The biggest movie of the summer comes out this Wednesday, and multimedia mogul Tyrese Gibson gets to share the screen with his boyhood idol Optimus Prime in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, along with Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel. He’s even got an Autobot insignia tattooed on his right forearm. On the verge of another explosion of giant robot mayhem, I sat down with Tyrese and talked about his album, his foray into comic books and just how tense a Michael Bay set really is.
Q: Were you a fan of the show as a kid?
Tyrese Gibson: I’m a real fan. I’m a REAL Transformers fan. This is not another paid actor in a movie that he didn’t really mess with. I want to Botcon this year – I had to make an appearance, but after my little work was done, I’m walking around buying toys. I left there with a whole lot of goodies.
Q: Who was your favorite as a kid?
TG: Optimus Prime. Mr. Peter Cullen. I met him for the first time about two and a half weeks ago at Botcon. I went nuts. Just to hear him doing the whole Optimus Prime thing. It’s all over the internet. I went nuts.
Q: What’s your favorite scene, bar none, in the new movie?
TG: I love the stuff that Megan and Shia did. I think they really anchored this film and made it human. Me and Josh, we did our thing, but I think Shia and Megan really made this film as special and unique as it is. Their performances were great. Michael Bay really directed the actors this time. He has a reputation for wanting things to blow up but yet the performances from the actors are not what they need to be. I think he really stepped it up and got great performances out of everybody. The chemistry was great. I think the master to acting is that when you do something you have to make them give a fuck. Make them give a fuck about whatever you’re going through, and I think Michael Bay really delivered this time. I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. I’m a fan, so when I go and see the movie, whether I’m in it or not, I’m viewing it as a fan. I love this movie. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is really going to shake people up. On the executive and creative side of things, writers, directors, studio heads – they’re gonna be twiddling their thumbs, man. ‘Yo, how the hell are we gonna follow that?’ Once they’ve been exposed to this level of special effects and action scenes and things being beautifully shot – how are they gonna follow that? I’m just honored that Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg gave me an opportunity to be a part of this film.
Q: Bay’s sets are famously tense.
TG: Absolutely. There’s so much pressure on the set. Michael runs a real tight ship. He keeps everybody on edge, everybody’s full throttle.
Q: And you were basically the guy that broke the tension for everybody else?
TG: I had to! Yes. I’m like “look, man, if I don’t throw a party, I’m gonna go crazy right now.” I tried to keep everybody on the whole crew having fun while we were working.
Q: Was that a daily thing?
TG: On a daily basis, I was on the set cracking a lot of jokes, a lot of big energy, trying to keep everybody’s spirits up. All of the action stuff that we’re doing is keeping everybody awake and fired up, because it’s always that “All right! Get ready! Here we go!” and everybody’s like “oh, shit, what’s about to happen now?” Everybody’s got their earplugs in and their kneepads on. But the thing is, while you’re filming it, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. This dude is a machine. He’s shooting 40, 50 setups a day. He’s got five, six different crews of people. A whole set built out over here, he jumps in his go-cart, shoots another scene over here, jumps in his go-cart – everything is lit before he gets there, all the bombs and whatever else are already preset and done. This dude has a lot going on in his mind. This dude should be shooting movies all year. He should never get off of a movie set, so that the world can keep experiencing his thoughts.
Q: Did he treat you well?
TG: Mike’s a good dude. At the end of the day, I didn’t have to audition to be in his movie because we get along so well. That’s my friend. We party together, we hang out together. He’s a rock star, and I’ve been known for being a rock star here and there. You know, I like to pop bottles with top models and have a good time. That’s what we do.
Q: I want to get your opinion on “the twins.” Mudflap and Skids. There was some talk after the screening that they seemed almost “stereotypical,” in a light enough way that people weren’t sure if they should be offended or not. Is that something you got from it, or was it just “that’s funny, screw it?”
TG: You know what? What ended up happening in this film that I think was really genius – I think they covered all spectrums. You got Jews in there, you’ve got Christians, you’ve got Muslims, you’ve got Buddhists, you’ve got folks from overseas in London, you’ve got Asians. Everybody needs something or someone to identify with. You know, ghetto is ghetto. Saying quirky things that are funny and some things that are just cheesy as ever – somebody’s gonna laugh at something. It’s nothing to overthink about. People are gonna come in and try to pick everything apart. “Oh, that wasn’t cool, the Secretary of Defense being thrown out of a plane – does that mean he’s slamming on Barack Obama?” Come on, it’s not that serious. It’s a summer movie, it’s imagination, it’s fun. It’s supposed to make you laugh. You’re supposed to take your kids out and buy them some toys and be considered a good daddy. That’s just it.
Q: Last time I talked to you, it was for Death Race at Comic-Con, and you said you really wanted to be a part of Thundercats. Has there been anything new with it?
TG: I haven’t heard anything about Thundercats, but that was another TV show I grew up on. Even if I did extra work in that movie, I’d be honored to be a part of Thundercats.
Q: Who would you want to play?
TG: I don’t want to say. There are only so many options. But I hope the movie is made one day, and if I had my shot at being a part of it, that would be a dream come true, for sure.
Something else that happened when I was out there for Death Race with Jason Statham is that passion and that energy from Comic-Con really impacted me in a major way. I got my first comic book coming out called Mayhem. I did it with Robert Kirkman, Eric Stephenson and Todd MacFarlane over at Image Comics. They heard my idea and bought it on the spot. It’s coming out August 5th, and the momentum and the energy behind this so far has been insane. The presales from just one store are over 10,000 copies. I’m proud of this type of grass roots energy we’ve been getting. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with a lot of real-deal comic book veterans, just trying to understand the real dynamics and what makes this world tick. I call them gatekeepers – Avi Arad, Jeffrey Katz, Jim Lee. These are all folks that thrive and live in this world. Just picking their brains and trying to make sure that I don’t make any mistakes. I’m really proud of Mayhem.
Q: Are you involved with the writing process?
TG: I’m more of a producer. I sit back, and once the writing his done, I get in there and tweak it – the characters, the way it looks. Mayhem wears a mask, he’s a gunslinging vigilante who seeks refuge in the basement of a church. He’s stationed in LA. One of his enemies is Big X. I want to also go on record and say we have no intention of turning this into a film. We’re just gonna focus on this being a comic book. The fans out there, they know when someone is just trying to set up one project after another. We’re definitely focused on it being a comic book. I’m fired up. I don’t have 20 years of reading comic books, but with my research, I take it dead serious.
Q: Along those lines, I have to ask about Luke Cage, who you’re rumored to play. Is that official or still in talks?
TG: We’re gonna have to figure it out.
Q: There was some talk that Paul Walker said he wants to get you in on 5 Fast 5 Furious. Would you be interested in doing that?
TG: I’d be honored. Of all of the films that I’ve done, that’s the one. Every time I travel overseas anywhere – the Dominican Republic, I just came back from Rome, Vienna, Austria, we were in Amsterdam, we were in London – everybody knows me from 2 Fast 2 Furious. We tried to pull it off with Fast and Furious, really happy with the success of it. Really glad that Vin Diesel is back. If I ever had a shot at being in 5, I would love the opportunity, because I feel like that’s my baby, too.
Q: Lastly, your new album is a bit of a new direction, isn’t it?
TG: I’ve got a new single, and I want you to post it on Fancast as a free download – a Z-share file free download. It’s called “Mayhem (Take Me Away Remix).” It’s techno house music. I’ve never done a record like this before. When I did this whole international tour, I got 2000 CDs printed up, and the world is dancing right now. Free download – that’s my tribute and my way of saying thank you to all of the fans out there. Let’s go.