Jack Reynor admits 'Transformers' age gap joke was 'problematic'

Ben Arnold
Jack Reynor and Nicola Petzl in Transformers: Age of Extinction (Credit: Paramount)

Jack Reynor has broached the subject of that uncomfortable situation in Transformers: Age of Extinction where a 20-year-old man is dating a 17-year-old girl.

The Irish star concedes that the film’s attempted joke about the situation would now be considered ‘problematic’.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter around the release of acclaimed new horror movie Midsommar, Reynor was quizzed on how the movie seemed self-conscious about the issue, before doubling down by spending dialogue trying to explain it all away (Age of Extinction was released in 2014).

“That wasn’t something that came up until we were in production,” he said.

“Initially, it wasn’t really in the script. Realistically, I was 21 years of age, making this huge franchise film, and doing what I was told, because that’s kind of what you do when you get on one of those films.

Read more: Midsommar star says it gave her 'PTSD'

“When you look at the culture of it now, especially given the advent of the #MeToo era, yeah, it’s definitely a problematic joke, but I’m not the writer of the film.

“I was a 21-year-old actor coming in from independent Irish cinema, and it didn’t really feel like my place to comment on what these guys wanted to do. It’s their film and their responsibility, really.”

Jack Reynor, Michael Bay, Nicola Peltz and Lorenzo di Bonaventura attend the premiere of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Roberto Filho/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International)

Though completely avoidable by, say, changing the ages of his character Shane and Nicola Petzl's Tessa, the daughter of Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager, Michael Bay instead continued down the road, attempting to explain it all away with a joke.

After Cade threatens to call the police when he discovers the romance, Cade shoots back that they're covered by the so-called 'Romeo and Juliet law', which absolves them from any illegality.

“We’ve got a preexisting juvenile foundational relationship, statute 2705-3,” Shane explains to Cade.

“Romeo and Juliet, huh? You know how those two ended up? Dead,” says Cade in reply.

Petzl and Wahlberg in Age of Extinction (Credit: Paramount)

But some commentators weren't swayed by the jovial exchange, one calling it a method of 'sidestepping statutory rape' within the movie's narrative.

And it seems that Reynor wasn't massively comfortable with it either.

It's all the more problematic given the career-long criticisms that have been levelled against director Michael Bay with regard to his treatment of women on screen.

Megan Fox, who played Mikaela Banes in the first two Transformers movies, tells some disturbing stories about her experiences with the director.

Transformers director Michael Bay and Megan Fox at the MTV Movie Awards in 2008. (Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

She told the Observer's film writer Jason Solomons in 2009 that when she went to Bay's house to audition for the part, he made her wash his Ferrari while he filmed.

More disturbing was another story she told Jimmy Kimmel.

“The first time I ever met him, I was 15 and I was an extra on Bad Boys II,” she told the US talk show host.

“We were shooting this club scene, and they brought me in, and I was wearing a stars and stripes bikini and a red cowboy hat, and six-inch heels. And they took me to Mike and he approved it.

“And they said, ‘You know, Michael, she’s 15, so you can’t sit her at the bar and she can’t have a drink in her hand.’ So his solution to that problem was to then have me dancing underneath a waterfall getting soaking wet.

“And that’s… At 15. I was in 10th grade. So that’s sort of a microcosm of how Bay’s mind works.”

Fox was canned from the Transformers movies after her second appearance, after saying: “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation.

“He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all. And it’s endearing to watch him.”

Midsommar is in cinemas nationwide from tomorrow.