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This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Grimlock and Optimus Prime in ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.’ (AP)
Bay reboots ‘Transformers’ Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’ this summer

NEW YORK, April 23, (Agencies): Summer is the season of Michael Bay. As much as anyone else, Bay — in movies like “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers” — has shaped what the summer movie is: its quick-cutting bombast, its visual-effects flourish, its capacity for mass destruction. This summer, he’ll release “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (June 27), the fourth film in the franchise, with a revamped cast led by Mark Wahlberg. The 49-year-old Bay, who also produces “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Aug 8) later in the season, is well acquainted with the scale of the modern blockbuster. “I’ve been doing these movies a long time,” said Bay in a recent break from the editing suite. “When all is said and done maybe 3,500 people will have worked on this movie. It’s one day at a time. You can’t panic. My pep talk to everyone is: This is when the pro (expletive) starts and separates the men from the boys.”

“Age of Extinction” subs out the sometimes combative Shia LaBeouf with an older, more established action star in Wahlberg. It’s planned as the first of a redesigned “Transformers” trilogy. Bay and Wahlberg first connected on last year’s comic crime caper “Pain & Gain,” a relatively low-budget project for Bay and one of his most critically acclaimed films. Wahlberg has already vowed that “Age of Extinction” will be the biggest movie of the year. While optimistic, it’s not out of the question. The last “Transformers” film, 2011’s “Dark of the Moon,” made more than $1.1 billion worldwide. “It feels fresher with the cast,” says Bay. “It’s like when you get the new ‘Batman’ franchises, things get dressed up in a different way. I think the franchise still has a lot more to offer.” The Paramount Pictures release will also have a leg up on the box office in China. “Age of Extinction” is a co-production with two Chinese film companies. A month of shooting took place there, and several Chinese actors were cast through a televised reality show talent search. Such is the global natural of the big-budget summer movie, a sprawling operation that takes a unique acuity to assemble.
“I don’t write notes,” says Bay. “I put the movie in my head.”

After Chris Pratt tweeted a shirtless photo of himself to flaunt the shape he had gotten into for “Zero Dark Thirty,” he received, he says, a “giant ball of criticism” from his friends. It also helped land him the lead in one of the summer’s biggest movies. When Marvel executives Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito sat Pratt down to discuss starring in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” they pulled out the photo (it had gone viral) and asked: “How long would it take you to get into this shape?” The photo had changed how both Pratt’s fans and Hollywood executives saw the actor best known as the lovably goofy Andy Dwyer on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Pratt says his buff physique is “essentially a costume that I worked really hard to put on.”

“No one has head shots and resumes anymore. They just Google you,” he said in a recent interview. “If you Google me, it would be a fat, sweaty, albeit hilarious picture of me. It was not what I wanted people to be seeing if I was going to be in contention for these roles.” In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which Disney will release Aug 1, Pratt stars as a cocksure space adventurer who unwittingly becomes the target of an intergalactic manhunt. For Marvel, it’s a lesser-known comic-book property with a more comic, off-kilter story. (Bradley Cooper voices a digitally rendered raccoon.)

Following supporting turns in “Moneyball” and “Her,” it’s a significant bump into big-budget stardom for Pratt. He’s currently in Hawaii shooting another potential blockbuster, “Jurassic World.” It’s directed by Colin Trevorrow, who made “Safety Not Guaranteed” with Pratt’s TV wife, Aubrey Plaza. “This is definitely uncharted territory for me,” says Pratt. “It does feel like I’m starting another chapter.” Pratt also voiced the lead in the hit animated film “The Lego Movie” earlier this year. With a “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt — often penniless on “Parks” — may surpass $1 billion at the box office in 2014. “That’s pretty cool,” he says, contemplating the possibility. “Yeah, that will be a good year. I feel like I’ve just been invited along for the ride.”

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is nearing a deal to play Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s passion project “Blonde,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap. Representatives for Chastain and Worldview Entertainment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.First announced in 2010, “Blonde” is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 700-page novel of the same name, which reimagines the inner, poetic and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker - the child, the woman and the fated-celebrity better known by her studio name of Marilyn Monroe. Oates drew on biographical and historical sources to paint an intimate portrait of Marilyn that reveals a fragile, gifted young woman who repeatedly remade her identity to overcome the odds and define stardom in the 1950s. In 2001, Oates’ imagined memoir was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and the prolific author believes it may be the book for which she will be best remembered. Dominik adapted “Blonde” on spec and his agency, CAA, will represent the film’s domestic distribution rights. Worldview Entertainment optioned the long-gestating project in May 2013, and will produce the film with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner’s company Plan B - which according to the LA Times, boarded the project in June 2012.

Not only does Pitt have strong ties to Dominik, after starring in the director’s “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” and his most recent film, “Killing Them Softly,” but he’s also close with Chastain. The actors shared the screen in “The Tree of Life,” and an individual familiar with “Blonde” told TheWrap that Pitt was instrumental in convincing her to tackle the challenging role of Marilyn Monroe, which comes loaded with expectations. While Michelle Williams recently played Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn,” Chastain’s portrayal is expected to be much different, as “Blonde” will take an unconventional approach to examining the Hollywood starlet’s life and career.

“It’s a really sprawling, emotional nightmare fairy-tale type movie... about an abandoned orphan who gets lost in the woods,” Dominik told The Playlist at Cannes in 2012. Naomi Watts had previously been attached to star but she hasn’t been involved with “Blonde” for some time. Chastain’s involvement has been rumored for some time, as Dominik let it slip that she was his choice to star in “Blonde” back in February at a revival screening of “Jesse James.” While scheduling is still being worked out with another Chastain movie, “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Dominik also revealed that production is expected to start in August.

“Blonde” was previously adapted in 2001 as a TV miniseries starring Poppy Montgomery. Chastain, who is coming off the box office hit “Mama” and an Oscar nomination for “Zero Dark Thirty,” has three major movies on the horizon, as well as the indies “Eleanor Rigby” and “Miss Julie” with James McAvoy and Colin Farrell, respectively. She also stars alongside Matthew McConaughey in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” plays Oscar Isaac’s wife in J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” and is preparing to wrap Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror movie, “Crimson Peak.” A natural redhead, Chastain dyed her hair blonde for “The Help” and walked away with an Oscar nomination. She’s repped by CAA, Mosaic and Hansen, Jacobson.

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