‘Transformers’: What did it do for D.C.?


Pyrotechnics on Pennsylvania Avenue for the filming of “Transformers” last October. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

Eight months after Michael Bay blew up the National Mall, and Shia LaBeouf doused a paparazzo with coffee in Dupont Circle, we finally have a chance to assess: What was that all about?

Well, jobs. And money. And making our city look good.

So promised Mayor Vince Gray at a Thursday-afternoon screening in Chinatown of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” for a select group of teens from the Summer Youth Employment Program.

“Anybody ever watch the credits?” the mayor asked. So many names, so many jobs. “What does the ‘best boy’ do? I have no idea what a ‘grip’ does,” he said. But, “that may be a job you want to have.”

Movies are one of the things we’re still making in this country, and every U.S. city would like a piece of that industry. The D.C. Film Office asserts that in the one week the killer-robots-from-outer-space movie spent filming here last October, it gave temporary jobs to 180 locals (as production assistants, extras, etc.) and spread about $2.5 million around town, including hotel stays and restaurant tabs.


Optimus Prime — the lead Autobot, if you didn’t know — hauls up in front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Melissa Moseley)

But enough about money. How does “Transformers” make D.C. look?

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize the place you see in the movie, reports our colleague Aaron Leitko. LaBeouf’s character lives in an expansive loft apartment — chandeliers, exposed-brick walls, freight elevator — that looks more like Fantasy Manhattan than the downtown D.C. it purports to be. (One little stab at D.C. indie-music cred: the Thievery Corporation and Jawbox posters on his walls.) The city glimpses are fleeting: Shia drives across Memorial Bridge. Robots rumble over by the Convention Center and then at the Lincoln Memorial, where Megatron shoots Abe Lincoln in the face — computer-generated, we’re assured.

Oh, and that spectacular night of pyrotechnics that director Bay shot at the Mall last fall? All for a mere two seconds in the finished film.

Read also: ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ reviewed, 6/28/11

Paparazzi take root in Washington, 4/24/11

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