Paramount are playing hardball with Michael Bay over the modest thriller he wants to make as his next film.

Vulture says the director of the Transformers series, who has made over a billion dollars for Paramount with three highly successful films, is now being told by the studio that the only way he can make his $20 million budgeted ‘Fargo-esque’ thriller Pain and Gain next year is if he makes Transformers 4 straight after.

For months now Bay has told press that he is hoping to setup the long-gestating thriller, about a real-life extortion ring and kidnapping plot formed by two dumb-witted Florida bodybuilders that goes belly up, as his next film. It is based on a three-part NY Times story and Bay has wanted to make the film for over a decade.

He has stated he wants to do something small and less ambitious than a Hollywood blockbuster and just this week we heard that he he wants Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Mark Wahlberg to star with filming to begin in the spring. But if it’s going to get made at Paramount, it sounds like there will be some strings attached.

The whole situation is a little ridiculous. Paramount want to keep Michael Bay in their family and Bay (whether he admits it or not) wants to make Transformers 4 in the near future and isn’t done with the series yet. So the whole studio ultimatum/Bay angling for more money to make Transformers 4 (which isn’t stated but is likely) act is so blatantly obvious as to what it is that it’s funny. Both sides clearly want the deal to happen and they are both flexing their muscles to see the best deal they can get out of it.

A decision seems to be coming next week. My guess? Bay is announced as director of both Pain and Gain (which all being well will shoot in the spring) and Transformers 4 (which will shoot winter 2012/early 2013) and the world is right again.

Meanwhile a few story details regarding Transformers 4 has emerged. With Shia LaBeouf recently ruling out a return, the idea for the next film is to “delve deeper into Transformers canon to mine older characters and lore” and with the idea to bring back Sentinel Prime, which, although I’m not a fan of the series, is always the best way to handle continuity. These franchises should always be about moving forward and not about remaking or prequelizing.

Rumours recently said Transformers 4 and 5 would be shot back-to-back (no word on that yet) and that action hero Jason Statham, who is romantically linked with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the new lead.

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This article was first posted on December 7, 2011