Whether you speak to casual cinemagoers or outright diehard robots-in-disguise fans, it doesn’t matter: opinions on the live-action Transformers films are always decidedly mixed, at best.
Some love the OTT bombastic “Bayhem” of the big-screen flicks, whereas others find them chaotic, tiresome and unrecognisable as the franchise they otherwise enjoy. Still, whatever your take, there’s one thing we can all agree on: the incredible line-up of acting talent the series has commanded since it began in 2007.
In fact, some of the names you see on-screen (and some you hear from behind it) might still surprise you. Here are 10 actors we’re still amazed to find were part of the Transformers franchise, ranked from least to most astonishing…
#10: Hugo Weaving
Hugo Weaving is no stranger to large film franchises, having already been a large part of The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, Captain America: The First Avenger and, most importantly, Happy Feet. Yet it was still somewhat bizarre to see him turn up as the voice of Megatron for the first three Transformers films, especially given that many old-school fans wanted the character’s classic voice actor, Frank Welker, brought back for the job instead. Welker would eventually return for the fourth and fifth outings, but only after Weaving put in a memorable turn as the villain, despite apparently not enjoying the process.
Weaving famously recorded his dialogue from Australia and never met Michael Bay in person, later lamenting, “My link to that and to Michael Bay is so minimal. I have never met him. I was never on set. I’ve seen his face on Skype. I know nothing about him, really. I just went in and did it. I never read the script. I just have my lines, and I don’t know what they mean. That sounds absolutely pathetic! I’ve never done anything like that in my life. It’s hard to say any more about it than that, really.” He also stated, “It was one of the only things I’ve ever done where I had no knowledge of it, I didn’t care about it, I didn’t think about it. They wanted me to do it. In one way, I regret that bit. I don’t regret doing it, but I very rarely do something if it’s meaningless. It was meaningless to me, honestly. I don’t mean that in any nasty way.“
Michael Bay later fired back, “Do you ever get sick of actors that make $15m a picture, or even $200,000 for voiceover work that took a brisk one hour and 43 minutes to complete, and then complain about their jobs? With all the problems facing our world today, do these grumbling thespians really think people reading the news actually care about trivial complaints that their job isn’t ‘artistic enough’ or ‘fulfilling enough’?“ It’s fair to say Weaving likely won’t return to the franchise any time soon, regardless of whether Bay is behind the camera or not.
#9: Alan Tudyk
Alan Tudyk has made a name for himself with a hugely varied CV that includes film and TV roles such as Firefly, A Knight’s Tale, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, I, Robot, Rogue One and Doom Patrol. He’s also a highly accomplished voice actor, popping up in franchises such as Ice Age, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, Raya and the Last Dragon and yes, even Transformers, where he’s taken a turn as Optimus Prime in the recent Earthspark cartoon. However, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about his earlier appearance in the franchise, where he portrayed the character of ‘Dutch’ in Dark of the Moon.
Tudyk’s character is played mainly for comic relief as a bumbling assistant to Jon Turturro’s Agent Simmons, before he’s held at gunpoint during a bar brawl and snaps back to an apparent darker past in a slightly more memorable moment. In truth, Dutch has little relevance to the larger storyline, although Tudyk did hilariously speculate that he considers it the same character as the Dutch he portrayed in 2000’s 28 Days, making it a potential shared universe scenario of sorts. Imagine.
#8: John Goodman
John Goodman surely needs little introduction, having made a name for himself in the sitcom Roseanne. However, he also has an incredible film resume to his name, including star turns in The Big Lebowski and 10 Cloverfield Lane, and an accomplished history of voice-acting roles, not least of which was Monsters, Inc. Still, it was a genuine surprise when he was cast as Hound in Age of Extinction in 2014, although his distinctive performance certainly seemed to win over most fans, even those who didn’t necessarily enjoy the film as a whole! Dialogue such as “I’m like a fat ballerina who takes scalps and slits throats!” takes a particular talent to deliver, after all. He returned for The Last Knight in 2017, although arguably could have been more utilised in that storyline.
#7: Steve Buscemi
I challenge you right now, even having seen the picture above, to name the character that Steve Buscemi played in the Transformers films. Go on. Seriously, did you even remember he was in this series? I know I didn’t, despite having sat through The Last Knight when it came out in cinemas originally, which made the revelation that he cropped us as a robot junk merchant known as Daytrader all the more startling. In truth, Buscemi’s role is merely minutes long in an otherwise overstuffed two-and-a-half hours of runtime, which no doubt explains why it could be more memorable. Besides, it’s not exactly the kind of role you imagine sitting on a CV that includes Reservoir Dogs, Desperado, Con Air, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and The Death of Stalin. That said, Buscemi has worked with Michael Bay before, notably in 1998’s Armageddon, so perhaps that explains that.
#6: Kelsey Grammer
“Hey baby, I hear the blues a-callin’, Tossed salad and robots in disguise!” Yes, Kelsey Grammer may be most well-known for his signature role as Frasier Crane in Cheers, Frasier and an upcoming new spin-off series, but that didn’t stop him from putting in a villainous turn in 2014’s Age of Extinction. Grammer plays the role of Harold Attinger (c’mon, there’s no way you remembered that name), a CIA operative who claims to want to wipe out Transformers for the good of all humanity but secretly is motivated by his own wealth and glory. In truth, it’s all largely forgettable, despite his making deals with the robot bounty hunter, Lockdown, and the like, although at least his final scene is somewhat memorable. I never expected to see Frasier Crane offed by Optimus Prime, but here we are.
Be sure to join us for part 2 soon!