Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview with DOTM's "Neil Armstrong"

In an interview with Skewed & Reviewed, actor Jon Jeans discusses his Transformers: Dark of the Moon role as Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission. The full interview is here, the DOTM portions below. (via TFormers)
Who do you play in the new Transformers film and what can you tell us about your experiences on the film? What were the first thoughts that ran through your mind when you got the script?
I play Neil Armstrong in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and it was an amazing experience. Actually, I never got a script — I was given sides to audition with, but they were just a vague outline of the actual script. Director Michael Bay did not tell me this, but apparently he’s had many attempts to hack his computer and steal the script so he is, justifiably, very guarded with regards to the script. Cory Tucker, who plays Buzz Aldrin, in the film, and I were shown a page of script while Michael held it in his hands on set. I can say that when my agent called me to tell me I booked the role, I was here in my apartment and fell down yelling for joy on the floor!

How did you handle working with special effects as it can be challenging for some?
I’m a method actor so I rely heavily on substitutions from my own life. I find the scariest or most intense situation that I’ve ever been in and try to relive it with my scene objective layered on top of that. A great imagination helps of course and I feel it’s important to understand what the director’s vision of the scene is.

Was the film shot in 3D? What was working with Michael Bay like?
Yes, while I was on set the film was being shot in 3D. I had a great experience working with Michael Bay. That might be partly because my first interaction with him was kind of funny. I began work on the first day of shooting for the film, so everyone seemed really fresh and eager. I was escorted to set and almost immediately I heard a guy yelling “I need an astronaut’s glove over here, get me an astronaut.” Well that guy was Michael Bay. So I nervously ran over and meekly said, “Uh, yeah?” and Michael told me to start fidgeting with the camera that was attached to our space suits so they could get some close ups of it. I was impressed that Michael is hands-on in every scene, right there communicating with the actors and everyone else directly.

What sort of research did you do for the parts and what challenges did each present?
For the role of Neil Armstrong, I did a ton of research and preparation for the role. It took a few days, but I watched every bit of Apollo 11 footage I could get my hands on and some of the other moon landings. One hurdle to overcome was that there are a lot of conspiracy theories regarding the moon landing and I knew I couldn’t have even the smallest doubt that it actually happened when I was on set. I finally came across a series of MythBuster[s - fantastic show, one of my favorites - TFLive) videos that disproved all of the conspiracy theories and put my mind at ease. I also visited the space museum in Los Angeles to get as close to the actual vessels as possible and it is amazing how small and cramped the orbiters were. We were fitted for our space suits many weeks prior to being on set and after I tried on the 50 lb space suit I started hitting the gym hard doing heavy squats and dead lifts to make the suit feel as light as possible. I also spent a lot of time in the sauna to get used to the heat from the non-ventilated suit under the hot lights of set. The sweat you see on our faces in the film is very real. I also did a lot of running in water to observe the different ways the body moves while weightless.

What were some of the great moments from filming the three parts and what would you change if you could?
For Transformers we were in the orbiter filming at one point and were supposed to be landing the ship. They had us using controls at our sides and no one seemed to know they were the right controls to land the ship so I suggested to Michael that I use a joystick. He said, “Can you switch hands?” I did and when he said “Ok.” I think I almost had a heart attack. We’ll see if it makes the final cut but it sure was awesome to feel like I collaborated with Michael Bay even if in a very small way. I don’t think I would change anything about that experience. It will live very vividly in my mind for the rest of my life.

What were some of the more memorable moments from filming and what are some of your fondest memories?
On the set of Transformers, Cory and I were sitting on some apple boxes in our space suits in-between takes and this nice old guy just came up and started talking to us. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, just that the guy was friendly and I was thinking, “It’s cool that this old stage hand is taking the time to talk us.” Well right about then someone said, “Do you know who this is? This is John Frazier; he won the Academy Award for the special effects in Spider-Man 2.” John started to laugh and said, “You know what? I want to show you a picture, I’ll be back.” I thought I’d never see the guy again, but sure enough he comes back about 15 minutes later and shows me a picture of himself bringing his garbage cans in from the curb the night of the awards with a garbage can in one hand and an Oscar in the other and says with a laugh, “You know what happens after you win an Oscar? Life goes on.”


  1. Thank you for posting this! I posted this in 1 of my comments.


  2. I dunno about the rest of the world, but I find interviews like this incredibly fascinating. :)

  3. Thank you, I try to ask a wide range of stuff and get to know them more as people.

    Skewed and Reviewed

  4. Awesome interview, I mean, you took a secondary character and gave him the big spotlight he needed!! It's making me look forward to his scenes now, thanks a bunch!


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