Belfast Telegraph

'Anthony Hopkins said it was the most fun role he's had as he never gets to play comedy'

 

As director Michael Bay bows out of the Transformers franchise with the fifth instalment, Gemma Dunn chats to the actors and writers involved in The Last Knight about what we can expect and how they got Sir Anthony Hopkins involved.

It's all change over at Transformer towers. Not only does the latest chapter, Transformers: The Last Knight, mark long-time director Michael Bay's fifth and final hurrah, it's also set to shatter the core myths of the popular franchise too.

The big-budget blockbuster, which has proved a breeding ground for Hollywood stars such as Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox since Paramount unveiled the first film inspired by the hit toys in 2007, is now embarking on a new era.

This time, fans will learn more about characters who have not yet enjoyed the spotlight.

And it looks like the newbies - Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), streetwise teen Izabella (Isabela Moner), English Lord Sir Edmund Burton (Sir Anthony Hopkins), plus Transformer manservant Cogman (inspired by and voiced by Downton Abbey's Jim Carter) and Autobot Sqweeks - have quite the bot battle on their hands.

"Two species at war, one flesh, one metal," warns Hopkins, in the official trailer.

"Optimus Prime has left us. One hundred billion trillion planets in the cosmos. You want to know, don't you, why they keep coming here."

Joined by Autobot-allied human Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, who appeared in the fourth film, Transformers: Age Of Extinction), the unlikely pack will fight to save the world in this latest instalment.

For American screenwriters Matt Holloway, Art Marcum and Ken Nolan, recruiting the likes of real-life knight Hopkins (79) was a dream come true.

"It's kind of a funny story," begins Holloway, who spent two-and-a-half days in "Transformers school" with his co-writers before penning the script.

"As we were developing this story, we started to talk about a Sir Edmund Burton-type character, this sort of keeper of the law, an English Lord. Maybe he's sort of the last of his kind, the last keeper of the secrets..."

"Remember (when) Anthony Hopkins came to LA and Michael said, 'I am going to meet Sir Anthony Hopkins today'?" Nolan asks.

"I think he was a little nervous and then I hear that Hopkins was nervous, but they loved each other."

The movie was a chance for Hopkins to show his comic talent, says Marcum.

"I got to work with him in Oxford and he took me aside and said it was one of the most fun (times) he'd had playing a role in years because he never gets to play comedy," he recalls.

"Nobody writes comedy for him and he loves to do comedy.

"(People) think of him as the guy with the gravitas that comes in and lays it all out, and he was having a ball."

Another key addition to the cast is Izabella - a part played by 15-year-old Nickelodeon star Moner, but written with complexity.

"I remember we said, 'We need some emotional scene'," recalls Nolan. "And we said, 'Well let's have (Izabella and Cade) have a deep conversation about Cade's daughter (Tessa) and where she is'."

"I feel like, a lot of times, people write young characters too young - they pander to children and that's not really how people talk," reasons Marcum. "I have a 15-year-old son and he talks the way we all do.

"I think kids appreciate it when 15-year-olds aren't written as 10-year-olds - they can have a level of emotional sophistication that I think adults sometimes forget about. Life has toughened her up for sure."

Ohio-born Moner agrees, stating: "My mum is brave and fierce and she is my idol, so I kind of hope I can be like that too."

Guardians Of The Galaxy actress Haddock (31) is similarly championing girl power.

"There are no female Transformers and there should be," she says of the male-heavy franchise. That would be awesome. I might have to pick Michael's brains about this and see what we can do about that.

"I think Optimus should meet his match, meet his wife, and she should just be as fierce as Optimus is and then they should have fierce children and they should all be girls."

If anyone can make it happen, Bay can. But with the creative driving force bowing out to pursue other projects after this outing, his energy has been focused on making The Last Knight a spectacle.

"I can safely say that there's never been a Transformers film with the huge visual scope and expansive mythology as this movie", the Californian told fans on his official website earlier this year.

"It's bittersweet for me. With every Transformers film, I've said it would be my last. I see the 120 million fans around the world who see these movies, the huge theme park lines to the ride and the amazing Make-A-Wish kids that visit my sets, and it somehow keeps drawing me back.

"I love doing this. This film was especially fun to shoot. But, this time might really be it, so I'm blowing this one out".

And with the end nigh, it's fair to say he will be missed.

"Who doesn't want to make a movie with Michael Bay?" asks Marcum.

"We've all been huge fans of his, which is probably why we became writers in the first place in a lot of ways, so it was a dream to be able to say 'Yes' and make a movie with him."

The trio wouldn't rule out writing on the next film without Bay at the wheel, however.

"They need to figure out how they want to step forward in the universe and then it will come from that, but we would love to work with Michael again," Holloway says when pushed on talk of a Transformers Six, allegedly planned for summer 2019.

"He will be involved even if he's not directing it," chimes Nolan. "It's still his franchise and it will always have his stamp on it."

Transformers: The Last Knight is in cinemas now

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