What happens when you battle giant robots that blow up half the world? For Tyrese Gibson's Transformers character, Epps, it gave him PTSD. We learned how Gibson coped, and why he keeps getting cast in movies about cars.
A lot of people are saying that this Transformers is a lot like Black Hawk Down. Did you notice a difference as they filmed it?
Tyrese Gibson: The whole Black Hawk Down connection is probably because of the helicopters; the real presence of the helicopters that's in the film. But I don't really think it's like Black Hawk Down at all, personally.
How was this filming different Transformers 3 compared to the other two Transformers?
Well, this one felt way more focused. This was a very focused process. Michael Bay really came with his A-game. People always talked about the trilogy and closing out the trilogy, and this is part three, and it's bigger, it's better, it's greater. The special effects are like nothing you've ever seen.
The 3-D element has taken Transformers to another level. I know James Cameron happens to be one of the biggest and most important directors in this town, and for him to be so public about how he feels about Transformers 3 and the 3-D and just the film in itself – it's really just the biggest toast to what we've done ever.
I'm really proud of Michael and really proud of the team, we all worked really hard on this and we just hope the fans show up the way they've always shown up.
I read that you're character has left the Army, in this movie. Is he a soldier of fortune now? What can you tell us about that? Where's your character now? What kind of mindset is your character in?
In this film, my character is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. My character [Epps] shows up later in the film, because both Shia and Josh's characters are going at these alien robots and they don't really feel like they can take these big, bad guys down without bringing me back on for some assistance. So they showed up to my job — I'm still working with robots, but I'm working with robots in a different capacity. And so they show up to my job and basically beg me to come back and help them save the world.
You said your character has post-traumatic stress disorder and he was shot at. Was that because of the Transformers or was that at a different battle? Does he like Transformers now? Is he anti-Transformers?
That's all because of the Transformers and what happened in the previous two films. No, he's not anti-Transformers, he's more so anti-war and he wants to spend more time with his family and whatever else. I've been at it for two movies now, and I'm just kind of feeling him some. When they show up, they have this conversation about what they need me to do and what's going on with the Decepticons attacking our planet – I just decide to come on board and help out a little bit.
How has the world changed now that the Transformers are very public?
Well in this particular film franchise, that's just a part of that world. It's like some people know, and others don't. But regardless if people aware of it, it doesn't mean that within this world people have actually seen them or have been exposed to them, not everybody.
There are a lot of new actors in this film – Patrick Dempsey, Ken Jeong – I'm curious, did you have any interaction with any of these new characters and can you tell us about it?
Absolutely, when we were on the set and it was all good energy. Patrick and I did a few scenes together. I never worked with the Asian guy from The Hangover, I didn't have any scenes with him, he was doing scenes with Shia. Me and Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] bonded really well, she's a sweetheart. I'm just really happy that she stepped in at the last minute to bring Carly to life.
What sort of interaction do you have with Patrick Dempsey's character? How does your character respond to his character?
Well that was more so him and Shia, but there was this one scene in the end where him and Shia were going at it and I was just there to just kind of hold Shia together and hold him down and have his back. But of course Shia held his own, but I was there. It was just one scene we shot and it was pretty extensive.
How does doing an action movie like Transformers compare to doing an action movie like Death Race?
Well this is a much bigger scale, a much bigger magnitude and I think Death Race was very dark and it wasn't fun (so to speak). There wasn't those moments where you laugh or found yourself laughing. It was just much darker in color and much more dramatic acting. Completely different movies, as far as I'm concerned. But big action, but not nearly as big as Transformers.
Transformers, Fast Five, Death Race – that's a lot of films with cars in them.
I'm an adrenaline junkie – what do you want me to do? I drive fast in real life. I love things that are going fast. I love women. I love energy. I love fashion. I just love it, I love these big set pieces. I love the energy of being on the set. Just making magic, I just love it.
I'm actually in the midst of a major transition right now, so I'm in the midst of figuring out that next move cause, you know, I think, you know, and I don't want to make this a black thing, but as an African-American actor, a lot of times we don't really have opportunities to make films at that are beyond just doing roles with a whole African-American cast. And a lot of films may do well to a less degree, but they don't really do well internationally sometimes. And so for me to be a part of these films that have gone past, because I can always do an African-American movie all day, every day.
But I think doing films that have traveled overseas and have performed so well — and Fast Five has over 600 million and it has almost been 2 months and it's just unbelievable. And that so when I went and did the eight-country tour for Fast Five, you know, you got people walking up to me that barely speak English or don't speak English at all, and so we had that as part of our goals to do these films that have a real international presence.
Last time we talked you did express a bit of interest in the character of Luke Cage, and I know that Isiah Mustafa just made [an audition tape]…
A real character piece for me would be like the life story of Teddy Pendergrass, which is in motion now. And it will be my first time singing in a movie and I'm doing that role. I've been keeping my eyes on this Martin Luther King project. I really want to do something significant and so, you know, it's just about just coming up with a plan and moving on it.
Your fans are going to be pretty sad if you're no longer going for the Luke Cage role. Is that what you're saying? We would love to see superhero movie with an African American lead, it would be amazing.
No I'm not saying I'm not interested in that role, but I think Luke Cage is going to be a lot of fun when that happens. But it's not the Teddy Pendergrass movie, it's not Martin Luther King. It's Luke Cage, you know? [Laughs] ... I would love to do it. They just got to make it more of a priority. Marvel, Marvel films, Marvel pictures, the studio – they have to make this African-American superhero a priority. All the other movies, the Green Lanterns, that's great, but they have to make Luke Cage a priority. They have to write it, develop it, get it made. And they have to call me, and let's get it on. I mean, they've been talking about this Luke Cage project for years. What is the hold up? Let's get it on.
We would love to see a lot more diversity in the superhero world.
Oh I'm ready to go, baby.
Bringing it back to Transformers, what's your favorite new Transformer in the film?
You know what, I really love the new Camaro. The silver car. That thing is just smoking, I mean it was on the set and I was just like ‘this is unbelievable'.
What do you think about characters like Skids and Mudflap from the second film? Are you glad they're not in this one?
Yeah, yeah — get rid of those things.
Did you get a chance to drive any of the cars this time around?
Absolutely. The red Ferrari. I was in the red Ferrari. That was, you know, I had a few moments in some cars, absolutely.
So what's your big take away from this Transformers. The films have kind of gone in many different directions over the last few years, so what's your big take away from the third film?
The biggest takeaway for me is that, you know, it just felt big. It felt really big. The scale of this movie is really big and it felt it while we were doing it. And I'm just glad that it looked that way. Michael Bay, I was just on the phone with him two days ago, and he said, "Tyrese, I just wrapped the movie, we're done, I just finalized, I turned it in. It's done." And I was like "Wow."
Additional reporting by Jonathan Wilkins.