TimeOff.com.au – 2009

Heavy Metal Girl

Home & Away alum Isabel Lucas couldn’t be further from Summer Bay this blcokbuster season as she finds herself caught up in the war between Autobot and Decepticon in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. She transforms and rolls out with Baz McAlister.

More giant robots; more spectacular explosions; more hot, blonde Aussie actresses. That’s what director Michael Bay promises in his blockbuster sequel to 2007’s grand mid-year Autobot/Decepticon smackdown, Transformers. The title for the sequel, Revenge Of The Fallen, has caused much speculation among fans of the giant alien robots who have the ability to turn into cars, planes and household objects. Who or what is the Fallen? And why does he/she/they want revenge? Bay has remained characteristically tight-lipped on the subject, and indeed all details of the little surprises his action epic holds, like the question on every fanboy’s lips: which of the beloved 1980s toys will be adapted to the screen in this one? But that’s just part of his modus operandi, says actress Isabel Lucas.

“Michael’s insane with his secrecy,” Lucas says. “He’s even secretive about how secret he is about the secrecy. It’s very funny, but I understand why he does it, of course.”

Lucas signed on to Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen in the supporting role of Alice. She’s a young woman who befriends Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam Witwicky on his first day at college, where he’s gone to distance himself from this offworld war in which he’s become embroiled. Meanwhile, his Autobot friends have teamed up with the US military and formed a kind of counter-terrorist unit to hunt down and destroy the evil Decepticons remaining on Earth. You know their paths are going to cross again – but as for the specifics, Bay’s shroud of secrecy has made sure no-one knows much more than that.

“When I first auditioned, I hadn’t even read a copy of the script,” Lucas recalls. “On paper, [Alice] was very mysterious, there were no specifics about her character apart from the audition scene. When I was cast I was actually allowed to come into the production office and read a copy of the script, which was bizarre for me because none of us ever received a copy of the script, apart from Shia because he was in every scene.

“One of the other things Michael Bay is incredibly pedantic about is keeping the integrity to the film because of this incredible cult following it has, and making sure storylines aren’t leaking. So obviously when I found out how Alice’s story unravels and how her character is revealed, it was exciting, because it’s always interesting playing a character who is layered and ‘more than meets the eye’,” Lucas giggles as she quotes the Transformers strapline.

The former Home And Away actress takes over ‘token Aussie’ duties from Tasmanian Rachael Taylor, who played NSA analyst Maggie Madsen in the first film. Alice, of course, is an entirely different kind of character but this far out from the film’s release, Lucas confesses that she (and by extension, Bay) want the interview to stay entirely spoiler-free, so any further specifics of her role are off-limits.

No matter, though, as she’s a mine of information about the production. Lucas was only required on camera for a few days of the movie’s three-month shoot, but was needed on hand for the whole thing. She spent a great deal of time on set or hanging out with her co-stars LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Ramon Rodriguez, and just generally watching helmer Bay holler at people and blow shit up.

“Michael certainly works at a very fast pace,” she says. “He’s incredible in the sense that he has the entire film in his head; he’s a visual genius, and he really has such a clear, acute vision of what he wants to achieve from every single character. He’s one of the masters of the action blockbuster genre. Very energetic, very passionate, a lot of yelling through a megaphone! I really found his rhythm and how he worked, and came to get along with him very well, which isn’t always the case, you know, because he has so much pressure on his shoulders and such huge expectations, and the job is epic for him. So I can understand that it would be incredibly stressful in periods.”

Lucas says that Bay’s infamous pyrotechnics are tremendously carefully orchestrated and take a long time to set up.

“They have to be, because it’s a real explosion that’s taking place,” she says. “There’s a lot of background artists, actors, stunt people who are all involved and it has to be extremely well organized for it to unravel perfectly… Shia was so nervous doing all the explosion scenes. He actually had a piece of shrapnel fly in his eye in one scene, and he had to race to hospital, and Michael was really stressed out as you can imagine. But then he got to hospital and they realized the shrapnel was just above his eye and they could operate on it very quickly, put a few stitches in, and Shia was back on set four hours later.”

Many column inches were devoted to LaBeouf’s off-set injury sustained during production, too – he wrecked his hand in a car crash in LA, and Lucas was in the vehicle with him at the time. LaBeouf bounced back very quickly from this, too, and soon returned to the set; a hand injury for Sam Witwicky was promptly written into the script, and LaBeouf finished out the shoot in bandages.

“Shia really is a trooper,” Lucas says, “and as an actor he’s one of the most determined people I’ve met, ever. He’s a risk-taker, he’s very creative, he’s got an amazing sense of humour, always thinking of new ideas for the scene, always improvising.”

And it seems that a degree of improvisation is welcome on a Bay set. Lucas reports that Bay never rehearsed a scene under Bay’s direction – they just went for it.

“That was new to me, because [Michael]’s really not about the subtleties of the character and emotion – he just leaves that up to you, he doesn’t even want anything to do with that aspect,” she says. “He’s very flexible in the scenes, he’s always recreating the dialogue [on the fly]. In a couple of the scenes I could come to set not knowing my lines at all, which for me was one of the most challenging things, and also one of the things I enjoyed most about working with him. The scene evolves and grows and becomes what it is in the moment, and you have to be very present and very alert to let the new dialogue sink in.”

Lucas’ star is certainly in the ascendancy, and aside from Transformers she’ll have a lot of exposure in the next few months with a role in long-awaited Queensland-shot horror film Daybreakers, and in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s high-profile Band Of Brothers semi-sequel The Pacific, a ten-part TV series following the US marines in the Pacific theatre of World War II.

“I can’t wait to see that!” she says. “Apparently Steven is really happy with it, he’s delighted; it really is like a second Band Of Brothers, but it’s certainly not a sequel, it’s a whole new show of its own. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience, especially working in my hometown of Melbourne; there were a lot of beautiful old sets and old bars we shot in.”