Michael Bay. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the director’s ability to make energetic, entertaining, and profitable action films for general audiences. His testosterone-fueled directorial style has influenced the visual vocabulary of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster more than any other filmmaker.
Bay’s films have grossed $4.5 billion worldwide and are often characterized by explosions, lens flares, 360 Steadicam shots, and never-ending sunsets. While he’s often considered nothing more than an egotistical hack, Bay’s distinct high-octane style is instantly recognizable and – for better or worse – he’s been incredibly consistent throughout his career.
One aspect of Bay’s films that often gets lost in all the explosions and mayhem is the impressive lineup of actresses he’s included in his predominantly male movies. With his latest film, Pain & Gain, about to hit theaters this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to look back at Michael Bay’s filmography, specifically the leading actresses who have since went on to insanely successful careers.
So, check out below The Leading Ladies of Michael Bay’s High-Octane Cinema.
Liv Tyler – Armageddon (1998)
Daughter of Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler, and model/singer Bebe Buell, Tyler began a career in modeling at 14 but decided to focus on acting shortly thereafter. Tyler got her first gig starring alongside Alicia Silverstone in the music video for Aerosmith’s 1993 song “Crazy.”
She made her film debut in the 1994’s Silent Fall and went on to appear in supporting roles in Empire Records (1995), Heavy (1996), and That Thing You Do! (1996). Still, the actress is best known as playing Bruce Willis’ daughter, Grace Stamper, in the 1998 big-budget disaster flick, Armageddon. I mean, seriously, you remember the animal crackers, right!?
Post-Armageddon, Liv Tyler played pivotal roles in two major film franchises, the ethereal Arwen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Marvel Comics’ Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk. Most recently Tyler has starred in The Strangers, Super, and Robot & Frank.
Kate Beckinsale – Pearl Harbor (2001)
After saving lives as Nurse Evelyn in Pearl Harbor, Kate Beckinsale established herself as a go-to actress for ass-kicking action when she played the death-dealing vampire Selene in the hugely successful Underworld series.
Beckinsale has also starred in big-budget action flicks like Van Helsing, Contraband, and the recent Total Recall remake. Her more dramatic roles include Serendipity and The Aviator. Her next film is The Trials of Cate McCall where she plays a recovering alcoholic lawyer who becomes convinced that a woman was framed for murder. The film also stars Nick Nolte and James Cromwell and is due out sometime this year.
Gabrielle Union – Bad Boys II (2003)
“Brr! It’s cold in here! There must be some Clovers in the atmosphere!” After a decade of memorable young-adult roles in Bring It On, She’s All That, and 10 Things I Hate About You, Bad Boys II helped usher Gabrielle Union into the next phase of her career.
In the 2003 Bay film, Union played Sydney “Syd” Burnett, an undercover operative with the Drug Enforcement Administration and younger sister to Martin Lawrence’s Marcus.
Union continues to work regularly in television and film, with recent credits that include Cadillac Records, Good Deeds, and Think Like a Man. In 2012, Union was featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
Scarlett Johansson – The Island (2005)
One of the most versatile actresses working today, Scarlett Johansson has an impressive and diverse resume full of art house and blockbuster successes. Memorable films include Lost in Translation, Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Prestige, and We Bought A Zoo.
Last summer, Johansson reprised her Iron Man 2 role of Natasha Romanoff in Marvel’s The Avengers and played the role of legendary actress Janet Leigh in Hitchcock. Up next you can see Johansson in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon and Anthony and Joe Russo’s Marvel adventure Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Megan Fox – Transformers (2007) / Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
After Transformers made her a household name, Megan Fox went on to play a starlet on the rise in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and the titular teen possessed by the devil in Jennifer’s Body (which is a fucking awesome movie, by the way). Recently, Fox appeared in the ensemble comedies Friends with Kids and This is 40.
Fox was set to appear in the third Transformers film, but was fired on orders of executive producer Steven Spielberg after statements she made comparing Michael Bay to Adolf Hitler. Apparently, Bay and Fox have buried the hatchet because Fox will star as April O’Neil in Jonathan Liebesman’s Ninja Turtles, produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, in 2014.
Fun Fact: One of Fox’s first (uncredited) roles was “Stars-and-Stripes Bikini Kid Dancing Under Waterfall” in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys!
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
A model by trade, Rosie Huntington-Whitely appeared in campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, Burberry, Bloomingdale’s, Ralph Lauren, and Victoria Secret before landing the role of Carly Miller in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Huntington-Whitely will next be seen in the highly-anticipated fourth film of George Miller’s Mad Max franchise in Mad Max: Fury Road. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and ZoÃ« Kravitz, Mad Max: Fury Road will hit theaters in 2014.
Bar Paly – Pain & Gain (2013)
Born in Russia and raised in Tel Aviv, Pain & Gain is a breakout role for actress Bar Paly. Paly went to a performing arts high school where she began acting but soon began a career in modeling at the age of 17.
In 2003, Paly renewed her career as an actress by appearing in a variety of roles for both film and television. She has appeared in TV’s How I Met Your Mother, The Starter Wife, the 2008 horror film The Ruins, and the nerdtastic web series, Game Shop.
Paly recently starred in Roman Coppola’s indie comedy A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III alongside Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. After teaming up with Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Pain & Gain, Paly can be seen later this year in the action-thriller Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson, Scoot McNairy, and Julianne Moore.
Rebel Wilson – Pain & Gain (2013)
Best known for her roles in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, Australian actress, writer, and stand-up comedian Rebel Wilson isn’t the lead actress in Bay’s Pain & Gain, but deserves a mention as an up-and-coming comedic talent who will no doubt go on to star in, and lead, more movies.
2012 was a huge year for Wilson, as she starred in films like Bachelorette, Small Apartments, Struck by Lightning, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and of course, Pitch Perfect, where she stole the show as Fat Amy. Up next Wilson will be lending her voice to Kung Fu Panda 3, due out in 2015.
Nicola Peltz – Transformers 4 (2014)
The daughter of a model and a billionaire businessman, Nicola Peltz starred in 2008’s Righteous Kill and played Katara in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2010 film The Last Airbender. Recently you’ve seen Peltz on A&E’s Bates Motel as high school student Bradley Martin.
Peltz will become Michael Bay’s next lead actress in 2014’s Transformers 4. Peltz has been cast as Mark Wahlberg’s daughter in the film and will co-star alongside Stanley Tucci and Jack Reynor, who will play her race car-driving boyfriend. The biggest film of Peltz’s career thus far, Transformers 4 hits theaters June 27, 2014.