Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz, stars of Transformers: Age of Extinction recently made a stop in Atlanta, and we got to chat with them about their new film with Mark Wahlberg which hits theaters tomorrow! Check out our Q&A session with the actors below!
Even though this is the fourth film in the franchise it’s kind of a reboot of sorts. New characters, new story. What do you guys think you bring to the franchise?
Jack Reynor: Well the first thing I would say is that this is certainly a sequel to the previous films. It picks up 4 years after the war in Chicago, which was the end of the third film. Our characters are very different from the previous ones. I’ll start with first of all the Autobots are very different to what they were in the previous series, because they’re in exile. Humanity is aware of them now but doesn’t understand them and is very intolerant of this alien invasion as they would probably put it. So the Autobots have gone into exile and their wearied by humanity’s flaws.
Essentially the character dynamic between Mark and Nicola and myself tries to restore their faith in humanity. That is really what’s at the heart of the film, that’s what grounds of the film. It’s trying to bring a fresh emotional truth to this particular project and to add some more layers than might have been there previously. Hopefully that’s something that’s going to translate in the finished product. We haven’t seen it yet, we’re going to see it in the morning, hopefully.
Nicola Peltz: In the morning, yeah, we’re so excited.
Jack Reynor: So that’s where were coming from with this one.
I imagine that, you’re working with such awesome effects and doing so much of this film on green screen. Can you talk a little bit about the biggest challenges for you guys? In terms of working with he green screen and having to imagine these characters around you?
Nicola Peltz: Yeah going into the film, I thought there was going to be a lot of green screen but there really wasn’t. Obviously, Bumblebee and Optimus and all of the Autobots, that’s all fake but all Michael’s (Bay) car chases and explosions, that’s all real and these magnificent sets he really builds or were actually there. So the only thing that really is green screen are the Autobots and Decepticons and Dinobots and you get to use your imagination, that’s a lot of fun. The only thing that I could say is most challenging is when you have a scene and there are 6 robots and you have to remember their eye lines and almost memorize their lines and who’s saying what so you know when to look. If we’re lucky we get a silver pole, if not we get nothing (laughs).
Jack Reynor: It’s funny because, like Nicola says, Michael makes all these explosions, all these crashes real. All those big effects most of them are practical and I think that’s something that’s very unique about his films. I think it’s responsible in no small part perhaps for the success of the films that he’s made throughout the course of his career. That was a really great opportunity for us because we were shooting a big Hollywood blockbuster that wasn’t green screen and it was very real and tangible for us while we were on set.
At times it can be really terrifying, you know? In terms of the challenges of working with imaginary robots, when you’re an actor, be it in independent film, be it in television, you’re just asked to suspend your disbelief and draw on your imagination, draw on your emotions and these kinds of things. Giant robots are really just an extension of that. After a week or two of being in this environment we grew in confidence with Michael’s support and with Mark’s support.
Obviously Mark shot Ted right before this, so he’s got an imaginary best friend, you know what I mean (laughs)? So he was the first one to say, “Look you guys need to just throw yourselves in, it might feel silly to you but if you’re not going to be the one to sell it on screen, the threat won’t translate and the intensity and the action won’t be able to translate. It’s down to you to essentially convey all the emotion.”
Did you guys go through any training? It seems physically demanding with all the explosions and different stunts going around.
Nicola Peltz: Yeah, we did. We did boot camp for what? A month and a half before, two months before filming. It was boxing and just really getting in shape and I’m so happy we did it because I did not realize how much running is involved. We run all the time. I think there’s 2 scenes where we’re either sitting in a car or… we’re never walking, we’re always running.
Jack Reynor: We’re always running, yeah.
Nicola Peltz: So it was so helpful for us to get into shape and be ready for whatever was to come on set.
Jack Reynor: And the days can be long, you know. They can be 14 hour days. There’s some days that you’re on all of that time and if you’re going to be able to get through without being just chronically exhausted, you’ve got to go to gym, you’ve got to workout and you’ve got to be at your peak fitness mentally and physically, you know what I mean? So Nicola and I just worked out as much as we could, and I worked out with Mark a fair bit during the course of the film, too. I was really helpful to me, it really is a process that you need to go through when you shoot one of these movies.
This year is the 30th anniversary of Transformers, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with the movie coming out this year?
Nicola Peltz: I didn’t know that.
But I was just curious, obviously these characters and these stories have gone through several evolutions or re-tellings including these movies. Were either of you fans of the cartoons or comic books or anything like that? And if so, how did that influence, if it influenced you at all?
Jack Reynor: Yeah. Well we would’ve both grown up with Transformers and I certainly, in Ireland, I watched the TV animated series when I was a kid. I had a whole line of the toys and stuff that I played with. Obviously, I was a big fan of the films too but I’ve always been interested in the culture of it. I think it started in Japan first and you can see a lot of their culture invested in Transformers especially in the animated series. It’s been interesting to watch how that’s translated to America over the last 30 years. I don’t know if the release of this film has anything to do with the 30th anniversary. But yeah that’s a really interesting question.
Nicola Peltz: I definitely grew up with Transformers, huge fan of what Michael’s done with these films, and I was really excited to be a part of one.
Can you guys talk a little bit about working with Mark and what that was like?
Nicola Peltz: Yeah. Working with Mark is amazing. Obviously, everyone knows how talented he is. But he’s such a professional. He’s so hard working and such a nice guy. Us being so new to the business and being able to learn from him and work with him. We really are lucky. He has taught us a lot and I can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s great.
Jack Reynor: Yeah he is a great dude. He’s awfully committed to what he does and very dedicated like Nicola says. For us, as young actors, especially we both come predominantly from an independent film background. Nicola’s obviously had Airbender and stuff but I came straight from independent film. And to watch Mark in the Hollywood blockbuster environment and see his ability to relate to it in a meaningful way and how it relates to him informs our work ethic and our aspirations and goals for ourselves and how we would want to go about them.
Being young actors and coming from these independent backgrounds. How is it to join such a huge franchise, summer blockbuster franchise?
Nicola Peltz: Well, like we said, we are big fans of Transformers, so it is really exciting for us. Just that we found out that they were even casting someone around our age, is exciting but to now be a part of it and to work with the people who created such amazing films like the first 3 is really exciting.
Jack Reynor: For me, I find it very difficult to make a comparative between independent film and blockbusters. It’s like two completely different schools of thought and two different animals. It’s funny because I sat in an interview a few minutes ago, I can relate to the film-making process while I’m there and while I’m doing it. But now that its been released an I’m seeing ads on TV and stuff. It just doesn’t… It’s weird. It’s almost like I don’t see myself in it, you know what I mean? So maybe it hasn’t hit me yet and maybe it never will, I don’t know.
It’s just a weird thing and I find it difficult to relate to in a way. But I’m still very proud to be part of it and I’m very glad to be here and it’s done incredible things for my career since I’ve shot it. So long may it continue, please God, knock on wood.
What was your guys initial reaction to seeing the trailers and stuff? When filming it, you had to imagine everything and then actually seeing it.
Nicola Peltz: It’s honestly insane.
Jack Reynor: Yeah it is.
Nicola Peltz: Filming, I remember specifically this one scene, there was a picture of it. I don’t know if you guys saw but it looks like Michael is going like this with a green rake. It was a scene where he was like, “Yeah it’s this robot fly.” blah, blah, blah, whatever. And in the scene I’m screaming from it and you just have to commit even if you feel really silly. But I saw the scene for the first time a week or two ago, finished with the CGI, and it is crazy. I was not there with that robot. I was thee with Michael and a rake. It is just crazy how they made that and the technologies these days is honestly mind-blowing, it’s crazy.
Is there one scene that you guys are really excited to see tomorrow when you see it for the first time?
Nicola Peltz: That’s a good question.
Jack Reynor: I think there’s a few. For me there’s one scene that I really enjoy in the film. You know at the heart of the film, like I said, is this dynamic between Nicola and her transition from family life and living under her father’s roof to becoming an independent woman and having her relationship with this guy… There’s this one really nice scene. You guys know what the Zephyr is? You know what that big train is? It was a train that was around in the 1960’s, it was trans-American train and it was super first class. It was called the silver bullet and it was the way to travel basically. There’s a scene in the film where we’re on that train, just in a train yard and were sleeping there for the night.
It’s a really nice scene where Nicola’s asleep at the back and Mark and I are on our own and we’re very quiet. He just starts to explain that he’s not going to be around forever and he needs somebody to look after her. She’s not going to be able to do it all on her own. I don’t really say anything to him in the scene but it’s a nice moment and it’s a nice relief from all of the intensity and the action and the insanity where everything quiets down for a minute. It’s just that nice second and it’s a really important beat in the film, I feel. So I’m very excited to see that scene.
I’m excited to see that one massive explosion, that’s going to be great.
Nicola Peltz: Yeah, that’s going to be great.
Jack Reynor: And then the final scene is beautiful as well that we shot in Hong Kong Harbor it looks just ecstatically, it’s so beautiful because Michael Bay knows how to capture sunlight like nobody else. We all know he loves those flares, you know. This kind of thing. So right at the end of the film as we were shooting in Hong Kong Harbor just on the last day. The sunlight as the sun was going down, it was that oriental red fireball in the sky and it just looked so incredible. So I think thats going to look beautiful with the city as the backdrop.
Nicola Peltz: Yeah. And you know like Jack said Michael does action films like no other and it’s amazing to watch and exciting. But in this film there are wonderful moments that people can relate to and there’s a great human element to it. So I’m really excited to see, as well as the crazy action scenes, to the little moments.
Were you guys under a lot of pressure to get it right in the first take because you only have room really for one massive explosion a lot of the time?
Jack Reynor: That’s true.
Nicola Peltz: Yeah there was this one big explosion. It was in the trailer, I don’t know if you guys saw when we’re running, the three of us? That was all real. We got on set and Jack and I get no warning. All we see is –
Jack Reynor: Yeah 4 minutes before we shot.
Nicola Peltz: You see these explosives everywhere and then we see ten cameras and then Michael’s like, “OK so we’re doing this big explosion. It’s going to be you, Jack and Mark and you’re going to have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds. You get a practice run, it took them a week to do it so you can’t mess this up. It’s a one take-thing are you guys ready? You cannot mess this up.”
It sounds so simple to run from here to here, all you’re doing is running but it’s a lot of pressure and your adrenaline is through the roof but it is so fun when you’re in the moment and everything is exploding around you.
Jack Reynor: It’s not hard to sell it in that moment. (laughter)
Nicola Peltz: You feel the heat and it’s crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I’ve heard so many stories about how fast Michael moves on set and everything. But you never… it’s hard to tell it, you almost have to experience it. So that was really a fun day and crazy pressure.
Jack Reynor: Yeah.
Have you had a chance to give much thought to how being in this movie will affect your careers given especially, it obviously helped the people in the previous 3 movies quite a bit. Have you thought about that much?
Jack Reynor: I’ve been incredibly lucky and I haven’t stopped working since I made the movie. I’ve shot 3 films back to back since Transformers. One of them was an independent arts film that I’ve wanted to finance for about a year and a half before I did Transformers. With Toni Colette called Glassland which was great. I moved on and I made MacBeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard which was an incredible experience. And then I just made a movie there called Girl’s Night Out with Sarah Gadon and Bel Powley, it’s a fun movie about V.E. Day in 1945 in the UK.
So even without Transformers being released it’s given me an awful lot of ammunition in the industry and really helped me to broaden and expand my career in the way that I want to. So I’m very grateful to the franchise for that on top of many other things.
Coming from working on more dramatic pieces and coming into a big action film like this. Can you talk a little bit about your mental preparation and how you approach the roles? Is there any difference from approaching an action role vs. approaching a role for a dramatic piece?
Nicola Peltz: The great thing about acting is that if we’re lucky enough we get to play a bunch of different characters and at least for myself, I approach each character differently because they’re different characters. But I didn’t approach this one differently just because it was an action film, I did just because it’s a different character than I’ve played before.
Jack Reynor: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a case of I’m taking off my drama hat and putting on my action hat, you know what I mean? It’s one of things where there’s a lot of really nice dramatic moments in the film and you still have to play those with the same kind of truth and the same commitment to the seriousness of it as an independent film or as a dramatically heavy film. So that is an element of it and then at the same time, you just have to prepare yourself for the physicality of the action, you know what I mean? And what that means and the precision of shooting big long action sequences.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is out in theaters tomorrow, June 27th, 2014!