Here's a new concept: A philosophical Michael Bay film. ''Last February, I got a call from [Steven] Spielberg saying, 'There's a script that's going to town tomorrow. I want to buy it for you. You gotta read it tonight,''' recalls Bay, who was instantly drawn to the futuristic (and moralistic) story of two human clones (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson) who get wise to their place in the world order, get all Logan's Run, and start running. But for Bay, signing with the DreamWorks chief to do The Island meant directing his first feature without his longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer. ''Steven was funny,'' the director says. ''He goes, 'I just hope this doesn't upset Jerry, but I'd like to be the new Jerry.''' (What's next from the Oscar-winning director of Schindler's List?...Criminal Medical Examiner Unit: Houston?)
Though the drama features its fair share of action sequences, Bay isn't aiming for the purely escapist experience people may expect from the director of Armageddon and Bad Boys II. ''I want people to think, 'If you could, would you have a clone?''' he says. ''We all want to extend our lives. How far would you go?'' That quandary is personified by Sean Bean, who plays the scientist overseeing the colony of clones, or agnates. ''He's a very intelligent, driven man who passionately believes that what he's doing is morally right,'' says Bean of his alter ego. ''Unfortunately, I have to take a few shortcuts, and we have to get rid of some of the population of agnates because they're asking questions.''
For McGregor, his first Michael Bay experience meant a new kind of pain. Asked which of his body parts hurt the most during shooting, he responds, ''My testicles. There was a flying jet-bike rig, and every day we filmed on it. I thank my lucky stars I already have two children.''