411 Movies Interview: Rachael Taylor of Transformers
Rachael Taylor is every bit as lovely and gracious and talented and intelligent in Transformers as she is on the phone. Needless to say, she’s got a bright future ahead of her. And she’s also come a long way since she made the move from Australia to the United States. I’d say she made the right decision, because Transformers made a ton of money! Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachael Taylor to talk about the recent DVD release of Transformers. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future.
TONY: First of all, thanks for doing this interview.
Rachael Taylor: It’s an absolute pleasure. I’m always happy to talk about Transformers.
TONY: Great. Have you had a chance to step back and fully grasp how big this movie is?
Rachael Taylor: You sort of have your moments of being kind of blown away by just how excited people are about it. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to sit down and talk with some really hardcore Transformers fans. And it’s really thrilling as an actor to see that people can get so excited about a particular concept. I just consider it a real privilege to be a part of something so massive.
TONY: When did you first meet Michael Bay, and what were your first impressions of him?
Rachael Taylor: He’s really got such a keen eye, that man. He doesn’t miss a thing. He sees everything. So, I guess my first impression of him was that he’s a distinctly visual creature.
TONY: It’s easy to see that Michael Bay is really enthusiastic and really full of energy. As an actor, how much do you feed off that energy?
Rachael Taylor: This is absolutely 110 percent Michael’s movie, so it was really up to him to set the bar and the energy on set, which was, you’re absolutely right, a really enthusiastic one. This is a really fun and vital movie to be a part of. And that energy is something that Michael created really consciously, because it’s a fun movie.
TONY: Before you got involved in the film, how much did you know about Transformers?
Rachael Taylor: I knew nothing about them. I was born in 1984, and I was also born in Tasmania, which is a wee little island off the south coast of Australia, so it didn’t exactly penetrate to my Tasmania youth. I got online as soon I got the part, and I figured out that Transformers fans are certainly a zealous bunch. And I was excited by their excitement.
TONY: Did you do any computer research to prepare for your character?
Rachael Taylor: I did, actually. That was something that was really important to me. Steven Spielberg was also really particular about it, and he’s an executive producer on the movie. I set myself up with a real-life code breaker, which is pretty exciting. And what I learned about them was that they are very cool, young, and vibrant people. The computer geek kind of cliche doesn’t really stand at all. These are super smart and active kids, and that’s what I wanted to bring to the role.
TONY: You just mentioned how your character really breaks the nerd cliche. Do you also think it breaks the cliche of computer geeks always being male? I think your character really shows that it’s not just a man’s world, and girls can do it, too.
Rachael Taylor: Completely. I think it’s such a ridiculous cliche that people would go, “She’s a pretty blond girl. She can’t be a computer-code analyst.” Because it’s just not true, ya know? There are lots of women in different fields doing fascinating and difficult jobs these days. It’s not like the old days. And I really applaud Michael’s decision to put a female data-analyst into the story. And more than that, to make her international, because I kept my Australian accent. I think that’s one thing about the film which is really nice. In a lot of ways, you expect action movies to completely conform to stereotypes. But Michael was really good about breaking them on this movie. And I think that’s really impressive.
TONY: Transformers features an incredible cast of tremendous actors. Did you get a chance to pick anyone’s brain?
Rachael Taylor: Yeah, Jon Voight has been a huge influence on me as a result of that movie. And I know he was very important in terms of Shia’s career in terms of guiding him, and he was very much a source of inspiration to him. And he was the same for me. Jon is an extremely generous man. He’s absolutely and completely involved in working out a scene and wanting to rehearse. And there’s this cool little story that I have: Before we went on set to shoot one scene, he handed me a bunch of notes from his script. It was very, very sweet. And it just goes to show you how seriously invested he is as an actor now. You would think that Jon Voight would be showing up to work and phoning it in, and that’s not the case. He’s incredibly supportive and incredibly energetic on set.
TONY: When you were on set, were you in awe of all the explosions and everything that was going on?
Rachael Taylor: I will never in my life make a movie that is as big as Transformers, I’m sure. It was like being a part of the small cities that Michael created. My most mind-blowing moment, and it didn’t actually make the movie, but it’s a scene where I land in a helicopter on the lawn of the Pentagon. And I remember looking around and going, “This is so ridiculous. I’m from Tasmania, and this is the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me.” It was a very cool experience.
TONY: You mentioned that you came here from Tasmania. Has L.A. been what you expected?
Rachael Taylor: No. Up until this moment, knock on wood, I’ve found it a little bit easier than I thought that it would be. I expected that I would be waiting tables at this moment, and I got to star in a movie that people love. Even though it was a small role, sort of, it was like an absolute privilege to be a part of it. I’ve only been in L.A. for a year, so I thought that I’d still be making lattes at this moment. So, I’ve been pretty lucky.
TONY: As an actress, how important was it for you to play this character as a real human being and not just eye candy?
Rachael Taylor: That’s one thing that really motivates me as an artist. If there’s one overriding goal that I have as an actress, and I know it sort of sounds like a potential conundrum, because I appreciate that Michael has a particular aesthetic, which I don’t personally have any problem with, but it’s not something that I want to move towards in my work. It wasn’t a sexed-up role on the page, to be honest. There was no battle that I had to fight. It was always written as a smart, intelligent individual. Not a man, not a woman, but she’s just a smart individual. I absolutely think it’s important, and I’m not ever gonna be in a movie where I’m just strutting around with a short skirt and lip gloss. That’s just not my bag. I wouldn’t be good at it. It’s not what I am as a person. I’m an intelligent person, and I can’t get rid of that. It wasn’t a battle. It wasn’t a battle, because I think Michael, and the producers, and myself were all very clear that she had to be the real deal.
TONY: Since you’ve been in The U.S., what’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between the Australian Culture and our culture?
Rachael Taylor: I’m a little biased, and I don’t know how I can articulate the difference, because I am so happy here in the United States. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my own country, but I’m so happy here. I feel like I was supposed to be born an American in some way. I’m deliriously happy in Los Angeles, and I’m happy in New York. I just love the openness of the American culture. You guys are just so open to outsiders, and I don’t think people really articulate that so much anymore, and they should. I’ve been absolutely welcomed with open arms by everyone, and so have a lot of my Australian friends. It’s such a pleasure to be in a country where my experience of it has been just overwhelmingly warm.
TONY: You mentioned earlier that you were able to use your own voice in this film, and you didn’t have to put on an American accent. How important was that to you and Michael?
Rachael Taylor: I shouldn’t say that it was important to me, because I auditioned as an American, and then Michael got to know me, and he said, “Why couldn’t she be Australian?” And I think it was a very wise choice on his behalf, because this is an International film. And I think it was a smart decision as a filmmaker to really broaden the audience appeal. And, also, the truth is we do live in an International community now. If you’re in Washington D.C., which is where in my head the story took place … If you’re in L.A., Tokyo, New York, Sydney, London or wherever, you’re part of an International community. And I really applaud that. I applaud that not everyone in the film is American. And why not make her Australian? There’s no substantial evidence that would support that being out of the question, because it’s just not. You meet with a bunch of code breakers, and it’s people from all over the world that have come together and formed communities, because they have a particular skill. And that’s the case in any field.
TONY: You mentioned earlier that Steven Spielberg was an executive producer on Transformers. How involved was he in this film, and did he show up on set a lot?
Rachael Taylor: What was so impressive and so thrilling, as a young unknown actress, was that I noticed Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are both still incredibly passionate about what they do. They’re incredibly passionate and excited and invested in the magic of making movies. You would think that they’d be jaded or it would be business as usual for them, but it’s not at all. They absolutely are still thrilled by it and still completely invested. And I noticed that from Steven the few times I saw him on set. At the same time, I will say that this is really Michael’s film. There’s no one that tells Michael what to do. That’s my impression. My impression is that this film is distinctly his.
TONY: What’s your most vivid memory from shooting this film?
Rachael Taylor: Anthony Anderson’s beautiful face. I love the man to death. I think he’s such a treasure of a person. I was quite nervous shooting this film, because it was my first sort of movie ever and it’s sort of a big one to kind of handle, and Anthony was just so supportive and funny. Michael Bay had this thing about not wanting any food on set, so Anthony would hide hamburgers around the set. He’s just a gorgeous human being, and I love him dearly.
TONY: Do you have a favorite Transformer?
Rachael Taylor: Everyone always says they like Optimus Prime, but I like Megatron. I think he’s kick-ass. I really like the big, bad Megatron. And I remember shooting on that set, they built this enormous set piece, like an enormous Megatron literal robot. And it was one of the most extraordinary pieces of art I’ve ever seen. The art direction on this film is impeccable.
TONY: We talked earlier about how you’ve made the move to L.A., and I’m sure you’re well aware of a lot of the problems that people run into in Hollywood. As an actress, how do you avoid falling into that trap, and how do you focus on your work?
Rachael Taylor: I don’t know. I just don’t think I’m very cool!
TONY: I’d say you’re very cool. Don’t worry!
Rachael Taylor: Oh, bless you. I think that’s the absolute truth. I would like to go to some of those parties sometimes, but I just don’t know how to tap into that whole cool VIP world. To be honest, I would just much rather work. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I get quite critical around these wonderful young actresses that have these great opportunities to tell brilliant stories. Why on earth would you want to be out at a club when you can go to work the next morning? You can show up early and have Jon Voight pass you a script with all of his notes on there. That, to me, is just the most exciting thing. And that’s why I moved countries. I didn’t move countries to party. I can party at home.
TONY: I have one question for you that’s not about Transformers. What was it like working with Kane on See No Evil?
Rachael Taylor: I suppose I’m not doing publicity on that movie, so I can say whatever the hell I want. (laughs) I think we were instructed at the time, I shot that movie years ago, to say that he was this really gnarly and scary dude, but I remember him as being an absolute sweetheart. I remember him being like a complete puppy dog, and him just being totally adorable and very quiet and very kind. I suppose I’m probably disappointing people by saying that, but he’s definitely not an aggressive dude. He’s a very chilled person.
TONY: What kind of scripts do you want to seek out in the future? What gets your creative juices flowing?
Rachael Taylor: I couldn’t pick a specific genre. What I gravitate towards most, and I hope that I’ll continue to in my career, is to be interested in women that are strong, passionate, and driven individuals. I’m not interested in women within stories that are affected by things, as much as I’m interested in women that affect things, if that makes sense. I’m interested in women that have a driven story behind them. In the case of Maggie, she was speaking some sort of truth. It’s the same in the last two movies that I’ve done: Shutter, which I shot in Tokyo, and Bottle Shock, which I shot up in the Napa Valley. I play a woman who’s trying to uncover the truth about the man that she thinks she loves. That’s the Shutter movie. In Napa Valley, it was a story about a woman who wants to learn how to make wine. I’m interested in women that are passionate and intelligent.
TONY: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Rachael Taylor: My immediate plans are to do AR on the last two films that I shot. As much as I enjoy being in the United States, it would be great to go back to Australia and try and do some work down there. A lot of Australian actors go back and try and feed back into the Australian industry the things that we were originally given. So, that would be nice. At the moment, I’m hanging out in Los Angeles up in The Hills, and it’s really pretty glorious.
TONY: Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.
Rachael Taylor: Thank you for all of your very vibrant questions. Have a great day.