New York Magazine's Vulture blog is reporting that director Michael Bay is "in final negotiations" to direct Transformers 4. Transformers Executive Producer Steven Spielberg has said he wants Bay for the next entry in the franchise. Last week, while at the opening for Transformers: The Ride in Singapore, Bay admitted that "We're talking about it, but there's nothing right now. I'm going to do a tiny movie first, then we'll talk about it, if I potentially do it."
The "tiny movie" is Pain and Gain based on a real life story of torture victim hiring a private eye to hunt down the "Sun Gym gang" of Miami bodybuilders that kidnapped him. The current rumor is Dwayne Johnson is being approach as lead but Mark Wahlberg passed on offer. According to Vulture's source, Michael Bay has been wanting to do the film since at least 1999 when the story was published and using the film as "Paramount's leverage" to get him to commit to a fourth story.
They are reporting a deal is close but not yet final. As for the story, "the details of the next cyborg saga are being kept secret, but we’re told that it is definitely not a prequel, and that it will delve deeper into Transformers canon to mine older characters and lore." The plan would be for Bay to start filming Pain and Gain by early spring and then start production on Transformers 4 in winter 2012.
Once you take away the useless quotes, all you have is a story telling us what we already know because Michael Bay has already said it several times. He has been approached by Paramount to direct Transformers 4. He is considering it. No decision has been made. I just find the assertion that Bay's Pain and Gain is being as leverage to get him to sign on for Transformers 4 sooner rather than later to be ludicrous.
Love him or not, Bay has helped create one of the most successful film franchises in Hollywood history (9th on franchise all-time list) which makes Bay a power player right now. Bay had wanted to do Pain and Gain before Transformers 3 but bumped it at Paramount and Spielberg's request which leads me to believe the film was built into his Transformers 3 contract. Even if this assumption is incorrect, it has been estimated Bay made around $70-$100 million per Transformers film. He could finance the film himself if needed but it would not be necessary as at least one studio would step up for it as they would want him on board to help create a successful franchise for them.
Despite Vulture's story, I consider this to simply be a continuation of the now month's long status quo that Paramount and Hasbro are waiting on a decision from Michael Bay before deciding their next move in regards to Transformers 4. I don't think leverage has anything to do with it. I think for Bay it is part passion (his baby but six years was enough) and part money ($70+ million payday per film is hard to turn down for anyone). Hopefully Bay will comment soon on this story including the leverage aspect of it.