Along Olson Rd, bordering the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, a scorching hot Indian summer sun baked fans lined up along the split-rail fencing, hoping for a peek at anything related to the film being shot there. That film is the fourth installment of the Transformers franchise, titled Age of Extinction.
Nick Kallas of the Illinois Railway Museum explained how Union became a movie site. “The Illinois Film Office solicits all the companies who film in Illinois. If any of those have a script that involves trains, they'll usually recommend us. They get tax incentives to film in Illinois.” Tony Fredrickson of the UFPD, on site with other Union and Chicago fire personnel stated, “The production company found out pyro-technics were allowed and the Union Fire Dept. was notified 3 days before the event… The special effects company was very good at educating our fire fighters on what to expect, and providing suggestions on dealing with it.”
From the road, onlookers could see the enormous Paramount base camp: a mobile city of trucks, trailers, equipment and tents set up in the museum’s lot. Kallas described a memorable moment. “They had two helicopters here, one with the camera and the other being photographed, painted like State Police. This was a closed set. The location guy noticed… all these people and thirty-forty cars parked along the road who couldn't see the filming further in the museum itself. The locations coordinator had one of the helicopters give the people a show. That was nice of them to do that.”
Fredrickson shared a fun moment. “The special effects guys asked me to press the button for a test idea they had... I can't say what it was for, but I know it involved a beer truck… it was pretty cool to blow something up.” That explosion occurred in the field visible to the roadside, to the delight of fans.
Describing base camp operations, Kallas stated, “The camp was up one day, they shot the next day. By that second night, the dressing and makeup rooms, trailers and catering guys left for the next location. The rest of it was gone by the third day. They shot on two separate Fridays (Sept 6 & Sept 13). The third day was about restoring the property to what it was before they came.”
Famous folks in town: Michael Bay filmed scenes with Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor and other actors in a cornfield on Coral Road and a car chase on McCue Road and at the museum, sometimes splitting up with assistants to shoot simultaneously. Fredrickson stated, “Michael Bay is an intense person. The actors were great, but they did keep to themselves.” Kallas shared, “I talked with Michael Bay several times regarding filming and a couple of the refreshment stand ladies got their pictures taken with Mark Walberg. He’s a very nice guy. The production crew enjoyed the town of Union; many of them thought Clasen's was a unique tavern, and they all enjoyed the food and atmosphere of Checkers.”
The movie introduces new Transformer vehicles, many of which were on set in Union. The Marengo-Union Times obtained exclusive images of some of these new Autobots and Decepticons. Among the car line-up: Bumblebee, an Autobot who takes the form of a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS and later a 2014 Chevrolet concept Camaro designed especially for this movie. It was filmed in several scenes around Union. Crosshairs, an Autobot who transforms into a green 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray and Drift, an Autobot who transforms into a black and blue 2013 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse were both at the museum along with a red and black 2013 Pagani Huayra, and gray 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Coupe. Other vehicles on the property: Two identical 2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS vehicles portraying the car driven by Reynor’s racing driver character Shane, and two vehicles referred to as Rally Fighters. These dark allterrain vehicles portray two Decepticons in the movie, which were filmed chasing Bumblebee on McCue Road. They’ve been spotted being transported on Texas highways but never photographed by the public while parked until now.
Eight other movies have been filmed in Union including Babe, League of their Own, The Express, and Groundhog Day. Kallas stated that arrangements are being made to film an episode for the TV show, Chicago Fire, within the next few weeks. Transformers: Age of Extinction is due to be released in June, 2014.