Exclusive: Zack Ward on Transformers (part 1)

There's still about a month till the Transformers movie hits these shores. Plenty of time to get excited, then; and we've got an insider's view to help build that anticipation

Transformers

No matter what Simon says, I think I’m still going to be a bit excited about Transformers. It’s hard not to be, really, because: BIG, GIANT ROBOTS. Yay! Plus, Zack made it sound really cool…

Okay, so, Zack Ward: not necessarily a name you’ve heard before, though he’s pretty well known in America thanks to a childhood role in A Christmas Story, and a stint in a sitcom called Titus that never made it across the Atlantic. The main interesting thing about Zack, for the purpose of this article anyway, is that he was in Transformers. Which makes him more interesting than me, so I’ll stop blathering and get to what he said about the movie:

So, Zack, your character in Transformers is called Donnelly; who’s he?

Donnelly is from Boston, and Donnelly is a smartass. He’s pragmatic, you know; he is not the hero, he’s the everyman, and he’s kind of a funny guy. It’s kinda like, you remember Bill Paxton from Aliens?

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Yeah?

You know, in that movie, where he’s like “We’re all gonna die!” Well, he’s not that over the top, but Donnelly is played closer to the chest because the reality of Transformers is that we play everything very very real, with respect to our military tactics and our military training. When it came to dialogue, we tried to keep it as real as possible, that’s why we hung out with soldiers at our squad, and half our squad are Navy SEALS. So we were rolling with some real badasses!

So, although my character is Bill Paxton from Aliens, he’s brought down to a normal level, so that the only thing in the world that’s nuts is that there’s giant robots from outer space. Which allows you to believe it more because it’s not like everyone’s crazy doing silly stuff. I mean, you know, it maintains that sense of disbelief that the audience can think [he puts on a silly voice] ‘well, I have a robot in my house, it cleans my carpets, maybe there are robots in outer space!’

So how much of Transformers is done with real robots, and how much is CGI?

Well, it’s a pretty interesting mix. I work a lot with a robot called Scorponok. Which is a giant scorpion robot that likes to kill people and make your day suck. So when you watch the movie, there’s this scene that’s really cool where Scorponok travels underground and the spine of his body pushes through the sand and sort of makes like a wave underneath the sand and that was actually done with a real, steel robot underneath the ground on a track.

There’s another moment where Scorponok puts his head out from underneath the sand and he’s looking around, looking around, and that head and armature is a giant robotic puppet. It’s an animatronic robot, meaning that each part is controlled individually, so that’s like a twelve foot long robot.

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And when you go to a giant tank in the movie that’s a Transformer, that tank has been made. You can go stand on that tank, it’s crazy. Optimus Prime is a real big rig truck… Then, when you look at Megatron, his legs are real, his arms are real, his head and chest will be CG. You just geek out! I mean, I was never a Transformers fan, I think I was too old for it, I thought the cartoons sucked, because I didn’t like the standard of animation so I didn’t get into the story…


And on that bombshell, I’m cutting this interview short. You’ll have to come back another day for the rest – where Zack talks about custom-made camera lenses and farting inside a Transformer. As you do.