Ramon Rodriguez © Paramount Pictures
Ramon Rodriguez © Paramount Pictures
Ramon Rodriguez © Paramount Pictures

When Ramon Rodriguez was a child in Puerto Rico, he watched the cartoon series Transformers every week on TV, and when the first film came out he told himself, ‘That’s the type of movie I want to do.’ His wish came true, as he’s playing the role of Leo Spitz, a college roommate of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) who is a conspiracy theorist who gets caught up in the real thing in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Can you tell us about your character?

His name is Leonardo Ponce de Leon Spitz, aka Leo Spitz for short. He is a conspiracy theorist, controlling kid who is a freshman at Princeton University. He has a website, he’s like this entrepreneur/hustler, he’s got all these things going on, he’s got a staff with him that works at the school, and then in comes Sam’s character, Shia, and he’s thrown off, and we’re kind of feeling each other out, finding out if we like each other or not, and then I end up getting sucked into his world, and my world completely gets flipped. I’m freaking out half the way throughout the movie, wishing I’d never met this kid because now I’m being chased by real robots and I’m just trying to survive. So the character goes from being in complete control of his domain to completely out of control.

Were you able to improv in any of the scenes?

Director Michael Bay © Paramount Pictures
Director Michael Bay © Paramount Pictures

Luckily, Michael Bay’s really into improv if you have a cool idea.  I started realizing, throughout the process, that if he laughed at something it meant it was pretty good.  As an audience, he’s really good at that. As a director, he’s kind of like an audience member.  But, we improv-ed a lot of scenes. He let me throw some Spanish in there. Let me expand on it, like Leonardo Ponce de Leon Spitz, a fun name. It was cool.

What was it like working with Shia?

He’s a fun kid, a lot of fun, I found that we were very similar in a lot of ways, both really competitive. We found that out really early, soon as we were in the room rehearsing, we were improv-ing stuff and immediately I knew that we were going to get along because we were just riffing so good, and I looked over and I realized the writers were writing down what we were saying, so we were actually getting to write some of the dialogue, so that was cool.

What were the action sequences like to shoot?

It’s one of those things where at first I’m kind of paralleling my character, he’s freaking out, I was actually freaking out just walking on the set watching the explosions go off, feeling the heat on my back, literally having the explosions go off right next to me. When I would go back to my room after filming at the end of the night I’d literally be shaking, I’d been trembling, just from all the energy of the set, and that would be a constant day-to-day thing. We would go to set, and the fun part was that you didn’t know what was going to happen sometimes. We’d go to set, and Mike really just goes off the cuff sometimes and he says, ‘We’re not going to do this scene today, today we’re just going to blow up that whole block.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool, fun, good to know, this is going to be really interesting, where am I now?’ And he was like, ‘You’re going to be right in the middle of it.’

What was the hardest scene physically for you?

When we were shooting the Devastator scene, we were sucking up sand and I had to hold onto this pole and Michael Bay thought it would be a really good idea to bring out two fans that blow a hundred miles per hour each and he put them right in front of my face, and I had sand and soot blowing in my face. I had two guys behind me with wires attached to my ankles pulling me. Not enough yet. We needed cars flipping over my head. He brought two cars and he literally had them attached to a hydraulic crane flip inches above my head and the guys were yanking the cables on my ankles and, yes, on one of the takes my shoulder popped out and we continued rolling. That was probably the shot we used, thank you, Michael!


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.