Transformers: Military Involvement

“I wanted the story to have global impact,” says director Michael Bay, “so I was dead set about getting military cooperation. I’ve worked with the Department of Defense on several projects and we have a great working relationship, so I already knew many of their ground rules. But I was worried because there’s a war going on and so many troops are out there fighting terrorism, which is always going to be their focus, as it should be.”

The military was invited to collaborate and brought its own ideas to the table. Military installations used in the movie included Holloman, Kirtland and Edwards Air Force Bases, and the Pentagon.

Working with the different branches of the military, the production was able to “borrow” high end hardware not available elsewhere, from CV-22s and
F-117s to C-130 cargo planes and the C-17, which Bay dubbed “the spooky gun ship.”

“We would never have been able to make this movie without the willingness of the DOD to embrace this project,” says Bryce. “Even though it’s a fantasy, they understood that our depiction of the military is grounded in reality and they wanted an accurate portrayal of their personnel and technology. The cooperation we received was outstanding. We’re proud of the fact that almost every military role, including extras, was played by military or ex-military personnel.

“The CV-22 is phenomenal,” says assistant location manger Mike Burmeister. “It’s like a combination helicopter-airplane; the prop turns 90 degrees and the helicopter becomes this jet that can fly at 500 miles per hour. The Air Force has three in their inventory and when they flew into Holloman, everyone, even the base commanders, came out to watch.”

Bryce was particularly awed by the sight of the F-22 Raptor” in an unrestricted climb to 15,000 feet. “I’m not sure how many people have seen that, but I was honored. It was just one of the many exciting things we were privileged to see.”

Major Daniel Ferris became a beloved member of the crew during the weeks filming at Holloman. As the primary Air Boss for the set, he was in constant contact with both Bay and his assistant director Simon Warnock as well as with his fellow Air Force pilots flying above. Ferris stepped onto the set and flawlessly coordinated Warthog bombing runs with the action taking place in front of cameras the ground. He also assisted in coordinating much of the air-to-air filming working with the movie’s aerial coordinator Alan Purwin and the director of aerial photography, David Nowell.

“Transformers” was the first motion picture to be permitted to film in and around the Pentagon grounds since 9/11. Both cast and crew felt the weight of that responsibility and followed instructions to the letter. When filming was completed, the cast and crew were invited to visit and pay their respects at the private 9/11 Memorial Chapel.

“The military is inevitably brought in when an outside threat to our country or to world peace becomes significant,” says di Bonaventura. “So even though this is not a military movie by definition, it’s difficult to conceive of a world in which 30-foot tall metal people begin destroying cities where the military wouldn’t become involved pretty quickly.”