Last year’s prequel/sequel to the Transformers franchise came to us by way of the well-reviewed Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight. Set in 1987, the film opens up with Bumblebee on the run from the United States army after landing on the planet amidst an army training maneuver. Bumblebee escapes the army personnel leaving behind a scarred and bewildered John Cena who is convinced Bumblebee represents a global threat.
Bumblebee takes refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), discovers Bumblebee in the days before her 18th birthday hidden under a tarp away from view in a remote corner of the junkyard. Charlie takes Bumblebee home, revives him, and very quickly learns the car she has brought home is no ordinary yellow Volkswagen Beetle.
Ricardo Hoyos plays Tripp, the high school boy Charlie is swooning over in Bumblebee. In advance of the digital release of the movie, Hoyos fielded an interview with PureGrainAudio to discuss working on Bumblebee. (We also recently spoke with actor Jason Drucker, who plays Charlie’s stepbrother Otis.) The Bumblebee Blu-ray home release package just saw its release. Make sure to grab your copy of what is one of the very best Transformers movies of the bunch and be prepared to be blown away.
Would you mind recounting how you landed this role as “Tripp” in the movie?
Ricardo Hoyos: Yeah, yeah of course. So I did one audition with a casting director, and then they brought me in for a second time to read with Travis, the director. And I remember it going so well that I didn’t even take the elevator, I took the stairs down I like sprinted down the stairs and just like sprinted to my car, and I was just howling and jumping. I’d never done that before. That’s not my usual thing. It just really felt so good. And then a few weeks later I got the call, and I pretty much did the same thing, I sprinted around the block. And then it was just “ok. You’re fine now. You’re gonna go to the Paramount Studios and get your wardrobe fitted.” Like I said, each step felt more surreal than the last. And with this super-delayed reaction, it still doesn’t feel real. I don’t think it’s real.
Check out the original Bumblebee movie trailer.
How much of the 1980s did you get exposed to in the costumes and you know some of the props and whatnot? How prominent was that?
Hoyos: Oh man. It MADE the movie. It’s a great story. The feelings that you feel in it are timeless. And the story that they tell is timeless but that backdrop? The wardrobe and the sets, everything just felt right. I’m such a big sucker for that stuff like going in for that first wardrobe fitting and putting on 501s with cowboy boots, and putting my hair up? That is just so fun for me to do. Because you become a different person… that’s not how I usually dress. I mean I kind of do, but I love acting for that reason. That really is just so fun for me.
So, were you a Transformers fan before you took this role?
Hoyos: Oh yeah. Big time.
What were you into when you were younger?
Hoyos: I was into all that stuff. I was really into Transformers and superheroes. I had all the action figures and video games and stuff. But yeah I remember I had like a transformable toy. I had the Transformers video game. I saw the movies growing up. Like it’s always been like a big part of my life. I was just remembering today actually I had this like Bumblebee helmet voice changer thing from when I was a kid. This franchise has been a part of my life for so long.
It’s crazy. I think I was old enough that I just missed it. And when it’s a rearview mirror kind of thing I’m like, “oh well look that’s happened.” Yeah. And I didn’t really pay that much attention to it, and it’s lasted and lasted, but I think I was about ten years earlier. It’s just cool to see that it’s gone six movies, comic books, toy franchises.
Hoyos: Me as well. I’m like ten years late. They’re what? 1984, that was the beginning of Transformers. I was born in ‘95. And so yeah that just goes to show you like it has not only survived but really thrived for the entire time. It’s one of the biggest, most well-known franchises in the world.
I believe your first scene was getting a whole bunch of drinks dumped down your torso. Is that accurate?
Hoyos: Yeah. One hundred times. That was really funny. We did so many takes we had so many shirts flown in and… Yeah, yeah. That was my first moment.
Here’s the cover artwork for the Blu-ray edition of Bumblebee.
Yeah? Cold drinks?
Hoyos: I think they were cool, but it was hot. So it was good.
So, for lack of a better term, you play the popular man-crush role in this film.
Hoyos: I think that’s pretty good term, yeah. Like I’m, I’m kind of her crush at school and, you know, you take your shirt off in front of someone enough times it’s bound to happen. (laughs)
Did you find yourself hanging out with the cluster of girls that you were sort of hanging with in the movie?
Hoyos: I’ve dreamt about it. Yeah. We all hung out like every day on set and then every night we’d go back to the hotel and hang out. I just became really close with everyone. Looking back at that some of this stuff, one of the first shots in the movie is me surrounded by ten girls. It’s like looking up at me like eating a corn dog. So, yeah, that was pretty cool.
The girls were portrayed in a sort of not particularly nice light. You, not so much. I mean you were around them, but you were never really doing the sort of villainous role.
Hoyos: Yeah. Originally actually we deleted the scene where, in the end, I kind of disown that group of girls. When I’m like “You know what? I’ve seen the true side of you girls. Not cool.” But, yeah, that still is played upon, even though that scene didn’t make it into the final cut. That was definitely the attitude that they were going for. I associate with this group of people that maybe doesn’t jive with everything that I am about. Which I think is just like your classic kind of high school thing. We all kind of go through that where maybe people aren’t as nice as we want them to be in high school to others. But he’s a redeemable character. He sees through that. He’s not bullied like the other girls.
Now, aside from the Transformers themselves, is there anything that’s derivative of that era of the ‘80s that you consider cool or stuff that you interact with on a daily basis?
Hoyos: Yeah, I think these shoes are like the ‘80s (shows some worn Nikes) I think they came out in the ‘80s. I love everything like that. Vintage is so cool, and I think stuff was just made differently. And it’s cool to have a piece of the past. And really it goes for everything; I love the fashion of that era or any era for that matter. The music too. The ‘80s music is like a very interesting era to me, nothing sounds quite as cartoonish as the ‘80s. Like they (artists) were deciding it’s the future now. And you know we’re just going to make these crazy sounds. ‘80s is cool.
Here’s a throwback to Bumblebee from the first Transformers movie, released in 2007. In it, Bumblebee transforms into a Chevy Camaro.
It was an interesting time. I mean there was no profanity, really, in any music. Yeah. You know Tipper Gore had that sort of PMRC thing going on where they were really anti-metal and anti-rap. And if you looked at it like if you were to time travel back from the music that we’’ve got now and what we see in the lyrics to the ‘80s where it’s just so homogenized, right?
Hoyos: It’s really wild. I love thinking about that stuff. I do it all the time.
So, was there a technology embargo while you were filming. I mean given that it’s in the ‘80s no one’s going to have pocket phones and modern watches and stuff.
Hoyos: Exactly. Now it was that it was something that the wardrobe people definitely were on “that phone in your packet? Get that out!!!” And also where we were filming… the locations were like kind of sparsely accessible. There’s no connection. There’s no internet connection or service. And, so, yeah, it’s usually when I’m on set I won’t bring my phone on set anyway just to focus. But it was nice. It was cool to like step back in the ‘80s. We didn’t have phones back then man. Not the kind that would fit in your pocket anyway.
So you did a cliff diving scene as well. Was that a legitimate dive or did you jump into a safety bag?
Hoyos: Yeah, yeah, yeah it was the latter. You should have seen the cliff that was filmed on. That was like not a survivable dive at all. No chance. But what we did is we took two storage containers like shipping crates that you’d see on a cargo ship. And we stack them on top of each other and harnessed me up, and we had a big green screen like an L-shape where we were shooting, and they just shot me jumping off this thing ten times. It was like really really fun. That’s good.
Yeah. And you have to do it a bunch times too. Adrenaline rush!
Here’s a nice clip of Hoyos from a few years ago on Toronto’s CP24 news channel discussing a youth homelessness event taking place at a local school.
Were you provided with a backstory for Tripp or is that something you sort of put together in your head?
Hoyos: Yeah. They give you a little bit like I was saying earlier, you know, they touch on him being the more earnest of this group of bullies. And he’s just a good-hearted kid. But yeah there’s a lot of blanks that (in any role) you’re gonna have to fill in to make the character more well-rounded. But he’s a pretty straightforward guy. I feel like I can relate to him and in some ways that it was easy to kind of step into that.
Can you talk a little bit about Travis Knight? What was like to work with him? How he was on the set?
Hoyos: From that first audition that we did he made me feel so comfortable. Like I said, as I was running out of that audition and, like, sprinting down the street and jumping around, which is not something I do. Usually, at auditions, there’s something awkward about it, or you wish you did something differently. Just from that day and every day on set, he really not only did a great job of making us all feel comfortable, but also communicating with incredible efficiency. Like I could really understand what he was going for. He had a clear vision in mind. He just had that comfortability to know what’s going on and know that there’s this very good communication going on which made for a really nice time on set. He’s great, he’really great.
So can you tell me how a young boy from Alliston, Ontario wound up pursuing an acting career? You got into it pretty young.
Hoyos: Pretty young, yeah. Um, yeah, it’s weird. None of my parents are actors or anything. I don’t know. I think when I was a kid I loved role-playing a lot. Like I loved pretending to be Spider-Man, you know, saving Manhattan from the Green Goblin. You know, that was kind of the genesis of this passion of mine. And eventually, I don’t even know like how this figured in my head, but like at some point I was just like “oh yeah I want to be in movies. Bring me to do that mom and dad.”
And for years I would say that. Because, you know, you’re a kid you say everything, and your folks think “ok yeah sure you’ll forget about it in a week.” But a couple of years went by I kept pushing them like I wanted to do this. And I’m really lucky to have two really supportive parents that really just 100 percent are behind me on this. There was never that whole “oh you should get a real job. This is never gonna happen” kind of thing. They really just believed in me from the beginning, and I owe all my success to that. They instilled a confidence to do this that I’m really lucky for and appreciate.
Check out this Bumblebee “Angry Fight Scene” where his eyes turn red.
Did you have a secret plan B? Like chemistry? Fine artist?
Hoyos: Not really. I remember in high school everybody telling me to get a plan B and I was just so like annoyed at it like I was like “No. This is the plan.” But as the years have gone by, what I realize now is as an actor you’re gonna be unemployed most of the time. That’s just the nature of it, starting out certainly. Moving to a new city, certainly it takes a little bit of time to get some momentum going and what I’ve learned is like you’ve got to fill that time. As an artist, I feel like you gotta spend that time doing art. And acting is great because I feel like everybody acts every day.
You know, we all are communicating and having conversations. Movies are just conversations. Shows are just conversations. So we all kind of naturally practice acting every day. And I felt that like I needed to find something else to supplement this creative drive because acting is great and you get to do some incredible stuff that I just really love doing. But it’s not yours. The character is not really yours even. You’re playing them. But that was written by someone else with an entirely different idea in mind. So, I think what I found is important for me over the last couple of years is supplementing my acting life where I don’t have the control to tell my story.
And I’ve supplemented that with my music now. And that has become a huge part of my life and has taught me a lot about acting like just the creative process is really just the same across the board. I think. So what I found is it’s not so much a plan B as it’s like a plan A first, and how like this is going towards synergizing my acting career. And anything to support that is what I want to do. That’s my truth. And yeah some people would tell me plan B growing up, I really deflected. This is my thing. I’ll make it happen and if I’ve got to bring in a plan B to supplement it, then yes. But I think when you give yourself a plan B like I’m going to do this instead of this, then it’s kind of you just giving up on the thing.
Being a Canadian down in L.A., is there a stereotype that you find is expected of you when you announce that you are indeed Canadian?
Hoyos: Yeah. Oh for sure, but it’s like a great stereotype. It’s just that we’re very nice and polite. I just get that a lot. It’s like “Oh damn you are being nice to me. You are looking at me in the eye and genuinely interested in what I’m talking about.” Um, but yeah, I feel proud to be a Canadian abroad.