The latest entry in the Transformers franchise, Transformers: The Last Knight hits theaters this Tuesday night. In anticipation I was fortunate to chat with one of the stars of the film, actress/singer Isabela Moner last week at Wizard World. After numerous roles in various films and television the 15 year-old landed not only a role in one of the biggest franchises currently running, but also the highly anticipated prequel to Sicario, Soldado which is currently in post production.
In Transformers, Isabela plays Izzy a young girl who’s joins Cade (Mark Wahlberg) to help defend the remaining Autobots after the events of Age of Extinction that has humanity hunting down the remaining Transformers. Her character was a smart move by Bay that looks to re-focus the series back to its primary audience, while also giving these testosterone drenched films a healthy dose of female empowerment. Personally I can’t wait for the film and it was great chatting with Isabela who had some fun insight about both her role in Transformers and her turn in Soldado.
You’re only 15 years old and you landed a part in one of the biggest film franchises out there. That had to be a pretty surreal experience for you?
Yeah, I gotta say this is a little intimidating, but overall exciting. You never really plan these things, and especially when you’re a kid and you think you wouldn’t be cast in such a big franchise in one of the main roles. I’m really thankful for this opportunity and I’ve had a lot of fun and the people are really fun to be around, especially like the big fans of this franchise.
What was the audition process like?
It was quite interesting. I actually got sent a few scenes from my manager and she was like “yeah they are casting and I was hoping you could read for this.” I was like “OH! TRANSFORMERS! Like oh my gosh that’s huge! Are you sure they are going to want to cast me because I am under 18, so like, more expensive, you know.”(Laughs) I can’t work as long as the adults can and I’ve never seen anyone under 18 in a Transformers film since Shia was 17.
I just didn’t think I had a chance, but I taped anyways.
I put up a bed sheet because I needed a white background and I did three scenes and in the next few days I got a call from Michael Bay’s offices, they wanted me to come in and read for him. I was expecting some kind of small call back, maybe a few other people there, but we went to the studio and he had a hair and makeup team in the studio ready to do my makeup and create kind of an “Izzy Look”. So he like went all out, it was amazing. We tried different looks and he came in and he like approved some, he even said he almost like wanted to cut my hair (NERVOUSLY LAUGHS), then I went in and I read.
Then he asked me, he said it was optional, but I kind of knew I had to, “pretend there’s a big explosion and you got to really commit and show me like what you would do in the situation.” I literally threw myself back on the ground and landed on the couch there.
Speaking of Michael Bay he has kind of a reputation in Hollywood as being crazy on set, what was that like working with him? I know I’ve seen featurettes of the making of the Transformers films where they make fun of the fact he just runs around screaming at everyone through a blow horn.
He has to scream. He has a lot of people to talk to, and a lot of communicate. He always says, “every minute is like $10,000”. That’s his way of saying its expensive and people have to do things right and I get it. But he was super nice to me.
When you have 400 men to communicate things to, you can’t be whispering and sometimes he does it on purpose too. (Laughs) When the cameras start rolling he will start yelling at people on purpose, I think its just to mess with people, he almost thinks that he has a reputation to keep up and it’s kind of funny. He’ll like wink at me after he yells at people and we’ll just giggle on the side.
Was it a struggle for you as a young actress given the film is so heavy with CGI, I recall one scene in the preview I saw where you watch a Transformer die and your reaction was really heart wrenching. That couldn’t have been easy for you. What were you acting against in those scenes?
I was acting against a stick. A stick with a face on it. And it wasn’t even the right Transformer either. Like not the right Transformer face. It was a Deceptacon. So it didn’t really make any sense. But you know what are you going to do, work with what you got. It wasn’t that challenging because I feel like you’re just making things up as you go when you’re acting; but with a stick rather than a human. You know. (Laughs)
What I think is more difficult is when you have dialog scenes; I have a lot of dialog with Hound. Its just like, I think they will adjust the inflection of the Transformer to what you’re doing. But you’re just doing so many takes of different ways of saying things that you gotta make sure it makes sense and while you doing that you have to look at different parts of the face because the Transformer’s face isn’t just one point, you’re looking at this huge being. So yeah there is a lot that goes into it, it took a while but I got use to it.
So when we meet you in the film, you’ve lost one family and find another, is that a theme that runs through the rest of the film with your character?
Well I think family is really important to my character Izzy. This whole movie is kind of showing family isn’t just blood, it can be stronger, it can be a stronger bond, it can be a choice and I think that is one of the main themes as well, you choose who you associate yourself with. I think that when I find Cade and he also stands for what I believe in when it comes to defending Autobots I think that’s really powerful and what makes me want to be a part of that team. I want to stay and I want to fight.
Now Soldado, I am super excited about the prequel to Sicario , one of my favorite films from 2015, how did that happen?
Yeah, well it was quite interesting because they didn’t cast me because of Transformers, or anything. It was kind of going into a room with a bunch of girls who looked exactly like me, who were dressed kind of like me. You’re up against all of those people and it really comes down to, are you right for the character?
So when I went in there the second time Benicio was there and I was the last person to go in. I went in and I was nervous because Benicio is an intimidating person to be around, because he has this sense about him, that he’s a greater being. Let’s just face it, he’s above us. (Laughs) He was super nice and I got to read with him, he told me later he knew I was the right choice as soon as I walked out of the room he started cheering, because he found her.
Are you still shooting Soldado?
We actually are done shooting on that. We had an Italian director Stefano Sollima because Denis Villeneuve busy was making Arrival.
If you’ve seen Sicario you know Soldado isn’t going to end well, were you worried at all going into this film?
I was excited to do it. I am not going to lie. I knew what I was in for and I know that when I was reading the script I had to take a break from it because it was so intense. But I was up for the challenge. It was such a unique film, that had so many dark elements. My mom had a hard time watching me in it, she felt so bad for me, because I had to reach a deep, deep level that a lot of kids don’t reach. I think it’s going to be hard for the audience to watch too, but it’s got a message that will certainly come across with someone so young.