Michael Bay

Michael Bay
Michael Bay

Bay in 2008
Born Michael Benjamin Bay
February 17, 1965 (1965-02-17) (age 46)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Film director
Film producer
Years active 1984–present

Michael Benjamin Bay (born February 17, 1965) is an American film director and producer. He is known for directing high-budget action films characterized by their fast edits, stylistic visuals and substantial practical special effects.[1][2] His films, which include The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and the Bad Boys and Transformers series, have grossed over three billion dollars world-wide.[3] He is co-founder of commercial production house The Institute, a.k.a. The Institute for the Development of Enhanced Perceptual Awareness.[4] He is co-chair and part-owner of the digital effects house Digital Domain.[5] He co-owns Platinum Dunes, a production house which has remade horror movies including Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.[6]


Early life

Michael Bay was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He was raised by his adoptive parents Harriet, a bookstore owner/child psychiatrist, and Jim, a CPA.[7] His cousin, Susan Bay, is the wife of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.[8] He attended the exclusive Crossroads School, in Santa Monica, California.[9] Bay often traces his interest in action films back to an incident during his childhood. As a boy, he attached some firecrackers to a toy train and filmed the ensuing fiery disaster with his mother's 8mm camera. The fire department was called and he was grounded.[10]


Bay got his start in the film industry interning with George Lucas when he was fifteen, filing the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he thought was going to be terrible. His opinion changed after seeing it in the theater and he was so impressed by the experience that he decided to become a film director.[11] He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1986, majoring in both English and Film.[12][13] He was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity and a favorite student of film historian Jeanine Basinger.[14] For his graduate work, he attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he also studied film.[citation needed]

Michael Bay began working at Propaganda Films, directing commercials and music videos, two weeks after finishing his post-graduate degree.[citation needed] His 90-second World War II-inspired Coca-Cola advertisement was picked up by Capitol Records. His first national commercial for the Red Cross won a Clio Award in 1992.[15][16] He directed Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Got Milk? advertisement campaign for the California Milk Processors Board in 1993.[17]

Bay's success in music videos gained the attention of producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, who selected him to direct his first feature-length film, Bad Boys. The film was shot in Miami in 1994 and starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The action film proved to be a break-out role for Smith, who was segueing from television to films at that time. Shooting in Miami was a good experience for Bay who would later own a home in the city and spend a great deal of time there.[18] The film was completed for $19 million dollars and grossed a remarkable $141 million at the box office in the summer of 1995.[19] Bay's success led to a strong partnership and friendship with Jerry Bruckheimer.[20]

His follow-up film, The Rock (1996), was an action movie set on Alcatraz Island, and in the San Francisco Bay area. It starred Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. It was also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the latter of whom died five months before the film's release. The film is dedicated to him.[21] Connery and Cage won 'Best On-Screen Duo' at the MTV Movie Awards in 1997 and the film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Achievement in Sound category for the work of Greg P. Russell, Kevin O'Connell, and Keith A. Wester.[22][23]

In 1998, Bay collaborated with Jerry Bruckheimer again, this time as a co-producer, as well as directing the action-adventure film Armageddon.[24][25] The film, about a group of tough oil drillers who are sent by NASA to deflect an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth, starred Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler. It was nominated for 4 Oscars at the 71st Academy Awards including Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song.[26] The film earned 9.6 million dollars on its opening day and a total of 36.5 million through the first weekend.[27] The production budget, $140 million dollars, was one of the highest of the summer of 1998. Armageddon went on to gross over $553 million dollars worldwide.[28]

In 2001, Bay directed Pearl Harbor. It starred Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film was released on Memorial Day weekend in 2001. Again, Bay produced the film with Jerry Bruckheimer. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing and Best Song. Again, Kevin O'Connell received another nomination for Best Sound, but he did not win. Pearl Harbor won in the category for Sound Editing.[29] Michael Bay also directed the music video for nominated track "There You'll Be" by vocal artist Faith Hill.[citation needed]

Bay reteamed with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for Bad Boys II, an event which also marked Bay's fifth collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer. The film grossed $138 million domestically, enough to cover the production budget, and $273 million worldwide, almost twice as much as the first movie.

In 2005, Bay directed The Island, a science-fiction film starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. It was the first film Michael Bay made without Jerry Bruckheimer. The Island cost $126 million to produce. It earned $46 million domestically and $172 million worldwide. Bay stated that he was not comfortable with the domestic marketing campaign as it confused the audience as to the true subject of the film.[30]

Bay filming on the set of Transformers, May 30, 2006

In 2007, he directed and teamed up with Steven Spielberg to produce Transformers, a live action film based on the Transformers franchise. The film was released in the U.S. and Canada on July 3, 2007, with 8 p.m. preview screenings on July 2. The previews earned $8.8 million, and in its first day of general release it grossed $27.8 million, a record for Tuesday box office attendance.[citation needed] It broke the record held by Spider-Man 2 for the biggest July 4 gross, making $29 million. On its opening weekend, Transformers grossed $70.5 million, amounting to a $155.4 million opening week, giving it the record for the biggest opening week for a non-sequel.[citation needed] As of November 2007, the film has made over $319 million domestically and over $708 million worldwide.

Bay returned as director and executive producer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was released on June 24, 2009 and went on to gross over $832 million worldwide. Although it received mostly negative reviews by critics,[31] including aggressively critical reviews by American film critics such as Roger Ebert,[32] Michael Phillips[33] and David Denby (who referred to Bay as "stunningly, almost viciously, untalented"),[34][35] the film was well-received by its intended audience and was one of the highest-grossing films of 2009.[36][37] In 2010, it earned seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations and winning three: Worst Picture, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay.[38]

As of 2009, Michael Bay's worldwide box office totals make him the director with the 8th highest domestic US gross of all time (not adjusted for inflation).[39] It was also one of the best selling DVD and Blu-ray Discs of 2009, second only to Twilight in DVD format and the number one of all time in Blu-ray format until it was surpassed by Blu-ray sales of James Cameron's Avatar in April 2010.[40][41][42]

Bay directed Transformers: Dark of the Moon, released on June 28, 2011.[43] He may direct a sequel to the Bad Boys franchise or a "small" film he's been developing for years, tentatively called Pain & Gain.[44] The true crime story, based on events described in a Miami Herald article[45] written by Pete Collins, concerns a group of bumbling bodybuilders working together to commit a robbery.

Bay produced DreamWorks' I Am Number Four, based on a series of novels by authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes published by HarperCollins Children's Books. D. J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) directed.[46][47]

Bay will co-produce One Way Out, a reality series that pits ordinary people against each other as they try to keep their pasts hidden and builds toward a showdown where all those secrets will be revealed.[48]

Gideon's Sword, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's novel set for release in February 2011, was optioned by Bay Films and will be produced by Michael Bay. The main character, Gideon Crew, avenges the death of his father.[49][50]

In June of 2011, Bay confirmed that Pain & Gain was his next project and that it would have a budget of $20 million.[51]

Production and FX companies

Platinum Dunes

Bay founded this production house with fellow producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form in 2001.[52] Platinum Dunes is named after one of Bay's first student films at Wesleyan University. Brad Fuller also graduated from Wesleyan and worked for Bay as an executive assistant before joining him in this business venture. The company's first film, a remake of the 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, grossed $107 million dollars worldwide.[53] Platinum Dunes produced lucrative remakes of classic horror films and introduced new directors like Sam Bayer and Marcus Nispel to feature film audiences. Their most recent horror film production, A Nightmare on Elm Street starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, was released April 2010. The film made 32.9 million dollars in its opening weekend, covering nearly its entire 35 million dollar budget and went on to gross over 100 million dollars worldwide.[54]

Paramount Pictures signed a first look deal with Platinum Dunes in 2009.[55] As part of this new relationship, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon have brought the Platinum Dunes producers on to produce a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, rebooting the film series launched by New Line in 1990. Bay, Fuller and Form will co-produce with Galen Walker, Scott Mednick and Marina Norman.[56]

Digital Domain

Bay and Wyndcrest Holdings, a Florida-based investment firm, acquired the digital effects company Digital Domain from James Cameron and Stan Winston in 1996, infusing the struggling business with a $50 million dollar investment.[5] Digital Domain considered an initial public offering in 2009 but ultimately withdrew the offer, because of the lack of interest. Currently a work for hire visual effects production house, Digital Domain plans to expand its efforts in the video gaming industry and become a full-fledged motion picture production house. Headquartered in Venice, Los Angeles, California, the company is also working to open branches in Vancouver, Canada and the state of Florida.[57]

The Institute

After leaving Propaganda Films, Bay and producer Scott Gardenhour, also formerly at Propaganda, formed The Institute for the Development of Enhanced Perceptual Awareness[58] (now known as The Institute), to produce commercials and other projects. Through The Institute, Bay has directed and produced spots for Victoria's Secret, Lexus, Budweiser, Reebok, Mercedes-Benz, and Nike. His most recent advertisement for Victoria Secret was the 2009 "A Thousand Fantasies" holiday campaign.[59]


Bay has received five MTV Movie Awards: Best Movie and Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet for Transformers, Best Action Scene for Pearl Harbor, Best Action Scene for Bad Boys II, and Best Action Scene for The Rock.[citation needed] In 1994, Bay was honored by the Directors Guild of America with an award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials.[60]

Michael Bay received the ShoWest 2009 Vanguard Award for excellence in filmmaking at the confab of theater owners.[61]

Personal life

Bay lives in Los Angeles and Miami with his two bullmastiffs, Bonecrusher and Grace, named for characters in Transformers and Armageddon, respectively. He loves animals. As a boy, he donated his Bar Mitzvah money to an animal shelter and often includes his bullmastiff dogs in his films.[62] He had another dog, Mason. Mason the dog's last appearance in a film was as Miles' dog in Transformers. He died during production of that film in March 2007.[63][64]

Bay's grandfather was Russian.[65]


Feature Films


  • Miami Vice (TV series) (1986) (actor - Goon #3)
  • No Way Out (TV series) (announced) (producer)
  • Cocaine Cowboys (TV series) (announced) (producer)

Music Videos


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  32. ^ Ebert, Roger (2010-06-23). "Reviews – Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen". Roger Ebert. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090623/REVIEWS/906239997. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  33. ^ Philips, Michael (2009-06-24). "And the popcorn transforms into earqplugs". Live!. Chicago Tribune. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/1758804881.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Jun+24%2C+2009&author=Michael+Phillips&pub=Chicago+Tribune&edition=&startpage=1&desc=And+the+popcorn+transforms+into+earqplugs. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
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  39. ^ PEOPLE INDEX – Box Office Mojo
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