Big explosions aren’t the only thing he’s famous for.
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It’s not easy being Michael Bay. The Transformers director has run into some critical and commercial roadblocks when he’s tried to break out beyond action set-piece epics. Last year’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was criticized as a conservative fever dream naysayers have said nearly all of his films overly rely on a fetishization of military violence.
But there’s another aspect of his approach to filmmaking that may start haunting the 51-year-old director: his treatment of the women who act in his movies.
The latest salvo comes from Kate Beckinsale, who says Bay “body shamed” her while working on his 2001 film Pearl Harbor.
"I'd just had my daughter and had lost weight, but was told that if I got the part, I'd have to work out," Beckinsale, now 42, was quoted by People. "And I just didn't understand why a 1940s nurse would do that."
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That’s bad enough, of course. But you could see someone arguing around the point that maybe Bay was only reacting to pressure from producers and perceived audience expectations. However, Beckinsale said things only got worse when they were out promoting the film.
"When we were promoting the film, Michael was asked why he had chosen Ben [Affleck] and Josh [Hartnett], and he said, 'I have worked with Ben before and I love him, and Josh is so manly and a wonderful actor'. Then when he was asked about me, he'd say, 'Kate wasn't so attractive that she would alienate the female audience.' "
"He kept saying it everywhere we went," she added, "and we went to a lot of places."
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In an era where female driven action films are experiencing a rapid ascension, Bay’s past treatment of his female stars is not only inappropriate but ineffective. Or, as The A.V. Club dryly notes, it “looks like Bay’s invitation to the NOW Conference might get lost in the mail this year.” They also include an old quote from Megan Fox about working with Bay as a then-15-year-old that is mightily disturbing.
However, Bay says it’s all a big misunderstanding propagated by a “tabloid” publication and that he and Beckinsale are actually on great terms. Taking to his own website, Bay wrote:
“Well, totally untrue. Kate and I are friendly. She is a fantastic actress, very funny, witty lady, sassy, speaks her mind, and I truly respect her. That’s why she has come to so many of my Christmas parties and Birthday parties. This so called ‘problem of us not liking each other’ was reported by a tabloid-esque reporter after Kate appeared on an edgy English talk show, speaking about our meeting 16 years ago while casting Pearl Harbor. The reporter made her story into some scandalous confrontation, when it was nothing of the sort. Spoke to Kate and she felt she told a funny story.”