Josh Duhamel Talks ‘Transformers: the Last Knight,’ What It’s Like to Act in ‘Call of Duty: WWII,’ and Why He Can’t Stop Watching Baseball

Josh Duhamel
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

Josh Duhamel has had a busy year.

After taking a movie off from the Transformers franchise, the North Dakota native is back on the big screen in Transformers: The Last Knight, in which his character, William Lennox, will face off against a rogue Optimus Prime—plus the usual cinematic chaos—alongside Mark Wahlberg.

And while Duhamel has had plenty of experience in both movies and TV—he’s set to play a detective in Unsolved, a true-crime series based on the murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., next year—he’s also branching out into mega-franchise video games with an acting role in the new Call of Duty: WWII. It’s Saving Private Ryan merged with a blockbuster first-person shooter—and Duhamel says his character is “one of the best I’ve ever played.”

In a conversation with Men’s Fitness, Duhamel talked about having a fanboy moment with Anthony Hopkins; his mind-blowing, motion-capture experience on Call of Duty: WWII; and why he’s not apologizing for his MLB All-Star ballot picks.

Men’s Fitness: You’ve been a big part of the Transformers franchise, and you’re back for The Last Knight. Was there anything different this time around?

Josh Duhamel: The scenes get bigger and better every time. They really do. It just amazes me every time I’m out there—even on scenes that I think are going to be simple. Say what you want about Michael Bay, but the dude has such an amazing eye for cinematic scope.

Having done the first three, I arrived on set thinking, “OK, now how is this going to be better or different than what we did before?” But now we’re getting to see how the Transformers have impacted human history, and how long they’ve really been around. Plus, I got to see places around the world that I’d never get to see otherwise—Stonehenge, castles in Northern England, Detroit. Detroit is amazing.

Was there a scene in particular that really stood out to you when you were shooting it?

We must have spent a month on this giant machine called the Gimbal. It’s two big hydraulic lifts on a giant stage that lifts at a 45° angle, plus these giant 10,000-gallon drums that would splash water onto it. We had an idea of what it was about, but now we know it’s a giant alien ship coming out of the ocean.

It’s fascinating to be part of those movies. You really feel like a tiny cog in a giant machine. The equipment [Bay] gets to use—helicopters, explosions, giant cranes, drones—I was just blown away.

That’s always exciting to see, and even though you’re tired after having worked four months straight and everybody’s sort of dragging, as soon as Michael steps on set the energy of the set just raises. Everybody’s on their A-game. I really admire that about him. He’s got this ability to just keep people going, on their A-game every day. That, to me, was what I loved most about these movies, was just watching that and being a part of it.

Speaking of heavy artillery, what’s it like to work with Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins?

I didn’t get to work with Anthony on this movie—our storylines don’t really intersect—but I did get a great photo of him and me at Stonehenge. I mean, how many times do you get to take a picture with Anthony Hopkins at Stonehenge? I don’t usually like to ask people for photos, but I was like, “I gotta do this.”

Mark’s a lot of fun to work with. He’s just a regular dude. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever met. There’s a reason why he is who he is. I don’t know how he does it, to be honest. He’s got so much stuff going on, and to show up and be focused and give every day what he gives is pretty great. We got to play some golf, and we got to hang out a little bit. At the end of the day, he’s just a regular dude.

Going from one high-tech shooting experience to another: How did you get acclimated to your motion-capture work on the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII?

I had no idea what I was getting into, aside from how massive Call of Duty was. But after I met the guys from Sledgehammer Games, I was amazed by the attention to detail they put into the history and storytelling.

The motion-capture work, or mo-cap, was completely different from any other kind of work I’ve done as an actor before. You’re on this big stage surrounded by big trestles with hundreds of cameras. You’ve got a helmet on, and you’ve got a tight suit on with little reflector balls, and you just have to sort of imagine yourself in a soldier’s uniform. You just see boxes built up, but in the game it’s gonna be a Jeep or it’s gonna be a bunker, or it’s gonna be a tent or a tank.

It’s liberating in a lot of ways. You can pretend you’re loading your rifle, and they can make it happen in the game. You really do have to use your imagination, and it almost feels like theater, because you have one take.

This character that I get to play in it is one of the best characters I’ve ever played. Who knew? I thought I was just getting into a video game so I could just tell my friends to go play Call of Duty.

Switching topics: You’re a sports guy, right? I remember reading that you played football in college.

I played football. I played basketball. I played everything growing up. I guess it’s what kept me out of trouble. I even played baseball, although my mom made me quit baseball when I was about 14, ‘cause she wanted me to go get a job. It’s one of my regrets. I wish I could have played, because I was pretty good at it. But, I had to get a job, so whatever.

Which probably explains why you’re so into baseball.

I love baseball. And now I get a chance to go be a part of it—like the All-Star Game. I actually get to be the first-ever Esurance Ballot Ambassador for the All-Star Game. I get to go to [MLB All-Star] FanFest down in Miami. And I’m just as excited as everyone else out there.

Did you fill out your All-Star ballot yet?

I’ll be honest: I follow the Dodgers and the Twins. I went online and picked a couple of guys, and let’s just say other people would probably disagree they deserve the vote. But you know what? That’s what so great about this: Fans get to decide who’s in this game. You get to vote five times a day, up to 35 times. I’m a fan, and I get to vote for who I want to.

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