Transformers Take Over the Windy City

by | Aug 4th, 2010 | 3:15PM | Filed under: Behind the Scenes, Interviews, Movies

As you may know, Transformers 3 has been filming here in my (and Locke’s) hometown of Chicago for the past several weeks. I haven’t been able to check out any of the production firsthand just yet — yes, I know this is a shocker, considering the fact that I am a devout Shiantologist. Rest assured that the stalking will commence shortly.  But in the meantime, I know of a few people — Leyla Arsan (learn more about her here!) and Michael Leger (follow him on Twitter here!) — who’ve caught some Transformers 3 action, so I thought I’d let them give you the scoop. Fear not — neither Leyla nor Michael spill any spoilers… um, unless you weren’t expecting explosions in a Michael Bay flick.  The video at the end of this post does not contain any spoilers, either — it’s actually quite fascinating to see the Baymeister in action!

redblog: So Leyla and Michael, did you intentionally seek out filming, or did you just happen upon it?

Leyla: Both. I live and work right downtown, so it was hard NOT to see it. My office is one block from where most of the filming took place, so I could see it from our window on Michigan Avenue. During lunch, I would intentionally walk over to the filming to take a look, and on one big night of filming, I went to the Trump Tower to watch the nighttime explosions from their outdoor lounge. (The Trump Tower overlooks Wacker Dr. where most of the filming took place).

Michael: I happened upon it when looking out of my office window to see Wacker Drive completely “destroyed.”

redblog: So for the benefit of those familiar with the Windy City, where specifically was the filming taking place?

Leyla: I saw the set-up on Michigan Avenue (but didn’t see the filming there). Wacker Drive was where I saw most of the filming.

Michael: Yes, Wacker Drive, between Wabash and Michigan.

redblog: Exactly what and who did you see?

Leyla: I saw a lot of “battle” scenes; a row of tanks going down Michigan Avenue to “battle” on Wacker drive. That was pretty crazy — about six tanks driving through downtown Chicago — it looked like we were at war. I also saw a scene where soldiers were having a machine-gun battle. That was also pretty intense. The scene went on for at least three to four minutes of constant machine-gun shooting. After the gun battle came the explosions. There were about two or three major explosions on Wacker Drive. It was really shocking. It was hard to tell because we’re on the 9th floor, but I would say that each explosion was about two to three stories high. Very, very real looking.

Michael: I saw what seemed to be a combat scene with lots of explosions.  Several “troops” dressed in black, firing machine guns while explosions and fireballs were shooting up.  As the troops moved toward the Wabash bridge, a car was blown up and flipped on its top. Paratroopers flew in from the sky.  The only “star” of the movie I could see was the Yellow Bumblebee car.

Leyla: I didn’t see anyone famous. I only saw the director, Michael Bay, out at a nightclub a couple of nights.

redblog: Hey, Michael Bay is mega-famous to us movie geeks!  I’ll refrain from asking you what he was up to at those clubs, however.  So here’s my last question for you. There’s been a lot of controversy regarding how much the Transformers 3 set is disrupting the normal flow of traffic and public transportation routes in the city. Do you welcome Hollywood to Chicago, or are you annoyed by all the filmmaking that takes place here?

Leyla: I do think it is a good thing when movies are filmed in Chicago.  I used to work for the International Film Festival in Chicago, and you would be SHOCKED at how many people think Chicago is a small town, particularly those who come from Europe.

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States: a bustling, cosmopolitan city that is the epicenter of culture in the Midwest.  A great restaurant city, tremendous architecture and fantastic landscapes.  I feel like the more movies are shot in Chicago, the better for our tourism. It elevates the impression of Chicago in the eyes of those who are unfamiliar with the city.

For Chicago locals, I think filming movies in Chicago is exciting.  Sure, some people get annoyed by the re-routing of traffic, but there is a tremendous buzz in the city when a film crew is in town.  Not to mention with a large production like this one, it is amazing to watch Hollywood in action!

Michael: Agreed. Plus, it brings in money and work for the city (even if only temporary).

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts (and pictures) with us, Leyla and Michael! And if you do end up seeing Shia, please tell him that his #1 fan will be by shortly.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Chicago-based Transformers 3 shoot, which will continue throughout August, you should check out this article from the July 28 edition of the Chicago Tribune‘s RedEye. In it, a few locals give their take on all of the hoopla, and I just have to call out the following two comments because they’re so hilarious:

@JCapp1538: It was neat at first, but now it’s annoying. I mean, if it was actually going to be a good movie, I might not be as annoyed.


@sewknot: It’s been fun watching them film Transformers, but I wouldn’t pay to see the movie.


I’ll leave you with what I found to be a quite mesmerizing five-minute video of various parts of the shoot. Don’t adjust your monitors, though — most of the video does NOT have sound because it was taken from inside of an office building.  My favorite part is near the very end when some ladies can be heard reacting to the fireball explosions…

3 Responses to “Transformers Take Over the Windy City”

  1. Donna
    Posted on August 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    They were here in Milwaukee a few weeks ago, probably right before they headed south to Chicago. They were only here two days, though, and no explosions. Apparently, Michael Bay wanted to be the first to feature the Calatrava addition to our Art Museum in film. It even “transforms” as the wings on the roof open up.

    • Currently 3/5 Stars
    Jeremy F.
    Posted on August 5, 2010 at 11:13 am

    the person who made the video screwed up…Rosie isnt playing Mikaela…shes playing Carly…Mikaela was wrote out of the movie…

    Geekdom +1 in full effect….