his daughter and every screen in NASA shows his face.
- The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Even Ebert acknowledged that Bay's work represents some of the most visually stunning and technically polished cinematography in modern film. Ebert gave, and many critics continue to give, a strange impression of You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good: That is, they wouldn't be so bothered by Bay if he actually were a bad director. It's the fact that a talented one willfully chooses to create unapologetic popcorn movies that drives them nuts.
- Orbital Shot: He has a 360 Steadicam® shot in almost all his films, including when Optimus Prime transforms in the climax of Transformers.
- Patriotic Fervor: Due to his heavy use of America Saves the Day trope, he takes heavy liberties on throwing in American flags and seals in his works.
- Pet the Dog: Bay is an animal-lover, owning two mastiffs (who can occasionally be seen in his films), and offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who had information leading to "the arrest and successful prosecution" of a woman tossing puppies into a fast-moving river. He also donated his Bar Mitzvah money to an animal shelter when he was a teenager.
- Multiple people have said that he will yell and scream at the crew when things are not going the way he wants them too, often harassing his actors or otherwise practicing Brutal Honesty in order to get things done, but once the day is over he will be the first to thank everyone for their hard work and treat them to dinner.
- Precision F-Strike: When demonstrating Devastator he got the normally reserved Steven Spielberg to use one. He considered it a high honor.
- Prima Donna Director: Infamous for his maniacal style of direction, with many stories of actors collapsing from exhaustion and Bay throwing temper tantrums.
- Rage Quit: A very calm example of this with his CES 2014 speech, which started strongly but was abruptly cut short after Bay started having teleprompter issues, which led to him trying to improvise and ultimately giving up and leaving the stage.
- Rated M for Manly
- Rule of Cool: In Bay's universe, this rule is law. This is why helicopters are everywhere, sunsets occur more often than once a day, and explosions look as impressive as possible.
- Self-Deprecation: He's known to poke fun at himself, and contrary to popular belief, his response to Megan Fox comparing him to Hitler was positive, admitting that it was just part of her quirky charm. He even parodies his tendency to blow things up, like in this ad, and also this one. He used seven helicopters!
- Signature Style: Popcorn movies that involve Stuff Blowing Up, Military porn, slapstick and broad-appeal humor (though he occasionally forsakes this), polished technical cinematography, (heterosexual male) sex appeal, and large scope, high energy action sequences Smash Cut with easy to overlook quiet drama scenes.
- Signature Shot: He has several. Spinning Steadicam shots, low angle closeups with a zoomed in telephoto lens, layered deep focus shots contrasting foreground and background (see page image), panoramic aerial shots (preferably involving sunsets), and slow motion destruction shots employing the Vertigo Effect are all part of his signature look.
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A deal of coincidences, his cousin Susan Bay is married to the late Leonard Nimoy and it was their influence (due to being frequent donors) that got them to film at the Observatory in the first film. This led to Nimoy being cast as Sentinel Prime in the third movie as well.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Part of his Signature Style is having awesome explosions in awesome scenes.
- Summer Blockbuster: Most of his filmography (barring Pain and Gain, which was more a quirky comedy), negative reviews be damned.
- Technology Porn: You can tell he enjoyed working on Transformers because of all the shots of intricate transformations.
- This Explains So Much: Many people's reactions to finding out he has ADHD and once filmed firecrackers blowing up a train set.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: The Transformers movies had some of this but Word of God (from Bay and the voice actors) says that Skids and Mudflap were meant to be wannabe gangsters, not this trope.
Awesome STINGER! *BOOM!*