Michael Bay is most definitely one of the most divisive film-makers around, especially in terms of audience and critical reactions to his work. The films he has produced and directed have grossed a staggering US $7.8 billion worldwide, making him one of the most commercially successful directors of all time – audiences clearly have a desire to watch his content. However, critics regard his SFX and explosion-driven blockbusters with much more contempt and the vast majority of his filmography has been a critical disaster. But money talks – and Bay’s box-office figures clearly have a lot to say.
Bay was born and raised in Los Angeles by his adoptive parents and attended the coveted Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California. He claims that his interest in action movies began at a young age, citing one incident in particular; he attached some firecrackers to a toy train and using his mother’s 8 millimeter camera, filmed the fiery spectacle. Emergency services had to be called and Bay was subsequently punished. Bay first ventured into the film industry by interning with Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchise creator George Lucas, where he filed the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Bay thought the experience was going to be terribly mundane, but after seeing the film in the cinema, he was convinced that he had to become a director. He began directing music videos two weeks after completing his post-graduate degree and as a result, piqued the attention of producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson who chose him to direct Bad Boys (1995). The film was a great commercial success and sparked a longtime partnership with Bruckheimer.
Bay’s follow-up films to Bad Boys, 1996’s The Rock starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery was also a tremendous hit amongst audiences and led to him establishing his own production company Bay Films and securing a two-picture deal with Disney. The Rock and his two subsequent features Armageddon (1998) and Pearl Harbor (2001) were technically well received and garnered multiple Academy Award nominations in categories such as Best Sound, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. However, their Rotten Tomatoes rating left little to be desired and over time, his name developed a strongly negative connotation that suggests an emphasis on style over substance. Bay has reacted to the hoards of criticism, saying “I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime.” The director has also come under fire for his unorthodox approach to casting his female stars. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who starred in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) recalled that Bay had her walk for 10 minutes in the desert wearing heels and her underwear to prove that she could walk to his satisfaction. Additionally, Megan Fox recounted her audition process for the first Transformers (2007) film stating that she had to wash the director’s Ferrari while he filmed her.
Bay’s love extends beyond action spectacles and CGI explosions, as the director has a deep affection for animals, namely dogs. He owns three English mastiffs and often includes the breed in his films. Bay is set to make a dramatic departure with his next film after the critical and commercial disappointment Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) – a documentary about elephant poaching. Back in 2014, the director was asked about the possibility of returning to smaller scaled films and he replied “I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s an African elephant thing that keeps…I always wanted to do one of those stories.” The documentary has yet to be titled or given a release date and little is known about when it will enter production, but it’s already shaping up to be one of Bay’s most interesting and meaningful efforts.
• Bad Boys (1995)
• The Rock (1996)
• Armageddon (1998)
• Pearl Harbor (2001)
• Transformers (2007)
• 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
By Evie Brudenall