Few movie franchises offer more bang for your buck than the Transformers series. They feature thrilling action sequences, cutting-edge effects, and larger than life characters. Since Transformers made its debut in 2007, the series raked in over $1.5 billion at the box office. But the Transformers flicks tried-and-true formula has lost its hold on moviegoers’ imaginations. And now, the Transformers series has become the poster child for loud, dumb, action-packed Hollywood flicks.
But the series latest entry, Bumblebee is a gamechanger. Bumblebee features the series’ signature action beats, but it’s also full of heart. Bumblebee takes place during the ‘80s, plays up the series’ nostalgia factor, and has more of a whimsical tone; it feels like a throwback to films like The Goonies and Explorers. The movie centres on Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), an angsty teen who forms an unlikely bond with a battle-damaged Transformer named Bumblebee. And naturally, she keeps their friendship secret from her parents and the United States government.
The script’s unabashed reverence for ‘80s classics like The Breakfast Club is part of its charm. And you can’t have a proper ‘80s flick without the main character looking like a cornball in font of their out-of-this-world crush. In Bumblebee, that super hottie is Trip (Ricardo Hoyos), the most popular boy in town.
Hoyos was in Toronto promoting Bumblebee’s release on Blu-ray. We sat down and spoke with him about growing up as a fan of Transformers, playing a shirtless heartthrob, and of course, what’s on his shelf.
I enjoy the Transformers movies as much as anyone. But even I must admit that the series has gone off the rails. Between the convoluted plots, the growing roster of Transformers, and the perpetual end-of-the-world stakes, the films all bleed into one another. Bumblebee takes the series back to basics. One Autobot, two Deceptions, and a lonely teen trying to find her place in the world. It’s a simple but effective formula.
“It’s a prequel, so it precedes everything we’ve seen so far out of the Transformers cinematic universe, and it’s set in the ‘80s, and there’s a great soundtrack,” Hoyos said to me. And I can’t argue with him. The film is a perfect entry point for new viewers. And the soundtrack features Tears for Fears, The Smiths, and of course, Stan Bush’s Transformers anthem, The Touch.
“I don’t want to give too much of away, but it’s a real heart-warming film compared to the other Transformers,” Hoyos said. In relation to Michael Bay’s Transformers films, Bumblebee is practically a Sundance flick. The story has more in common with movies like E.T. and The Iron Giant than the rest of the series. But it doesn’t skimp on the action either. “There’s still going to be action, and you’re still going to get all the big explosions and stuff that you want to see and expect to see out of a Transformers movie, but I felt more emotionally invested watching this movie than the ones in the past.”
The Transformers universe (comics, cartoon series, and movies) is almost twice as old as the 23-year-old actor. I asked him what type of relationship he had with the series while growing up. Hoyos told me he, “Loved Transformers,” and “Loved the idea of a car turning into a fighting robot.” He spent his time playing with the toys, and video games as a kid and he said hearing he was going to be a part of the Transformers universe sounded, “Crazy to his inner-child.”
Hoyos won’t soon forget the moment he found out he was cast in the movie. “It was crazy,” he said. “I got the call and started screaming.” Fortunately, he was outside at the time. “I did a sprint around the block. I was really, really stoked.”
A lot of Hoyos’ fans will be stoked by how often his shirt comes off during the movie. I asked him what it’s like being a piece of eye-candy in such a high-profile film. “You know what? I’m down,” he said with a grin on his face. “It was funny to me. Watching the movie, it was like a big laugh, like, who am I? What is this?”
Hoyos said that shooting his scenes meant working with a personal trainer as well as plenty of bicep curls and push-ups on set. “I don’t think the trainer knows this but, the first day we went to work, he just really killed me, [he] put me through the wringer.” And what happens next tells us that beauty comes at a cost. Needing a breather, Hoyos requested a bathroom break. “I’m walking to the bathroom, and I just puke in the middle of the gym.” He’s quick to point out, “I got to a garbage can – I didn’t puke on anything! It was pretty intense.”
Not every actor gets the chance to star in a Hollywood blockbuster. I asked Hoyos what he took away from working on Bumblebee. “I’ve been on a lot of sets before, and each set is very different,” he said. In many ways working on films with lower budgets is more complicated. “As an actor, you usually have to memorize more lines, do more scenes in a day. It can be a lot more stressful. But with a movie like Bumblebee, at this scale, they have the kind of cash to really take their time and make sure they get everything right.“ And his second takeaway was, “Wow, I could get used to this.”
Hoyos and I talked about the pressures and anxieties that come with being part of such a massive production. “I thought I was going to be stressed out, like, this is a huge thing I don’t want to mess up,” Hoyos said. He added, “There was definitely that feeling that I want to rise to the occasion. And each take you really, as an actor, your biggest hurdle is not listening to that interior anxiety that stops you from just living and being and performing to the best of your ability.”
Hoyos elaborated further, “You want to do a good job, you want people to notice you, you want to do it right. You don’t want to mess up, you don’t want to look stupid. But more and more I find, with acting is that you have to learn to not listen to it.”
Now that the film is behind him, Hoyos describes the entire experience as surreal, and he joked he’s not sure he isn’t living inside of virtual reality. He mentioned how impressed he is with Bumblebee’s tone. And after finally watching the movie at the premiere, he thought they nailed it. “It’s that sentimental, warm, vintage feeling,” he said. “That nostalgia, they really play that well.”
Before we parted ways, I asked Hoyos how he would pitch Bumblebee to moviegoers who aren’t fans of the Transformers series. “I would say, if this isn’t usually your [type of] go-to flick, give it a try because it’s not like the others,” he said. “It’s not really an action movie. Now there’s something for everyone. You’re going to like the movie.”
I couldn’t let Hoyos go without asking him what nerdy, obsessive, and delightful items he keeps on his shelf. “I’m a big Beatles nerd,” he enthusiastically replied. “Any time it’s my birthday or something, all my family and friends get me a bunch of Beatles stuff. I have probably ten Beatles books in my house. I have a bunch of posters. I have three big tins filled with Beatles picks. I’m a big nerd for The Beatles.”