Cars not only GM stars in new ‘Transformers’ – USA TODAY
DETROIT — Ed Welburn, the mild-mannered design chief at General Motors, let actor Mark Wahlberg have it.
“My office. 15 minutes and you know where that is,” Welburn yelled at the tough-guy actor from inside the GM design dome in Warren, Mich.
The soft-spoken Welburn admits it took at least eight takes to muster the anger needed when he became an actor for a day on the set of the newest Transformers movie and director Michael Bay wanted more fury.
Welburn plays the director of the CIA in Transformers: Age of Extinction, which arrives in theaters June 27.
“I get to yell at Mark Wahlberg,” said Welburn.
Filming of “T4” as it is known in the movie’s marketing pitch was done over a three-week period with a week at the GM Design Center last June, time in the wind tunnels in July and August, as well as shots at other GM locations.
GM’s role dates back to the first Transformers movie in 2007, and a yellow Camaro has transformed into good-guy autobot Bumblebee in all of them.
“I’ve gotten to know Michael Bay really well,” Welburn said of the intense director. Early last year, Bay came to Warren looking for the cars that would become main characters in “T4”. The two walked through the design studios, and Bay was also shown pictures of concepts under development at other studios around the world.
Welburn knew nothing about the story line, and Bay was tight-lipped during the auto casting call.
“The cars had to audition for the part,” Welburn said, because Bay recognizes each vehicle has its own character.
The Bumblebee Camaro remains a central character, but a one-off version of the sports car that is stronger, bolder and more powerful was more in keeping with the evolution of the character. “We had to change the car to fit the part,” Welburn said.
It took four months to build the movie car from sketches drawn up in Warren. Bumblebee was built at GM’s North Hollywood studio.
An emerging star is the Corvette Stingray that becomes autobot Crosshairs. It has a unique green paint job designed to show off the car’s lines. Bay wanted the new Z06, but GM didn’t unveil the new car until January of this year so a modified Stingray got the part.
The movie car was built in Warren under the direction of Dave Bolognino. It took three to four months to build, said Jose Gonzalez, lead creative designer for the Corvette C7.
A number of the small cars gave their lives in the movie. Filmmakers went through five Chevy Sonics and wanted two extra at the last minute, which GM couldn’t provide, said Michelle Killen, lead creative designer in the Chevrolet color and trim studio.
The movie also features the mini Trax, which goes on sale in the U.S. early next year, and there are a number of Escalades as well as appearances by the Cadillac Ciel and Cien concepts. Welburn said Bay kept adding cars as he sifted through GM’s lineup.
Kris Bastedo, a supervisor at the design center, was the liaison between the 900 design center employees and the 200 people and 50 trucks on the “T4” team.
The two co-existed with no disruptions, but employees were on celebrity alert.
“You never knew when Mark Wahlberg would be walking around the corner so you stand tall,” said Killen.