You might think casting Bumblebee's voice in Transformers: The Last Knight involved an extensive search for an well-recognized actor who embodied both the character's youthful spirit and age-old wisdom. You know, maybe a Jon Hamm or Zach Braff.
After all, hearing Bumblebee speak with his real voice, rather than the amalgamation of radio signals he was forced to use because of a battle injury, is a pretty big deal for #Transformers fans. For the franchise, now more than 10 years old, it's a huge reveal. And any huge reveal calls for fireworks, champagne and a bold headline, right? Brad Pitt is the voice of Bumblebee! Or some such thing.
Except, not this time. Contrary to the franchise's signature bombast — flying shrapnel, exploding Decepticons and melodramatic Autobots — Bumblebee's voice casting was pretty low-key and kinda out of nowhere. It even caught the film's creative team by surprise, which is incredibly refreshing.
Finding Bumblebee's Voice
Once producers decided it was time for audiences to hear Bumblebee speak in his natural voice, the creative team was handed a Herculean task. They knew the Autobot would sound young, buoyant and badass, but he couldn't be too much of a teenager. After all, Bumblebee is battle tested and world weary. He's also hundreds of years old.
While that left a lot of room for creative debate, everyone was in agreement on one point: He couldn't sound anything like Optimus Prime. Executive producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura revealed to MTV News:
"You really want to match the love you have for the character and also be very distinguishable from Optimus. He's a little out of control, but he's really warm and emotional, so trying to find that voice was not simple. We went through a lot of ideas.”
So where did the Transformers' creative team discover the actor who is now and forever the voice of Bumblebee? Turns out, much like the Transformers, he was hiding among the production crew all along.
The Bumblebee Actor Is More Than Meets The Eye
Prior to casting, sound designer Erik Aadahl recorded Bumblebee's dialogue so the post-production crew could get to work, a practice common in the industry. When the team heard Aadahl's voice, they stopped in their tracks. Quite unexpectedly, they found their Bumblebee.
Perhaps it was the touch of Scandinavian in his voice or his Northern California cadence that made Aadahl's performance both compassionate and resilient. Whatever it was, Aadahl won the part — even if he wasn't auditioning for it. Director Michael Bay revealed:
“The task was daunting, like, how are you going to find that voice? And then he just voiced it. We played it back, tweaked it out a bit, and it just worked.”
Aadahl's only previous voice work was on Godzilla, and it went uncredited. His sound design resume, however, is a fanboy's dream. It includes film franchises like Kung Fu Panda, G.I. Joe, World War Z and Terminator.
As for now, Aadahal won't reprise his role in the #Bumblebee spin-off movie. That film is set in the 1980s, prior to the Autobots recovering his voice.
What line would you like to hear Bumblebee say in Transformers: The Last Knight?