HONG KONG – Against the backdrop of the magnificent Hong Kong skyline, Transformers: Age of Extinction crashed into southern China for its world premiere Thursday night. A gigantic model of Optimus Prime presided over the red carpet event, hosted by Paramount Pictures, at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the landmarks of Hong Kong.
The pre-premiere red carpet was interrupted by sporadic bouts of heavy rain, but stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor and Chinese actress Li Bingbing walked the red carpet as soon as the sky cleared. The Grammy-winning band Imagine Dragons debuted their Transformers: Age of Extinction theme song “Battle Cry” in a mini concert held immediately after the concert beside Victoria Harbour.
It was the first time a Hollywood movie of this scale held its world premiere in Hong Kong. Much of the film was shot in the city.
On the red carpet, amid fans’ shouts of “Michael!” some hollered “more explosions!” at director Michael Bay. The action maestro appeared unfazed by the request.
Overall, Bay received a hero’s welcome on the red carpet, a marked change from when he was in town to shoot the movie in October — in an incident that became notorious, two local gangsters tried to extort money from the production, and one of them hurled an air-conditioning unit at the director’s head when he refused to pay them off.
Bay reminisced about the incident during a press conference held Friday afternoon in Hong Kong, saying he thought the punishment the two toughs received — one was sentenced to 30 months in jail, the other six months — was “a bit stiff.”
“I personally wouldn’t want them to be punished. He was on drugs and he probably didn’t know what he was doing. I think it was a little stiff, a little harsh,” Bay told the assembled local and international press.
But despite his brush with local crazies, Bay said he wouldn’t rule out shooting in Hong Kong again. “People in Hong Kong are great. We had that incident, which messed up shooting for about four hours, and then we carried on. But on my day off, I was walking around one of the malls, and no less than 30 people walked up to me and apologized, and said that’s not what people do in Hong Kong. It was the nicest thing in the world. They would never do that in America,” Bay added.
Bay said it was Hong Kong’s biggest action export who first introduced him to the city. “Hong Kong is a beautiful city. I came here right after I directed The Rock. I didn’t know Jackie Chan, I had just seen his movies. But I called him up and he showed me around the city for two days. Great-looking city. It’s hard to shoot here, but we did it,” Bay said.
Wahlberg said he had to work off the aftereffects of Hong Kong. “I’ve seen Hong Kong on TV before, but when I landed on the plane, it was just breathtaking. And of course the food was fantastic, so I was eating way too much, Michael started to notice I was putting on a little weight,” he said. “Even when I see [castmate] Li Bingbing now, she said, ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight.’ But I couldn’t help enjoying the food, and I just hope I can come back to Hong Kong when I’m not working so I can actually experience the city and take some time to really see the sights.”
“Coming to China opened up a whole new experience for us. Interacting with a different culture — it just brought a whole new energy to the franchise,” said producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “Michael has a vision. Every movie I experienced with Michael, he’s tried to push pass the last one, so you can tell from watching the movie, it’s a real adrenaline rush.”
Wahlberg also talked about his role and the relationship between his character and his character’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz. “He’s an all-around good guy, very positive and optimistic and always sees the good in people. He’s just an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things to keep his daughter alive,” said Wahlberg.
Peltz, whose father is billionaire Nelson Peltz, said she was particularly gripped by the relationship between father and daughter in the movie. “One of my favorite parts about shooting this movie is the father-daughter dynamic. I’m really close to my dad, and I can definitely relate to that — the overprotective dad aspect of it,” said Peltz.
Bay and Bonaventura also tried to downplay expectations for a Transformers 5 in 2016. “It’s just a rumor. There’s not a Transformers 5 that I know about,” Bay said. Either the director is playing coy or he hasn’t spoken with his studio lately: At the CineEurope industry conference in Spain this week, Paramount Pictures included Transformers 5 in its slate presentation of tentpoles planned for 2015-2016.
Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment in the series, is set to open in the U.S. on June 27, but it will start showing a day earlier in Hong Kong.