Longtime Transformers Mastermind Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks Rise of the Beasts


Recently, MovieWeb was able to catch up with the influential producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the mastermind that has been attached to the live-action Transformers franchise since its beginning in 2007 with Michael Bay’s first film. Di Bonaventura has also been associated with a few of the recent animated Transformers projects, so he is extremely well-versed on many sides of the franchise’s canon and timeline. Many names have come and gone from the franchise: Michael Bay, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and Mark Wahlberg to name a few, but no one has more experience with the live action franchise than Lorenzo.

MovieWeb was able to ask di Bonaventura about his general experiences in the films and its most recent addition, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, and whatever is coming next; his answers may surprise some people. When interviewing him, it’s apparent that di Bonaventura is a genuine person who wants the best for the franchise and for its fans, especially one fan in a far-away place.

If you are a fan of Transformers, or movies in general, and wish to learn more about the thought process that goes into these films from the standpoint of their most important producer, you will love the following exchange. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your coffee as you read our interview with Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and be sure to check out Paramount Pictures’ Transformers: Rise of the Beasts on Digital now, and on 4K Ultra HD SteelBook™, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, and DVD on October 10th.

Returning Ironhide Back to Transformers

Paramount Pictures

Di Bonaventura has been associated with the franchise for quite a while now, and has had his say in a variety of major Transformers characters from the franchise. But is there one character that the producer wants to work with that he hasn’t been able to yet? “Not really,” admitted di Bonaventura, “but what happens each time as we do it, we dive back into the canon of it, the mythology of it, and then somebody pops out of that almost inevitably.” He continued with a surprising reveal:

But funny enough, one of the characters I would love to be reacquainted with is Ironhide. I love that character, and we killed him, but now, because we’re before the Bay films, we could bring him back for a film or two. So I would say, if there’s one character in my mind that I would love to bring in, it’s Ironhide.

What Keeps the Public Interested?

Apelinq in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Paramount Pictures

The Transformers media franchise has been going for 40 years at this point, so what keeps the public so invigorated? How do the movies keep succeeding? Di Bonaventura has some thoughts.

Well, I think it’s the original invention of it, frankly. It tapped into something that’s hard to exactly articulate, but this idea that an inanimate object can turn into a big 35-foot robot who can fight and talk and be a personality. I think inherently that’s just really brilliant, and then our job in a way is to keep that fresh. Our job is to, each time, bring in new elements so that the audience feels like they’re getting the thing that they love about the Transformers each time, but then they’re getting something new, and it’s that balance between new and familiar that we’re always trying to push.

“For an audience, it’s more exciting if it’s new,” began di Bonaventura, “but really, we’re leaning into the essential [awe of], ‘Wow, this thing can talk!’ In this last movie, between Mirage and Optimus, you really saw underneath the skin of the robot in a way we haven’t done. So that was part of the objective, let’s get to know Optimus more, other than that he’s the great leader, and in Mirage’s case, we can make the speaking character have fun, but also have vulnerability.”

A More Cautious Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime and Primal in Rise of the Beasts
Paramount Pictures

In Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, we see Optimus Prime in a more cautious state. In 2007, he has those lines, “I’ve seen good in them,” and, “Were we so different?” Here, he gets that camaraderie going with Noah, and it almost seems like di Bonaventura had the filmmakers go back and flesh out the development of Prime.

“Our objective was to try to give a robot an arc,” explained the producer. “We’ve never done that, right? Even Bumblebee really didn’t have an arc. Bumblebee, he starts as wonderful and loving and ends as wonderful and loving, and as a good friend. Now we wanted to see the idea — at the beginning of Bumblebee, we had this idea that [Prime] really didn’t want to leave Cybertron, and as much as he orders a retreat, it’s clearly something that doesn’t sit right with him.” He continued:

So we thought that was an interesting thing to explore, like, ‘Did I make the right decision? Do I want to get back, and how do I get back and then reenter the fight? So what we wanted to do is sort of show uncertainty in a character that has always had such certainty. And so, in this case, he doesn’t trust humans at first, and doesn’t have a reason to trust them, in a way. He isn’t sure his decision-making process was right. I think any great leader probably, in the quiet of their mind, goes, ‘Was that the right decision?’ I think, in a sense, it makes him more human.

Di Bonaventura is right with this line of thinking. Optimus Prime has always had this bravado, this charisma about him. Part of that is because he was a father figure to so many children in the 80s, because of his courageousness and his ability to run into a situation no matter the odds. Prime has always been a character that one places on a pedestal, simply because of what he meant to earlier generations, and what he means to new fans now. The uncertainty may not be a side hardcore fans wish to see, but it does help to show that even the best leaders had to start somewhere. You simply don’t get to be steadfast and all-knowing overnight.

Di Bonaventura Reacts to Unicron

Transformers Unicron
Paramount Pictures

One wonders, when gearing up for Rise of the Beasts, what di Bonaventura’s reaction was to the inclusion of the infamous character Unicron, the gargantuan planet killer. “Well, I always have a little suspicion about Unicron,” began di Bonaventura. “It’s so big, how do you relate to it? First of all, I love the idea of pursuing it, because he’s such a great villain, right? So I think you have two reactions. One is like, it’s a great villain, but how do you do it in a sense to make it relatable?”

“The other one was really that opening scene,” continued di Bonaventura. “In a sense, it’s there to say to the audience, ‘It’s not just this big thing, it’s powerful, and it’s going to destroy the planet and kill things.’ So that was really important to me, to establish why a planet can be dangerous, because inherently you go, ‘A planet, why is it dangerous?'”

In these kinds of movies, you’re serving two audiences: ones that know the mythology and ones that don’t know the mythology. You have to inform the ones that don’t why we’re bringing in this villain.

Related: Exclusive: Transformers VFX Team Talk Rise of the Beasts

Rise of the Beasts Ending, Explained

Transformers with GI Joe Characters
IDW Publishing

With so many fans, and so much canon and lore, one wonders if there are any hidden Easter eggs in Rise of the Beasts that fans have missed, something that’s gone undiscovered. “Good question,” began di Bonaventura. “No, I don’t think so. I think what’s interesting is, everybody’s so curious what the last scene is trying to tell. So what I would say that it’s telling us is this: that, like every Transformers movie, there’s usually a group of robots and humans that are going to fight and stop the bad guy. Well, we’re now adding some new meat to that story.” He elaborated:

We’re going to have some other characters enter our story, but we don’t have a plan, and that’s our plan. You know that they are going to enter, and who would enter the story, that’s up for discussion. What’s interesting is, they have a lot of great characters. And that will be a very active conversation, like, what is the melding of this group?

Worried that they don’t have a plan? Don’t be. The Transformers and G.I. Joe have a lot of history together. Both being properties of Hasbro, they have seen action in several comics, so there is myriad content to pull from.

Related: Exclusive: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts Takes Over SoCal’s Porsche Experience Center

Scourge and the Future

Paramount Pictures

We see a ton of insignias on Scourge in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. He’s got a point of pride with his insignias, which adds a really great dimension to his character because we see that he is a trophy hunter. When we watch this, we see that there may be a hidden meaning. We see an Autobot insignia, and then Predacon, a Decepticon, and maybe even a Wrecker insignia there. So that leads us to one light of questioning. We know that the eighth and ninth films of the Transformers franchise have been announced. Are we going to see the good guys and the bad guys, the Decepticons and the Autobots, team up to go against this universal threat?

I love the idea […] It’s one of the ones we’ve tossed around, both in the animated world and in the live-action world. I think since we’re having new characters enter, I’m not sure that that would be a story for this movie, the next one, because I think we’re gonna have to concentrate on how that all comes together and is unified. But I do like that idea. It’s something that’s crossed our paths for the animated movies, exploring the original relationship between what was then Orion Pax and D 16, who become Megatron and Optimus, as you probably know. So it’s in the forefront of our mind in a way right now, of what made them great friends, if you would.

At first glance, a casual person may think, “Autobots and Decepticons, working together?” Well, there is precedent for this. The two warring factions worked together a few times on the show, and with their forces united, were proven to be successful against several threats.

Lorenzo’s Story

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Paramount Pictures

Lorenzo di Bonaventura is an interesting man, simultaneously down to earth and almost larger than life. We wondered what has kept him on board this entire time, and it led to a beautiful personal story that we’ll share in full. “Well, I am fascinated by the idea of the inanimate object, that it actually has a heart, if you would, the Tin Man has a heart,” began di Bonaventura. “I think what it is, is the challenge of it.” He continued:

There’s the adventure of taking these things to these extraordinary places around the world, which is really exciting and also incredibly challenging. It’s entertaining the audience. But fundamentally, at the end of the day, what really keeps you going is when you do it right, and you get that experience of the audience laughing at the joke you wrote or laughing at something you didn’t even know was that funny. I think some people look down on these kinds of movies, and I don’t think they understand the importance and the place they have in people’s hearts.

“So what’s great for me is when you get the opportunity to touch people in that way around the world, you know? I met this gardener in Malaysia on an island I was exploring. I like to do crazy exploration with jungles, and I had a Transformers hat on, and the guy comes up to me. And I don’t speak any Malay, but I know a little something. He’s saying something to me, and he’s so animated looking at my cap. So I found a guy who spoke Malay, and then he started telling me how he’s seen every movie, and he’s seen the most recent one five times, and the first one he saw alone, and then he brought his kids, and then he brought his wife, and then he brought his best friends. And it changes your opinion about what you’re doing in a way. Because here’s a guy in the middle of nowhere, that it means so much to him. I gave him my hat, and he now sends me, every year he sends me a picture of him and his hat, and the hat is slowly degrading, so I got to figure out a way to get a new hat to him.”

That’s just who di Bonaventura is.

From Paramount Pictures, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is on Digital now and on 4K Ultra HD SteelBook™, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, and DVD on October 10th. You can check out our video of this interview below:

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