Throwback Thursday: Michael Bay Scored With 'Pearl Harbor' in 2001

Michael Bay on the set of "Pearl Harbor"
Michael Bay on the set of "Pearl Harbor"
 Courtesy Everett Collection

This story first appeared in the June 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The first sentence of The Hollywood Reporter's Pearl Harbor review could have applied to every Michael Bay film ever made: "Theater owners, start your popcorn machines." The review hailed the imminent arrival of a blockbuster, and indeed the $140 million production's $75 million gross over 2001's four-day Memorial Day weekend was then the second-highest ever, after The Lost World: Jurassic Park. (It eventually earned $449 million worldwide.) But once the predictions of megasuccess were dispensed with, THR panned the film, which starred Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale.

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Bay had gotten his start at 15 filing Star Wars artwork in the Lucasfilm archives. After college at Wesleyan and grad school at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design, he began making commercials for Propaganda Films (one of his "Got milk?" spots is now in the CLIO Awards Hall of Fame). Between those and the music videos he directed for everyone from Tina Turner to Meat Loaf, Bay caught the eye of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson.

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The producers made Bad Boys with Bay when he was just 28, then in rapid succession The Rock, Armageddon (which made him the youngest director to reach $1 billion in box office), Harbor and the first Bad Boys sequel. "On the one hand, I knew I could go into a zone and lead people," Bay tells THR of directing large-scale productions at a young age. "And on the other hand, I'd stand to the side and think, 'I can't f—ing believe they're letting me do this.' " 

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The director, 49, is doing the final color corrections on Transformers: Age of Extinction (out June 27) and says he's "bleary eyed" from trying to get the shade right on some bok choy and tomatoes that land on a car's hood. The previous three films in the series have grossed $2.6 billion. Theater owners, start your popcorn machines. 

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