EXCLUSIVE: It’s pencils down for the Transformers Writers Room; the experiment has concluded and the early results are in. Akiva Goldsman has walked away with a concrete blueprint to write a Transformers sequel for Mark Wahlberg to star in for Michael Bay to direct, with production starting in June. Ant-Man scribes Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari will head off and write an animated feature, an origin story that focuses on Cybertron, the planet from which the good and bad Transformer robots hail.
As for the rest of the writers who spent more than two weeks on a soundstage where Glee held dance recitals on the Paramount lot? Well, they didn’t set a bunch of other movies, but a few could come up down the line. Black Hawk Down scribe Ken Nolan, Christina Hodson and Lindsey Beer, Barrer & Ferrari, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Iron Man scribes Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, Pacific Rim 2‘s Zak Penn, Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Lost’s Jeff Pinkner, Spartacus creator and Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight and Geneva Robertson-Dworet all took part.
All of them hatched ideas together and collaborated to flesh out the universe of the Hasbro toy line to come up with possible spinoffs, sequels and prequels that they then peeled off and generated treatments. Goldsman supervised the whole thing, and everybody pitched to Steven Spielberg, Bay, Paramount, Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian and Don Murphy. I had heard they discovered that some of the ideas didn’t sustain full features and that maybe the universe wasn’t as big as suspected, but insiders say in fact that when all the pitches and treatments were reviewed, that Spielberg felt there were potential movies in five of the nine. They have three years to engage those writers to generate scripts based on the treatments they submitted. The loose plan is Goldsman first, the animated movie script, then a script by Pinkner, then one by Beers. Perhaps the most important thing that creating a proper Bible of places they could go is that they will plant seeds from the best ideas into the Transformers sequel that Goldsman is writing — the one that is expected to be the last that Bay directs himself. They’ve got enough ideas already to do one more Transformers film even if Bay decides not to direct it, but they’ll have created opportunities for spinoffs to keep moving on Paramount’s biggest franchise not named Mission: Impossible.
Was this experiment worth it? It was an investment of low seven figures paid to all those writers to script treatments. I’m told that everyone involved, including the writers, felt it was money and time well spent. The writers did not turn it into a competition, and they collaborated and explored just about every possible angle to broaden the Transformers universe and come up with possible movies. Considering that the last Transformers grossed $1.4 billion worldwide, the cost of this was pittance. Just as important, the results got Spielberg and Bay excited, which is no small feat considering they’ve been with the movie since its inception and have plenty of other things to capture their passion.
Goldsman told Deadline before they started that the hope was to reap the best collaborative things that come from TV writers rooms, and it appears that has happened, despite the uncertainty over how many movies were hatched. Universal is doing something similar to revive its classic monsters franchise, and they’re also doing it with Star Wars and at Marvel. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen with other franchise commitments, including the DC Comics projects and the recently instituted giant monster mashups that Legendary just moved from Universal to Warner Bros and which will pit King Kong against Godzilla. That could be expanded to other giant creatures controlled by Toho.