'6 Underground' Stars Reveal How Netflix, Michael Bay Created Character-Driven "Crazy Ride"
If there's one thing the stars and writers of Michael Bay's latest film want audiences to know, it's that on a scale of one to Michael Bay, 6 Underground was as much Bayhem to film as it is to watch.
"For me, Michael Bay's the definition of 'go-go-go,' and it starts the second you step onto the set," Adria Arjona, the 6 Underground actress behind the character Four, told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York premiere of the first collaboration between Netflix and the Transformers franchise director. "Working with him is full of adrenaline, and there's not one second that you kind of sit down and relax, which I think is what you're going to get from this movie."
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Actor Ben Hardy described the project as exhilarating, high-stakes and, essentially, "Michael Bay on steroids."
Almost the entire cast and creative team attached to the Ryan Reynolds-led vigilante action thriller was present for the Tuesday night event, held just days ahead of the movie's Dec. 13 release on Netflix. The premiere was in line with the film and director's explosive style, kicking things off with seven parkour runners bounding and scaling a city-like set constructed within the massive carpet tent.
The Netflix and Skydance production follows six people known only by numbers who, after faking their deaths, join a vigilante squad and take down criminals.
"I don't know the ins and outs of it, but it felt like Michael has really been given free rein," Hardy, who plays Six, told THR. "He's got this massive budget, which he's had before, but also license to just do what he wants, and you see it."
While 6 Underground fully retains the high-budget, high-concept, pulse-pounding action Bay is known for, star Corey Hawkins says it's also a character story that will make audiences connect with the various members of the team.
"It is the most Michael Bay film, but people should also expect to see heart," the Five actor said. "You see things blowing up, and it is an enjoyable, crazy ride, but at the same time, the journey that these characters go on, this team of flawed individuals who are at rock bottom and, through finding each other, find a way to keep moving — that is really special and different."
Bay told THR that he was in talks with another studio for the film but that Netflix was ultimately the right home for it — and not just because of what they were willing to spend.
"I appreciate Netflix for doing unique and different content and for giving voice to so many filmmakers and storytellers out there," Bay told THR. "Our movie was an R-rated movie, and I wanted to keep it R-rated, but the price point was a little high for an R-rated movie. One studio kind of balked at the costs. They said, 'We want to do it so bad, but it's just a little too expensive for us.' But Netflix just said 'We'll do it.' I didn't have to change anything. I didn't have to make a PG-13 film."
6 Underground co-writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who worked previously with star Reynolds on both Deadpool films, said that the creative and financial freedom Netflix gave Bay ultimately made their jobs more exciting.
"We had a chase through Florence, and he was like, 'Let's roll through a museum, let's parkour down the Duomo,' and we're just like, 'Oh my god, yes!'" Wernick said. "Anything that you can imagine as a writer — anytime your imagination kind of expands to what you think is its greatest possibility — Michael can not only realize it but make it bigger and badder."
The adrenaline-fueled nature of Bay's latest film set could be intense. Still, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, the actor who plays Three, said he appreciates the Bad Boys director's approach and style more after seeing the end product.
"We were [on set], and I'd have the pages, and he would be like, 'Just go from here to there.' I'm like, Michael, that doesn't make sense, and he'd say, 'I know what I'm doing, just trust me, just go that way!' And then I saw the film two days ago and I'm like, 'Oh, that's what he was saying!'" Garcia-Rulfo said. "It's all true, all the rumors are true about the way Michael shoots. It's chaotic, you know, but chaotic in a good way. I think from chaos magic happens."
Co-writer Reese describes Bay as both "a one-man army" and "the Tasmanian devil of directors." For Arjona, his more concentrated and aggressive approach to filmmaking helped bring the cast closer together. Two actress Melanie Laurent told THR that the film's stars, who now text weekly and even came to Laurent's house when she had her baby, have a close bond that Michael leaned into.
"We survived that crazy set because we just love working together," Laurent said. "And Michael was great, because sometimes when you have a cast that is like super close to each other, it could maybe be disturbing for a director. But he just let us be and let us work together, and it was very smart of him."
Several cast members also pointed to Reynolds as a source of leadership and unity while filming. Arjona described the actor as a true leader and a genuine person with a beautiful heart. Garcia-Rulfo said he was "very lucky to work with Ryan," who "took care of us on set."
"In terms of a cast environment, safety is the biggest thing for me," Reynolds told THR. "Having emotional safety, making sure that everybody feels like they're on a footing with which they can do their best possible work and that they feel safe to experiment, that they feel safe to be bad. In order to be really good, I think you need to be able to feel free to be bad. I know I do. But it's really just making sure that it's a place everyone wants to come to work."
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