Optimus Prime speaks
If John Wayne were a giant robot with a gun, he would be Optimus Prime.
Now Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime from the original Transformers Generation One cartoon series (as well as the voice of Eeyore, Monterey Jack from Disney’s Rescue Rangers and Murky Dismal from Rainbow Brite) has given an interview on tformers.com . For those who don’t want to read the entire interview, Alan Kistler sent us the major highlights.
On deciding to audition for the new movies:
Cullen: "[I thought,] okay, what the heck. I’m going to go in and fand out what they want … Had they asked me to do changes in the character, I would have declined.
"It was interesting. I didn’t have any problem trying to find him … it was like riding a bike and he came right back … And he still stands for the qualities the writers gave him from the get go.
"The qualities of [all the Transformers] are still there. It’s like an elastic band and stretching it, but it’s still the eastic band and the strength of the characters are still there.
"When I went to the audition, the first time I met [Transformers movie director] Michael Bay, there was a young girl assistant that had the [lines for Ironhide] … It was Ironhide and Prime together. So I was talking to Ironhide and the girl was not a very good actor … and I stand beside her [and say] ‘Do you mind if I read that? I played HIM in the series too.’ And I got into it and said:
Prime voice: Ironhide. Ironhide voice: Ah, come on, Prime! Let’s kick some butt!
"And there was Michael Bay just [[speechless]].
"After the audition of course, I was kind of wound up and a bit nervous … It was tough to go and redo your character after all those years and try to convince people again … I got in the car [and said in Prime’s voice] ‘I’m not going to do this again. There’s going to kill me again.’
"When there’s that many millions of dollars, there’s a lot of guys with their tails between their legs. Believe me, boy, their careers are on the line and nobody wants to make a mistake. I don’t believe I scared them but I actually believe if it weren’t for the fan base … I would have never got that role and I really appreciate you people for it and I love you for it."
On Michael Bay’s new approach to the character of Optimus Prime:
Cullen: "He’s a great director and I had no problems with him at all. He genuinely appeared to like my work … As a matter of fact, he would say, ‘Would Prime do this?’ And I would say, ‘Ummm, maybe not.’
"… [Optimus interacts with] young kid Spike Witwicky and so he had to become more human and that was one of the elements I worked on. To make him generally more human in a sense of relating to a human being. Talking one on one and even throwing out dumb one liners … It’s just so foreign for Optimus to say some of those things.
"There is one thing where he’s in a garden … looking into the second story window of [Spike’s] house. He’s 40 feet fall … walking in the backyard and the kid says, ‘You’re in my mother’s garden.’ Prime: ‘My bad.’
"I said to Mr. Bay, ‘I never said anything quite so silly as Optimus Prime. It’s going to work … Any more of those? Thor more stuff like that in.’
On how the film compares to the TV series:
Cullen: "… a movie is going to be a lot more centered on a beginning and an end rather than a series that has a continuous flow to it … They’re brilliant writers and the script holds itself and holds its own and I think you’ll be generally pleased because it gives a sense of what the Transformers are all about, what they were intended for in terms of their conquests and defeats. But it keeps itself open for a progression into another realm …
"Optimus will be [featured] to a larger degree in the second and third movie and that was explained to me from the very beginning by one of the producers.
"I’ll tell you how secretive they were. I never got a full script. I only got pages that I was involved in."
NOTE: Peter Cullen and Shia LaBeouf (who plays Spike) are both signed on to do a sequel to Transformers.
On the movie’s redesign of the Transformer robots:
Cullen: "I was startled when I saw the new image … It’s incredible … I said, you know, hey, he’s a truck. I mean, they design new trucks all the time … why couldn’t it happen to Optimus Prime and he took on a Peterbulit rather than a Freightliner? [[In Prime’s Voice:]] ‘Prime’s got to have the best one!’ "
On Hugo Weaving as Prime’s nemesis Megatron:
Cullen: "I don’t even know what he sounds like. I wish Frank Welker [the original voice actor for Megatron] was doing it. I don’t want to discard any of Hugo’s fans, but I wish Frank was doing it."
On the Transformers video game from Activision:
Cullen: "It’s hot! And I’ll tell you why. I’m Optimus Prime all the way through but I’m also Optimus Prime one on one with the player. I talk to them, I give them advice. So it’s as if they become the Autobot … So depending on how well they play the game, I remind them how badly they’re doing or how well they’re doing and I give them advice."
NOTE: Frank Welker, who voiced Megatron in the original cartoon series, will also voice the villain in the Activision video game.