Charlie was the perfect melding of that teenage audience POV character you want in this kind of movie with the gearhead/mechanic’s way of how she looks at stuff. How did she evolve over the course of writing the script?
Charlie’s one of the things that has always stayed really true to who she was when she first came up. She was inspired, actually, by my two nieces. My British niece Jeanie, who at the time was only 3 or 4, but you could already tell that she wasn’t one thing or the other. She wasn’t a girly-girl, and she wasn’t a tomboy. She was kind of nerdy and arty. She was already all these different things, and I think so often in these movies - I don’t mean Transformers movies but movies generally and especially movies about teenagers - the female characters end up in a box.
They’re one, simple note. And what I wanted was for Jeanie to grow up in a world where she was watching movies where the heroines were like her. Where they were complicated and nuanced and interesting. [Charlie’s] an athlete but she’s also a gearhead, like you said… she’s got all these different pieces to her.
And my other niece Sylvia, in New York, has this incredible bond with her dad. She sadly just lost her mother, and now her relationship with her Dad is so about taking on the things that he loves. She loves Sam Cooke because he loves Sam Cooke. She loves cars because he loves cars, and seeing the way a young girl and a grown man can bond like that… Charlie’s father obviously isn’t in the movie, but he still has a very strong presence in the movie. Those were sort of my two north stars while I was writing, and that’s really what informed who Charlie is.
Moving on, let’s talk about Agent Burns. There’s always at least one human in the Transformers movies who’s like “we can’t trust these giant robots from space” --
Why would they think that?
What could go wrong? In [Bumblebee] though, the second major sequence of the film is the audience getting to see, from Burn’s perspective, just how terrifying it would be to even just be near a fight between these things. Why was it important for us to relate to that character, even beyond Burns being played by John Cena?
Well, John Cena makes him awesome, but I think the best villains are the ones who’re the heroes of their own story, who believe they’re doing the right thing. They aren’t motivated by money and power and greed, but because they really believe they’re doing the thing that needs to be done. Agent Burns very much thinks he’s doing the right thing, protecting Earth and its people just as Bumblebee believes he’s protecting his people.
What I think is also really nice is how he does get to have his own arc. You don’t often get that with the villains in this kind of movie, and it was fun to give him that. And also, just to be a nerd, it ties into the whole thing: "Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye." I didn’t want him to be just a straight two-dimensional bad guy who is always a bad guy. I wanted him to be a bad guy who has more going on than that.