In Paramount Pictures’ new action-adventure Bumblebee, which has been hailed by US critics as the “best Transformers movie ever,” Oscar®-nominated Filipino actress Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie, the prequel’s lonely and somewhat lost protagonist who forms a special bond with Bumblebee/B-127 (voiced by Dylan O’Brien).
For the pivotal role of Charlie, the filmmakers looked for someone who could not only carry a massive global action franchise, but also a skilled performer who could connect with the audience on an emotional level. Steinfeld was their first choice, says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “Our goal was to create a hero,” he shares. “So we needed an actor who could make the transition from who Charlie is at the beginning of the film to who she becomes. We knew Hailee would be magical.”
Director Travis Knight adds, “If you find the right actor, a good portion of your job is done. Our leading lady can do absolutely anything. She makes you laugh, she lifts your spirits, she breaks your heart. There is always so much happening behind her eyes.”
Steinfeld, who received an Oscar® nomination for her breakout role in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit at the age of 14, was astounded by the reaction on social media and fan sites when the studio announced her involvement. “I saw how huge the fan base is and realized what an honor it is to be part of this world,” she says. “It truly feels like we made something special. I’m excited for fans as well as newcomers to the franchise to see the movie.”
Most of Steinfeld’s scenes involve Charlie and the computer-generated Bumblebee interacting, which presented a unique situation for an actor. To prepare, Steinfeld watched the previous films in the franchise, concentrating on the original and paying close attention to conversations between the robots and humans. “I had more screen time with the robot than with the people in the film,” she notes. “Acting against nothing was the massive challenge. But Travis’ vision was so clear from day one. He has a gift for being able to translate the imagery he has in his head to the screen.”
Still suffering from the pain and anger of losing a parent, and feeling that the rest of her family has moved on, Charlie finds solace in the garage working on her father’s 1959 Corvette. She and her father bonded during their hours together tinkering with old cars and listening to his favorite music. “Her dad was her best friend,” Steinfeld explains. “When she lost him, she lost part of herself. When she finds that missing piece, it happens to be a robot she names Bumblebee.”
According to di Bonaventura, one thing the franchise has never attempted to do before is allow a Transformer to become a fully developed character. “Traditionally, they’re archetypes. This is an attempt to allow the audience to get to know one in a way they never have before.”
Steinfeld was happy to be a part of bringing a new dimension to the character. “There’s nothing not to love about Bumblebee,” she says. “He has so much heart, but he’s also a strong warrior. He’s a protector who would do anything for Charlie. In my imagination, I’ve built my own relationship with this robot that doesn’t exist, which is really special.”
In Philippine cinemas Tuesday, January 8, Bumblebee is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.
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