Michael Bay Discusses The ‘Special Sauce’ For Crafting His Massive Movie Explosions

Anthony Mackie, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson in Pain & Gain
(Image credit: Paramount Picturess)

Within the history of blockbuster filmmaking, numerous directors have staged some memorable explosions, but few have done as many as Michael Bay. The man behind box office titans like Transformers, Armageddon and Bad Boys really knows how to thrill movie lovers. To some, the explosions featured in his films, and those of other directors, may not seem all that intricate. However, Bay recently opened up about how there’s actually a “special sauce” when it comes to crafting those massive moments. 

Michael Bay has been at this for some time now, so it’s no surprise that he has knowledge to dish out. One would think that he’d have loads of technical jargon to share when discussing his approach. However, during a recent interview, he managed to keep things relatively simple. As a matter of fact, he likened the process of making an explosion to a creating a culinary delight:

There’s a special sauce for explosions. It’s like a recipe. I see some directors do it, and they look cheesy, or it won’t have a shockwave. There are certain ways with explosions where you’re mixing different things, and different types of explosions to make it look more realistic. It’s like making a Caesar salad.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producer definitely shared some elegant thoughts with Empire. I honestly appreciate how he used such savory terminology to describe such a bombastic process. His thoughts are intriguing, especially when it comes to the idea of making the explosions look realistic. In his time, he’s staged them for films that are more grounded in reality and others that are steeped in fantasy or science fiction. Though his features have been criticized for their story mechanics, it’s hard to throw shade at his skills as a cinematic showman. 

In this entertainment landscape, it’s hard for moviegoers to miss large blasts and other massive moments. Trailers like The King’s Man’s give viewers their fair share of them. Spider-Man director Jon Watts is among those who even shares such big moments through behind-the-scenes videos. A number of these sequences are pretty impressive, though Michael Bay recently took issue with one past stunt in particular. 

Spectre, the fourth film in Daniel Craig’s 007 run, holds the record for the largest explosion in the history of cinema. But the Pain & Gain director called “bullshit” on that. He believes his 2001 war epic, Pearl Harbor, is the rightful owner of the record. While making his case, he sighted the sheer number of real plans the production utilized, even going as far as to say that he and his crew had “had 350 events going off” simultaneously.

Though Michael Bay doesn’t have the title at the moment, maybe he can earn it with his latest film, Ambulance. The intense-looking, Jake Gyllenhaal-led flick may contain some massive moments that could push it to the top of the movie explosion hill. We’ll just have to wait and see how Bay utilizes his “special sauce” for the production.

Ambulance opens exclusively in theaters on April 8th and is one of this year’s biggest new movie releases.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.