Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is slated to hit theatres on June 9, and anticipation is high for the return of the blockbuster series. The movie’s plot has been kept tightly under wraps, and the only clue that fans have is the show’s official logline: “Set in 1994 Brooklyn, Noah, an ex-military electronics expert, and Elena, an artefact researcher, are swept up in a three-way conflict between the Maximals, Predacons and Terrorcons as they aid Optimus Prime and the Autobots in a war to protect Earth from Unicron’s arrival.”
Ahead of the world premiere at Marina Bay Sands on Saturday, 27 May, members of the cast, including actors Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, Grammy-nominated rapper and actor Tobe Nwigwe, as well as director Steven Caple Jr. and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura held a press conference with members of the media to discuss more about the franchise.
Sequel, prequel, or reboot?
With the film being promoted as a sequel to 2018’s Bumblebee whilst being set as a prequel to the franchise, many have been wondering where the film sits in the universe timeline.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: It’s a sequel, and it’s definitely not a reboot. If you look at it from a timeline point of view, it follows Bumblebee. But [Transformers: Rise of the Beasts] is also a prequel in that it’s before all the previous movies. It sort of exists in its own way, but I don’t think it’s a reboot because it’s still our characters.
One of the things that Steven brought to the table right from the beginning, which was so great, was the idea that when we meet Optimus Prime, he’s different from who we knew. And we’re watching him grow up, if you would, as a leader. For me, that was one of the most exciting parts of the movie. And what was interesting was watching it with the audience – at first, they were uncomfortable, because they’re like “wait, that’s not exactly the Optimus we know, he should like humans”. So I think [that edge] gives the movie a really interesting point of view and therefore it stands alone in that way.
Steven Caple Jr.: Exactly. I feel like [where I had the] most pressure is probably following the sequel act, because Bumblebee was really enjoyable – it was very intimate and you were able to connect to the characters. I remember everybody walking away from Bumblebee connecting more with [the character], and I want to do the same with Optimus Prime, but with something slightly different.
Anthony Ramos had a two week window to get his driver’s licence
The actor didn’t have a driver’s licence before he was cast in the upcoming movie, and he quickly had to learn how to drive, he says.
Anthony Ramos: Yeah, I had a two-week window to get my licence but I have been taking lessons for like a few months. I went back to New York after we did some rehearsals, and I managed to get the last appointment at the DMV in Brooklyn to get my licence and I passed in my mom’s car, so shout out to my mom.
Dominique Fishback on joining the cast
Dominique Fishback: I watched the first Transformers movie when I was younger, and I told myself that I wanted to do something like that, but I never thought it would actually be Transformers. I’ve always prepped myself because when I get into the room, I want to be able to show up. I care about the craft. And so when the opportunity came, I wasn’t scared. I’m just ready to do it, and I get to do it with supportive people like Steven. And I gave notes and I sat with the writers, and we talked about things. And it wasn’t that my notes had to be in the script, it was just the ability to talk about it and be heard – it was really special.
Anthony Ramos: I also want to add on – Dominique script? [It’s like a] journal. You know what I’m saying? She is like a student of the craft, she makes notes about what her character’s journey is going to be, from the beginning to end.. She thought every single thing through, and it’s hardworking.
On filming in Brooklyn, New York
The film’s premise is set in 1994 Brooklyn, New York, which is also the hometown of both Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback. The actors both felt pride filming in their city, they said.
Dominique Fishback: It was amazing because Anthony and I used to meet before the movie – before we even knew about it – and [we kept] saying that we’ve got to do something together, something that’s real Brooklyn and real epic, and we had no idea that it would be Transformers, so we’re very excited about that.
I think the fact that Anthony and I both got to give a shoutout over the neighbourhoods that we come from, I’m from East New York, Brooklyn, and he’s from Bushwick, and Steven let us pay homage to the place and the area that we come from, was cool.
Anthony Ramos: For me, the big car chase scene in the beginning of the film that’s shot on the Williamsburg Bridge, which is a bridge that connects Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, was amazing. I used to take the train across that bridge almost every day to school, and so that bridge is legendary to me. When Steven and I were discussing the film in one of our first conversations, I was sending him lots of photos of different locations, telling him “you could shoot here, you could shoot there”. I even texted him with a couple of bridge [suggestions].
And so that for me was crazy, to see a scene like that shot on the Williamsburg Bridge – the bridge I feel so connected to because I’ve walked on the bridge, took a train over the bridge…it was special.
On a deleted scene with Decepticons
Steven Caple Jr.: We did have one scene with a Decepticon, and it’ll probably be in our deleted scenes. Ultimately, we have a lot of new characters and factions in this new film, and we just wanted to do something different. We have the autobots and we have the Maximals, and these are some really strong factions and I want to make sure they have the right amount of screen time and character work.
Anthony Ramos on filming with Pete Davidson’s Mirage
Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson voices Mirage, who will make his debut in the upcoming movie. Mirage is one of Optimus Prime’s Autobots, who’s rebellious with a cheeky personality. On filming the scenes with Mirage, Anthony Ramos revealed that he did not meet Pete Davidson in person, and he admired the fact that the comedian was able to portray the character so well in the voice booth.
Anthony Ramos: Shout out to Pete Davidson. I mean, I was just doing my scenes, and he had to do the scenes to my acting and my [character’s] reactions.
Steven Caple Jr.: Pete Davidson was developing Mirage [in his own manner]. He wanted to pay homage to Mirage and to ‘90s characters, so there’s a little bit of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler [humour].
On a secret ending scene
Anthony Ramos: I had no idea [that the scene was coming].
Steven Caple Jr.: Well, we only made the decision to add the scene in like what, 9 days ago? We held this scene so [closely] to our chest that no one knew. There’s a fake script that [went around the cast], and so no one actually knew this information because we felt like we had a really special direction with it. So the actors themselves didn’t know as well.
Tobe Nwigwe’s ‘On My Soul’ soundtrack for the film
Grammy Award-nominated rapper and actor Tobe Nwigwe joined forces with hip-hop titan Nas and singer Jacob Banks for the film’s featured track, “On My Soul.”
Tobe Nwigwe: I found out that outside of Linkin Park, I’m the only one to have an original song in the Transformers franchise. It’s incredible. And it feels immaculate.
[The song] really came from an idea that Steven had. And once Steven told me [his vision], I put my little creativity on [to bring his thoughts to life].
And after, [Steven] was like, “Hey, what do you think about Nas getting on this song?” Fortunately, Steven is a very popular director. He has a lot of very cool friends. So he was able to have Nas listen to [the track], and fortunately enough Nas was interested and it became a moment – a monumental moment.
Steven Caple Jr.: I think what we wanted to try and do differently with the track as well, was making sure it also felt like a score. Tobe really paid attention to that. I showed him the sequence where [the characters were] all finally working together, and Tobe’s track comes in at that right moment. So he’s kind of a composer as well, having produced the music, and blessing us with such a special track.
Everyone’s favourite Transformer
Steven Caple Jr.: Mirage, just because I was able to really dive into his character and bring something totally new and fresh to the franchise. Leading into this movie it’s Mirage, but before this movie it was Optimus Prime – but don’t tell Peter Cullen that.
Anthony Ramos: Well, for me it was Cheetor. Growing up, he was the coolest one and he had the best lines. He just had everything – he’s just the coolest one. It was always Cheetor, and it is still Cheetor.
Dominique Fishback: Mine is Bumblebee, from the first movie.He has such a sensitivity and everybody loves him and so it hasn’t changed for me.
Tobe Nwigwe: Mine is Optimus Primal, because he’s a beast.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: I don’t know if this is my favourite character, but it’s the one I missed the most: Ironhide.
On the future of the franchise
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: What’s great about Transformers is that there are so many characters. The hardest part is resisting putting all of them in, because what happens when you put all of them in – and we’ve definitely been guilty of that before – is that nobody gets enough time.
So I think what the process now will be is trying to figure out – we have these Maximals now, we have our Transformers, we have our human characters. What else can we actually juggle?
Steven Caple Jr.: I have a few ideas of my own on where the franchise can go. There are a few characters I would love to bring back; I mean, there’s a major villain that we all know and love, and I’m curious as to where he’s at.
And the other big thing for me [in terms of future movies] is that [the movie is set] here on Earth a lot, right? And I feel like there’s just a huge universe. Like, if you guys read the comic books, especially the Japanese versions of the comic books which I truly think are probably one of the best versions of the comic books, there’s a big world out there with different planets. We tap into that at the very beginning of this film. And I just wanted to introduce the idea that there’s so much more to explore. The universe is huge.