SAN FRANCISCO — Nicola Peltz was prepared to have to act with a lot of green tennis balls while filming "Transformers: Age of Extinction."
Having worked on special-effects-heavy movies like "The Last Airbender," the young actress assumed most of the world of Autobots and Decepticons would be added using the special effects green screen process that often uses tennis balls as visual clues for the computer-generated elements added later.
She was surprised at the many real elements used in the filming of director Michael Bay's big summer movie series based on the toy line.
"Michael creates these sets that are amazing. All of the car explosions are real. The only thing that's CGI are the Transformers," Peltz says. "The thing that's so genius about Michael is that he doesn't just put an X on the wall and say, 'Look at this.' He really explains to you how big Optimus Prime's face and eyes are."
Having so much filming take place with real props and explosions helped the New York actress feel comfortable in the world of big action. In this installment, an epic battle has left a great city torn, but with the world saved. As humanity picks up the pieces, two new threats emerge — a shadowy group looking to control the direction of history and an ancient menace bent on Earth's destruction.
Optimus Prime and the Autobots — with the help of some humans played by Peltz, Jack Reynor and Mark Wahlberg — take on their most fearsome challenge ever.
This world of giant robots who can twist and turn themselves into cars, trucks and planes is a not the normal kind of role Peltz plays. Along with her current job on the A&E series "Bates Motel," she can be seen in "Affluenza," a coming-of-age story inspired by "The Great Gatsby," and the family adventure "Eye of the Hurricane."
Reynor never worked with green screens before the "Transformers." The actor — who was born in Canada but grew up in Ireland — has done more grounded works such as "Glassland," a film on human trafficking, and a new movie version of "Macbeth."
"It's weird and it isn't, to work with green screens," Reynor says. "I come from very independent films where it's more of a case of the director telling you this is the feeling you should be having right now; these are what the thoughts that are blossoming in your head should be.
"That's more similar that you would think to someone telling you there's a giant robot standing right there. It's still the same school of thought in that you are imagining something, creating something inside yourself and then projecting that."
The action is real enough in the new "Transformers" film that the actors had to wear padding under their clothes. Even with tons of safety protocols, both actors got hurt. Reynor dislocated some ribs in his back — twice. Peltz got her knees smashed during a scene where she was hanging from a large cable. Her wardrobe — described as "REALLY tight pants" — didn't allow for any knee pads and that's how she got banged up.
A few bruises didn't slow Peltz, though.
"I love explosions and running and heights, so I was down for anything," Peltz says. "Acting is really more physical than most people think. You really don't realize how much running you have to do in one of these films. And I was running in heels. Before we started filming, Michael told us we had both better get into the gym. Thank God we did."
WHERE TO FIND THE MOVIE REVIEW
"Transformers: Age of Extinction" was not screened for critics in time to appear in today's 7 section. A review from The Bee's critic Rick Bentley will appear Friday online — www.fresnobee.com/ moviereviews — and in Saturday's Life section.