Time, money issues cut Marina City role in Transformers 3
Loop North News

Photo by Steven Dahlman

Time, money issues cut Marina City role in Transformers 3

  • Stunt would have sent a car off the ramp à la Hunter, Allstate
  • Followed by three more cars
  • Did we mention the cars would have been on fire?

17-Nov-10 – Marina City was cast in the “Transformers 3” movie filmed in Chicago this year. A daring stunt was planned to send four burning cars off the west tower parking ramp. A date and time was even determined, August 8 at 7 a.m.

But in the days leading up to August 8, the stunt fell through, without comment from the film’s publicist or the commercial property manager at Marina City.

Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, says it was the film’s director, Michael Bay, who backed out of the stunt.

“As far as I know, it was all set to go,” said Moskal Tuesday evening after giving a presentation at DePaul School of Digital Cinema.

“Michael Bay is always trying to do more and more,” he said, “but it was one of those things where they said, ‘do we really need to do this?’”

Bay apparently had to get to a location in Detroit, a mansion that was a popular tourist destination and offered a limited opportunity for him to film there.

“He had a shopping list and they were running out of time and they were way over budget to be honest with you.”

Bay denies his film is over budget and says the reason the stunt was cut was a $40,000 location fee the property management wanted. “I told my producer we are not paying that. Why? Because I like to stay on budget, and I also don’t like to get ripped off.”

The Hunter It would have been the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh time a car has flown off the circular ramp at Marina City into the Chicago River. The first time was on September 21, 1979, when a green 1980 Grand Prix Pontiac (left) took a long dive off a short ramp for a Steve McQueen movie, The Hunter.

On October 15, 2006, a black Oldsmobile Cutlass executed a graceful summersault from the 17th floor of the west tower for a TV commercial for Allstate. That stunt was done twice, using two different cars.

In July 2010, as filmmakers were turning River North into a disaster site for the new Transformers movie, they approached Transwestern, the commercial property manager at Marina City, about doing the stunt again.

‘they did one car, I want to do four. And I want them to be on fire. I want there to be four burning cars.’

Bay, says Moskal, remembered Marina City from The Hunter. “The funny thing was, he said, ‘they did one car, I want to do four. And I want them to be on fire. I want there to be four burning cars.’ And it just kind of came down to, how much time do we have and how much more do we really need? And they did some pretty hairy stuff. It’s not like they were starved for yet another spectacle of explosions or flying cars or stuff like that.”

Other scenes for the movie, expected to be released next July, were planned but never filmed. “Their final scene was supposed to be in the reflection of the Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park where they wanted to see the city [on fire] and smoldering.”

However, Moskal says he would not be surprised if Bay came back to Chicago to film the Cloud Gate scene.

Moskal says he has seen footage shot in Chicago. “I have to tell you, it does look spectacular. I know this sounds like hype, but it’s like, wow, man, this looks great.”

He cautions that the movie is about Transformers, not Chicago, but the city is the setting for the final chapter of the film, a showdown between two extraterrestrial clans of robots.

Rich Moskal

Chicago enjoying a peak of cyclical demand

While it seems like many films and television shows are shooting in Chicago, Moskal (left) says the competition between cities and states to land these projects is “extraordinarily fierce.”

“There hasn’t been a time, ever, that states and cities competed so aggressively as to where films are shot. Illinois offers a 30 percent tax credit to filmmakers but that’s outdone by what the state of Louisiana offers and what Michigan offers and what countries overseas are offering.”

He says the tax credit is mostly due to the 2002 film, “Chicago,” that grossed $170 million, won six Oscars, but was filmed entirely in Toronto.

“Not only did we lose on the production side of it, but we lost bragging rights,” laments Moskal. The musical “was the poster child for offering more incentives to capture business.”

Transformers 3 started out in Chicago quietly. “They really just wanted to shoot here for a couple of weeks. And the more Michael Bay looked around...the more he grew to love the city.”

(Right) Director Michael Bay talks with crewmembers during filming of Transformers 3 on Wacker Drive on July 26.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

It would turn into “one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that we’ve had in film production,” attracting crowds wherever scenes were filmed.

“The attitude of filmmakers is that anything is possible...We’re going to do it. We’re going to make it happen. And when they come to Chicago, that expectation is always pretty high.”

Contagion to wrap next month

Filming continues through mid-December for the action-thriller Contagion. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film’s stars include Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne.

Locations included Crimson Lounge at Marina City’s Hotel Sax, where a scene was filmed on October 25.

While some of the film is set in Chicago, the story covers 12 different cities and Chicago is filling in for all of them except for Hong Kong.

Moskal spoke for more than 90 minutes about movies made in Chicago to an audience that included several film students. A biochemistry major himself, Moskal says he became interested in film while attending Loyola University. He was a location scout for the Illinois Film Office and was named director of the Chicago Film Office in 1996.

His favorite made-in-Chicago movie? The Fugitive. “It captured the character of the city. I think it made Chicago look tremendous.”

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | Published 17-Nov-10 3:25 AM

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