With all the CGI, explosions (real or otherwise), and just the sheer amount of FX that go into any Transformers movie, it should surprise nobody that one might forget that a certain actor was in one or some. After all, when we go and see these movies, are we going to see Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand? Or, are we hoping to see Opitmus Prime battle some nefarious bot that needs to be sent to the nether regions of the universe? So it stands to reason that amidst all that’s happening on the screen, we might not remember that Bernie Mac, Kelsey Grammer, and Leonard Nimoy, among others, once entered the Transformers universe.
Also, factor into this that iconic director Michael Bay directed Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight. Bay is a filmmaker who is known for style and spectacle. It is ever apparent in all of his films that he wants to dazzle the audience. Is it any wonder with him at the helm that we might not recall a terrific, out of the box, live action or voice performance by Rainn Wilson or John Goodman? This says nothing of the fact that Shia LaBeouf played Sam Witwicky in the first three films but do we (in our minds) attach him to these films the way we do Tobey Maguire with Spider-Man? It doesn’t seem like we do. So, enjoy being reminded about “15 Actors You Totally Forgot Were In A Transformers Movie”.
The late, great comic/actor played the role of Robert “Bobby” Bolivia in the first Transformers film. He was the epitome of a smooth talking, slick car salesman, and Mac played his role to perfection. His part wasn’t that large in the film so it’s easy to see why one might forget that Mac had been in Transformers at all. However, his role is key to the story as he sells Sam Witwicky the yellow Camaro that kicks off all the adventures for Sam’s part of the story. What is so impressive about Bernie in his role is that he just seems to be doing his thing amidst this mega-movie. It honestly feels like he was walking by the set, Michael Bay and Co. knew that they were in the presence of a enormous talent, and from there they just invited him over and let Mac go. Rewatch his part and you will see that while you may not remember he was in this film, Bernie Mac can NEVER be forgotten.
Playing Alice in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Isabel Lucas makes quite an impression. As an evil Decepticon draped in the body of a blonde, college student named Alice, the majority of Lucas’s time on screen is spent trying to get with Sam Witwicky. Is Alice really attracted to him? No, she’s after information to help her fellow Decepticons get the upper hand in their never ending battle with the Autobots. Eventually, Alice reveals who (and what she really is) and this leads to a chase where she’s done in by a revenge seeking Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Lucas is really good in this film but it seems wrong that she didn’t have more screen time. A better use of her might’ve been something akin to how Robert Patrick was used in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. As a result her big set piece scene happens amidst a movie filled with such scenes, and we don’t seem to recall that she was in this film.
When you’ve played the indelible TV personality Frasier Crane for 20 years, it seems like it would be extremely difficult for audiences to see you as anything else. The fact that Grammer is a fantastic actor and can play any role is how he ended up in Transformers: Age of Extinction. In the role of Harold Attinger, Grammer plays a man who quite simply doesn’t seem to believe or accept that humans and Transformers can co-exist, As a result, his time in this film is spent trying to rid the world of what he considers to be it’s biggest threat. There’s a belief that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Attinger loves mankind but he just shows it in a very odd way. Grammer is outstanding in this role and, once again, it seems like all the set pieces and overall bigness of the Transformers milieu completely steamrolled any memory of this fine actor’s work. It’s there, though, and when you see it you know you are watching something special.
With McDreamy in this movie how could we ever forget that Patrick Dempsey was in a Transformers film? After breaking very big in such seminal 80s films as Can’t Buy Me Love and Loverboy, Dempsey didn’t become a major star but more of an ensemble player. Always right up there in billing and featured on the one-sheets, it would be his turn on Gray’s Anatomy that would reintroduce him to the world for the star that he is. His profile in movies picked up and it wasn’t long before he was playing Dylan in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. At first we think he’s just placed in the film to make Sam Witwicky jealous. Dylan is the boss of Sam’s girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), but it soon becomes clear that Dylan works for the Decepticons. His endgame is to help them move their Cybertron into the Solar System and then use Earth to help them reconstruct their planet. This is a heavy plot point and one wonders, ultimately, why Dylan would turn against humanity so gravely. At the same time, maybe his actions are so heinous or inconceivable, that it’s better to pretend as though his character (ie. performance) never existed in this world?
Okay, when Dr. Spock returns to anything sci-if related that is a big deal, so how do we not instantly think “Leonard Nimoy” when we think of Transformers films? This fine actor entered the Transformers universe with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In the voice role of Sentinel Prime, Nimoy’s character was believed by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to be the one force that could tip the scales in the Autobots War with the Decepticons. As you can imagine this is easier said than done, as the Decepticons aren’t going to go away without a fight. The reason, it seems, why Nimoy might not be remembered for this role is pretty clear. The actor is in a voice role. It’s hard enough to stand out playing a human when you’re competing for screen time with Transformers. Imagine only using your voice and you blend in even more to the on screen magic. This is great for the storytelling but not so good if you’re trying to be remembered for something.
Inhabiting the role of Maggie Madsen in Transformers she plays an analyst working the for the NSA. She is good at her job and doesn’t have any problem telling the people around her that they’re wrong. Her role is central to the plot because it takes convincing sometimes making people believe that things like Transfomers exist. So how can she be in this movie but not be remembered for it? Well, she was in the first Transformers film back in 2007. That was nearly 15 years ago! As you know that is an eternity in the world of movies and, given everything that’s happened with the story since then (there’s pretty much a completely different human cast from her time in the films), it makes sense that people might not recall her as much as they should. This isn’t to say that Taylor completely disappeared after Transformers came out. To the contrary she has done projects like Luke Cage, Bottle Shock and Jessica Jones among other things.
As Lucas Flannery in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the simple reason we may not remember this character is because he dies a fairly untimely death in this film. Lucas works with Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and doesn’t seem to trust Optimus Prime when Cade finds him. Lucas’s distrust is so strong that he lets James Savoy (Titus Welliver) know where Optimus is. Suddenly, the Yeager’s farm is under attack and it is during this that Lucas dies. After this, Optimus gets Transformers like Bumblebee, Hound, and Crosshairs (among others) involved, and Lucas (at least among fans) seems to have been forgotten. Truthfully, Miller has a very thankless role in this film. Lucas is the guy that causes all the problems even when he knows he shouldn’t. As a result his time in the Transformers universe is short lived, and because of that people have to really search their memories to remember that he was ever in the film at all. When they do this they are quickly saddened to be reminded of this character’s role in the the proceedings.
Forgetting that Rainn Wilson in the Transformers film series might be the most “egregious forget” on this list whole list. How can actor as good, and as memorable in everything he does be forgotten in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? As you can imagine, given his bookish look, Wilson plays the part of Professor Colan. He is a brilliant astronomer who knows much about the galaxy and the world around him. His primarily role in this film is to explain the science that is inherent (well, it is!) in these movies and provide a bit of comic relief. The story of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is that essentially Sam is leaving the world of the Transformers. Yet there are things happening in his mind that the evil Decepticons want so that they can take out the sun. Again, Rainn Wilson isn’t one of the major players, but he’s Rainn Wilson for crying out loud! His characters are unforgettable which makes him turning up on this list a bit of a head scratcher. Alas, here he is and let me ask you this, when you think of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is he the first person (or even the second or third) that comes to mind? He might not be but that doesn’t mean that we should forget his performance.
One of America’s favorite TV dad’s lends his considerable voice talents (he was “Sulley” in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University after all) to the role of Hound in both Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight. Honestly, given Goodman’s role as Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink, I don’t know that there is a better role for him to play than Hound. This Autobot packs a lot of firepower, he’s got a major screen presence, and he doesn’t do any mission half-assed. So why don’t we remember that John Goodman aka Dan Conner was in TWO of these movies? Like some of the other actors on this list, a voice role in a film splashed to every corner with CGI, might make it hard to stop and say, “Wow, John Goodman was fantastic in this.” Now, films like Transformers are a major group effort. Every character and by proxy every actor, is but one small part of a much larger machine. As a result of this great performances (and actors) go unnoticed when they shouldn’t. It’s just the way things turn out sometimes, and it is no way a slam on the actor, their work, or the films that they have contributed to.
There was a time when Steve Buscemi was the biggest/littlest actor in the world. Hot off of Reservoir Dogs, the actor would go on to show that he was as comfortable in films like Con Air and Armageddon as he would be in Ghost World and The Death of Stalin. In Transformers: The Last Knight, this chameleon-like actor gets even more into his character when he lends his voice to Daytrader. Further helping Buscemi’s cause of disappearing into his character, this one in particular likes being a lone wolf. Daytrader is an Autobot, so at least he’s on the right side of history. However, his penchant for not really getting involved with the day to day business and conflicts that many Autobots face, is why we don’t really recall his role in this film. This isn’t to say that Buscemi doesn’t do fine, memorable work here. He does (and he also happens to be one of America’s finest actors), but given that he’s only using his voice that makes it hard him to separate himself from his fellow CGI counterparts.
A standout fighter in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics (Shiming won a bronze and then the gold twice), he would go on to captivate China with his 2008 win because it was the country’s first ever gold medal in the Olympics. Sadly, as often happens with stand-out amateur boxers (see Howard Davis and Henry Tillman), Shiming would win some belts (a feat made a lot easier in today’s world of fragmented titles), but would suffer losses to the likes of Sho Kimura and Amnat Ruenroeng. None of this would matter to the world of the Transformers. Because of the global nature of the movie business, and how much of a box office player China is in terms of foreign grosses, adding Shiming to the cast was a no brainer. Not wanting to push him too far out of his comfort zone in his first movie role, Shiming played the role of an Elevator Boxer. Truthfully, there’s not a ton to say about his performance, but it’s a testament to his universal appeal that a big tentpole franchise was his first film. Since then he has a gone on to appear in a short film, and for a person who is as gifted as he was as a fighter, it’s not surprising that he would be comfortable in front of all those Michael Bay lensed cameras.
Having just won his second Academy Award, how in the world can we ever forget an Anthony Hopkins performance? Let alone the fact that this master thespian graced us in a Transformers movie? As Sir Edmund Burton in Transformers: The Last Knight, Hopkins character is basically the keeper of the Transformers lore. He is related to Sam Witwicky, Shia LaBeouf from the first 3 Transformer films, and spends much of his time giving out needed and unneeded information about these transforming creatures that have been around forever. One can’t also forget the scene where, using a cane of sorts, Hopkins gets to steal the movie by shooting at Megatron. There’s many reasons to be cynical and look at this as a “cash grab,” but you gotta admit that having Hopkins in a fun, popcorn fueled film is pretty cool. As an actor who is generally only seen in films that are vying for Awards, it’s great for him to show that he can let his hair down and have fun like the rest of us. Honestly, this might be one of the least forgettable performances on this list for that very reason.
As an actor who also seems to have a wry (almost devilish) sense of humor it isn’t surprising that John Malkovich would be in a Transformers film. Playing the role of Bruce Brazos in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Malkovich seems to be reveling in every one of his scene-chewing moments. As the boss of a fictional corporation, Brazos seems to be a play on Bezos and we all know who THAT is. This character is the eccentric boss of Sam Witwicky who has some very “interesting” job skills. As you can guess, Brazos is brash, has no regard for other people, and Malkovich plays him as just the kind of character that deserves a major comeuppance. As you can guess he eventually draws the ire of Bumblebee while at Sam’s apartment (this has to be a workplace violation of every sort, right?), and Sam sees just how much of a coward Bruce Brazos is. This performance is scene-stealing at its finest, and Malkovich appears to love playing in this mega-sandbox.
Having The Last Samurai actor appear in Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight, is, like having Anthony Hopkins and some others on this list, a way to class up the joint. In fact, he has the distinction of being in two of these tentpole spectacles and, being so good voicing the character of Drift, that we don’t remember him being in the films! Again, this says literally nothing about Watanabe’s fine acting skills. It’s just that when you voice a character in any film where there’s major spectacle, and lets be honest that is primarily what these Transformer movies are, how are we able to distinguish good and bad when everything the actor does isn’t happening before our very eyes? Drift is an Autobot who actually changed looks between films. In Transformers: Age of Extinction his Bugatti was black and blue colored. In Transformers: The Last Knight, Drift moves into being a Mercedes and its colors are black and red. This too might have played into us not remembering Watanabe’s solid work in this film.
This final entry into this list is both surprising and not surprising. McDormand is a multi-Academy Award winning actress who has shown she can play any role. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon she plays the role of Charlotte Mearing. As a micro-manager of the highest order, McDormand brings a demanding quality to this role that fits perfectly with the responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence. In addition to this she isn’t as confrontational with the Autobots as some people expect her to be. Sure, Charlotte has her eccentricities, but McDormand weaves them into the character so that they don’t get in the way of the job she needs to do. Sadly, even with the many accolades that McDormand has acquired over the years, that isn’t enough for us to recall her role in this explosive franchise. Maybe we should call this the Transformers effect? It’s the ability to have actors that, in any other role or movie, would stand out in their performances. In this franchise, spectacle rules the day.