Up-and-Coming Performers add Human Touch to “Transformers 4”
Upon meeting Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz you can tell that these two young performers are well aware that they’re lucky to be in the position they’re in. While both these actors only have a handful of credits between them, they were both cast in one of the summer’s most eagerly awaited films, Transformers: Age of Extinction, a project unlike any they’d ever done before that challenged them in ways they had not expected.
During a recent stopover in Chicago as part of a whirlwind publicity tour, these two fresh faces sat down with me in a very cramped room to talk about their experience on the film as well as their hopes for the future. Reynor, ruggedly handsome with a boyish charm and Peltz, lithe and radiant as a swan, were very much at ease with one another as well as the interview process, unpretentious and open to a refreshing degree. It was immediately apparent that they had a sense of humor when I asked them my first question: “Who’s more intimidating – Optimus Prime or director Michael Bay?”
“That’s a funny question,” said Reynor with a good-natured chuckle. “You know Michael is a very organized, amazing guy. I mean he does the job of 50 men and it’s remarkable the way he manages a $250 million movie. He’s so hands-on with the movie. Every single, minute detail is doctored by Michael Bay. As for Optimus, yeah a giant robot you live with for five months can be intimidating but after the first week or so, you begin to get a handle on how to imagine this thing that’s in your mind’s eye and then react to it on the set.”
The actor brought up a good point with this statement, as so much of what he and Peltz had to do was imagine their gargantuan co-stars were present and then interact with them in order to create a sense of realism. How does one approach this?
“Well, really you just have to go for it and not worry about being silly because you are probably are being silly,” said Peltz. “When we first saw 11 minutes of footage at Cinemacon, I was amazed by the CGI effects and how well it all came together. It was encouraging to see our hard work pay off in the way it did.”
“Our job is to sell the threat and intensity of what’s going on or it’s just not going to work,” added Reynor. “But Michael, despite what you might think, puts a lot of practical elements on the set. The explosions and the car stuff is all real and with those things being tangible, it really helps.”
Though the duo had never been involved with a movie of this size before, they had a great mentor in their co-star Mark Wahlberg. The veteran actor was not above giving advice or leading by example to help the two beginners. “The thing about Mark is that he leads from the front,” says Reynor, “ and for Nicola and I to be able to observe him navigate a film like this is invaluable for us. To be able to see how he deals with the pressure was great because being able to cope with the industry today, what with social media and constant scrutiny was very important to us.”
Having cut his teeth by making TV movies and shorts in Ireland where he was raised, Reynor was able to make two films in a row last year that couldn’t be more different – Transformers 4 and a new version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender in the title role. “To go from one project to the other was like culture shock,” Reynor says with a smile, ”but it was such a fantastic experience. I had great teachers in Michael and Marion Cotillard to help me with the language and dialogue. I have so much respect for them and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Peltz too is at the beginning of her career and if viewers know her at all it would be from her role on the TV series Bates Motel. “I’m really not sure what’s going on with my character,” she says when I ask her what fans of the show can expect in the upcoming season. “I filmed my scenes and then started this project so I am not sure if I’ll be back. I hope so but with a show like that, you never really know.”
Certain to gain a great deal of exposure from what is surely going to be one of the biggest hits of the year, Peltz and Reynor stand to have a great many opportunities land at their feet. I asked who they hoped to work with in their future.
“There as so many talented people out there and I would really love to work with Cate Blanchett. I’ve always looked up to her and Natalie Portman,” said Peltz. “In their careers they commit to all these different types of roles so it’s always exciting to see them work. I’d love to be able to do that close up by being in a movie with them.”
Reynor’s response was a bit more surprising. “I’d really like to do a Wes Anderson film. I would love that,” he said. “I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, and thought it was astounding. I’m a really big fan of his. He’s a really great director because he’s so original.” Hopefully, if the movie gods are willing, these two will realize these goals and not have to rely so much on their imaginations in making more grounded films.