How Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts Director Was Inspired To Make A More Diverse Robot Blockbuster

Director Steven Caple Jr. says it was a Michael Bay movie that helped him envision a big-budget action movie that isn't dominated by white actors.

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Before Rise of the Beasts, Transformers was an exceedingly white franchise, with white leads in every movie and a white guy in the director's chair every time out. Rise of the Beasts represents a major break from that franchise tendency, though, with a Black director and two people of color in the lead roles. It's a pleasantly surprising shift, and it began with the hiring of Creed 2 director Steven Caple Jr. to sit behind the camera.

"I'm trying to cast people who look like me, and who just don't get the opportunity to be in this position and/or be on these platforms and showcase our talent," Caple told GameSpot.

As it turns out, one of the people who had a hand in inspiring Caple to become a filmmaker in the first place was the white guy who directed five of the not-diverse previous Transformers flicks, Michael Bay. It was the first Bad Boys film that gave Caple that initial spark--because it was a big studio action flick with two Black lead actors.

"When I saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence together in a big action movie--because usually those buddy cop films, it's like Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. It's like a biracial friendship, you know. And when I saw those two together, I was a kid and I was like, 'Wait, what? These dudes are action heroes! Like, they're so cool, they're funny, they don't disappear halfway through the movie.' And that made me pick up a camera and literally go outside and reenact Bad Boys."

Naturally, it made sense to Caple to pay it forward once he was in the position to do so, and so now we have a Transformers film with up-and-comers like Hamilton star Anthony Ramos and Swarm star Dominique Fishback in the lead roles.

"So now I have that situation and opportunity to be like, there's a kid in Brooklyn who sees a Puerto Rican kid like Noah on a big screen. And he's now inspired to do anything in life. That goes further along than anything else, than any box office or anything like that for me, just because of how I felt as a kid," Caple said. "Dominique Fishback, great actress, deserves to be on a platform like this, and can bring something to the Transformers franchise that hasn't been there before.

"And so yeah, I look for talent who could definitely do the part. I pick the best if I can. I'm interested in who's right for the role. But if I can create a diverse cast of people of color, especially in something that hasn't been highlighted in the franchise before and even in Hollywood as often, then yeah, I'm on it."

Bay--or "our legend Bay," as Caple referred to him at one point--ended up being key in helping get Caple up to speed on how to deal with all the fun complicating factors of working on a production like this one.

"He read the script. I'm telling him how much visual effects we're using. He's like, 'You got a lot of emotional moments with the robots, this is really cool. Heads up: it's really expensive!'" Caple recalled. "Like when you want to just do a close up on Optimus Prime and show that he's thinking, like, that cost a lot of money, and a lot of time, which is one of the reasons why he was like 'I didn't do it in my films, because that's why I would have more on a human character side'. He would bring humans into it a lot. So that way, you're not always cutting to the robot.

"But for me, I want the emotion and I want to figure out how to balance that and so that was the first conversation I had where I'm like, you know, I'm spending money on reactions and not action, you know, and figuring out a way to quickly capture that moment within the same shot."

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