Pablo Schreiber got the call two months before shooting telling him that he would be in “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”
That’s when the Michael Bay stories started.
“You talk to all your friends and they have all their stories about Michael and working with him and a lot of it involves screaming,” the actor told Business Insider.
Schreiber, who’s probably best known as the entertainingly evil “Pornstache” in “Orange Is the New Black,” took in all the stories while he prepared for the role of Kris “Tonto” Paronto, one of the surviving members of the security team that defended the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, after it was attacked by Islamic militants, which led to the killing of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The prep involved putting on a lot of muscle mass, which meant “eating a ton and lifting a lot of weights,” and then doing a three-day boot camp for the cast with ex-Navy SEALS.
Looking back on the experience, Schreiber sums it up this way: “Nothing can prepare you for a Michael Bay set.”
The director known for over-the-top mega-blockbusters like “Armageddon,” “The Rock,” and the “Transformers” movies also has a reputation for being tyrannical on his sets. Megan Fox once said of working with Bay on the first two “Transformers” movies: “He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is.” (She was later fired from the franchise.)
When Schreiber touched down in Morocco for the shoot, he realised he had other things to focus on than Bay’s behaviour. When you’re lugging around 50- to 60-pound gear for an unthinkable 70 setups in a day, with temperatures hitting the low 90s, “screaming is like the smallest part of it all,” Schreiber said.
In fact, he felt that Bay’s high energy was infectious and drove everyone to be equally as intense.
“There’s really no down time on set. Everything is go, go, go. He expects a lot from you,” Schreiber said of the director, who claims to be worth half a billion dollars. “You have to be able to perform any part of the movie at any given moment, so you want to give a lot because you can see how hard he is going. To rise to the occasion when your moment is called in that circumstance gives you a confidence that you can get through anything.”
Schreiber also wanted to make sure he was correctly representing the person he plays.
He talked via Skype with Paronto, a former US Army Ranger who is the sarcastic jokester of the bunch in the film, at least five times before shooting started.
“It became really clear that the biggest dynamic in portraying this guy was using the humour to good effect,” he said.
The actor would often adlib, throwing in a joke when he felt a scene needed something to break the tension. He said one of those getting the biggest laughs is when, after talking to an interpreter, he turns to one of the soldiers on his team and says, “I’m going to have to break up with him after all of this is over.”
Schreiber knew the hard work paid off when Paronto, after seeing the film, told the actor he was happy with his portrayal.
So what’s his advice for surviving a Bay movie?
“Get on the train and hang on as hard as you can,” Schreiber said with a laugh. “He’s moving, and it’s going to go, and you just have to buckle in.”
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