EXCLUSIVE: BUMBLEBEE Writer Christina Hodson Talks The Film's Ending, Continuity, Sequel, Megatron, & More

I recently got an exclusive opportunity to sit down with Bumblebee screenwriter Christina Hodson. Come check out our full conversation now where we cover the film's ending, sequel, and a whole lot more!

Ahead of the eagerly-awaited debut of Bumblebee earlier this month, I was granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down and chat with screenwriter Christina Hodson and chat about her first big-budget blockbuster, which has received rave reviews all across the board from critics and fans alike.

As the film nears $100 million worldwide, a number it should easily top this coming weekend, I'm sharing my full-length interview with the absolutely delightful Christina Hodson where we cover a wide range of topics - some of which you may have already seen - including, but not limited to, the development of Charlie's (Hailee Steinfeld) character, her immense joy at finally being able to unleash B-127, the development of Agent Burns (John Cena), the film's intriguing ending, its place in the grander Transformers continuity, Megatron's whereabouts, sequel talks, and a whole lot more.

We also explore the importance of representation in blockbuster films, her wild journey from development executive to screenwriter and briefly touch base on a few of her upcoming projects, including Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) and Batgirl.

ROHAN PATEL (CBM): Before I saw Bumblebee, I read about how you’re a very big Terminator 2 fan, which is one of my favorite films as well, and while you’ve said before that your film is essentially a love letter to the Amblin films of the ‘80s, E.T., etc., I also felt like there were maybe some subtle parallels to T2 too with Charlie and Bee sharing a similar dynamic to John Connor & the T-800. Was that intentional?

CHRISTINA HODSON: I love to hear that! That was not intentional, but I bloody love it cause Terminator 2 is always on my mind.

ROHAN: It also felt like there was maybe a little bit of Sarah Connor in Charlie Watson as well since both are young female characters that are forced to deal with tragedy and grow up quicker than they anticipated…

CHRISTINA: I would like to think all female characters have a little bit of Sarah Connor in them. It never hurts. I would like to have a little bit of Sarah Connor in me.

ROHAN: When developing the character of Charlie, did you draw inspiration from Sarah Connor or did your inspiration come from elsewhere? 

: Actually, Charlie was inspired by my two nieces. My niece Jeanie, who is in London, who was very young at the time - probably only three or four - and I was watching her grow up and I was watching this very interesting thing where she didn’t fit in a box. She wasn’t a girly-girl, she wasn’t a tomboy. She was kind of nerdy, but also kind of art-y. She was all of these different things. She was very nuanced.

I think for a long time, in movies, particularly in teen movies, the girls have always been either one thing or another. They haven’t had the opportunity to be outside of their boxes and so, watching Jeanie grow up and watching her even pick out the toys she used to play with was kind of all of the inspiration for Charlie - wanting to create a character that wasn’t just one thing. Who was kind of this nuanced, interesting mixture of different things.

Then, my other niece Sylvie, who is in America, lost her mom, unfortunately to brain cancer and her bond with her dad was the inspiration for Charlie’s relationship with her father. They both bond over racing cars and she very much embraces his interests and I love that really strong bond between Charlie and her father, which I think informs a lot of the movie and where she is when she meets Bumblebee. So, yeah, weirdly personal thing that turned into a very big movie.

ROHAN: Had you envisioned Hailee or someone like her playing Charlie when you were first conceiving the part? Or was that something that happened later?

CHRISTINA: I actually don’t really think about casting when I’m writing characters. I try to put that out of mind and not focus on who the actor might be just because I think sometimes that can be used as a crutch. You don’t develop the character as fully if you already know who it is. So, I just like my characters to be born out of nothing and see what happens and see what people read into it. 

Travis always sort of had Hailee in mind when he read the script, which is awesome cause then we got her. I actually watched Edge of Seventeen after she was cast and was just so excited because she’s amazing in that film. She’s an Academy Award-nominee, she can do anything.

ROHAN: When writing Charlie or any character, do you ever think of it as an extension of yourself at all? Or do you try to separate the creator from the creation?

CHRISTINA: I mean, certainly. I was a huge Smiths fan when I was 18, that was when I discovered The Smiths. I used to do a lot of drumming with my toothbrush and any objects that I had. So, yeah, there are definitely pieces of Charlie that are me, which is exciting because people seem to like her.

ROHAN: Charlie’s a very talented diver in the movie. Did you have experience diving or was that something just for her?

CHRISTINA: No, I knew I wanted her to have the confidence of an athlete in some way and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I knew I wanted it to be something solitary and since it was set in a small town, that sort of led me toward diving. But, no, I am no good at diving at all. *laughs* I’d be pretty terrible at that, I’m bad at heights.

ROHAN: In the previous movies, we got to hear a whole lot about how much of a badass Bumblebee used to be on Cybertron, but we rarely got to see it. I mean, yeah, we did get to see him kick ass in big action scenes, but I’d say this was the first time we truly saw him unleashed in his element, especially during the first five minutes, and we finally got to see why he was Optimus' number two lieutenant.

Was there anything you wanted to do with Bumblebee as a character in this movie that had never been done before?

: The main thing I wanted to do was really just give him a whole movie. *laughs* I love him so much as a character and we’ve seen really great little moments from him in the other movies, but he’s never had the luxury of having the canvas of a whole movie.

I just want to spend time with him. I love the first five minutes of the movie. Travis did such an amazing job of creating Cybertron and that whole scene - and I like that in the first scene with Burns, in the woods, on Earth, we do see Bumblebee being kind of much tougher than we’ve seen him. He is the war machine in many ways, on the run from soldiers.

And, then to see him become the Bumblebee that we know and love, it was a fantastically fun opportunity, as a writer, to get to see all these different sides of him. We see him initially on Earth, then broken, and then Charlie’s kind of healed him. It was almost like three different versions of one character that I got to play with in one movie.

ROHAN: Looking back at Bumblebee's arrival on Earth, that's also where we first meet John Cena's Agent Burns and he gets quite the introduction to the fan-favorite Autobot.

I think John's a very underrated comic actor and I thought this was another prime example, after Blockers, where he really got to flex some of his comedy chops. He's fantastic in the movie and his comic timing is impeccable. I absolutely loved his Decepticon joke.

CHRISTINA: He’s so funny.

ROHAN: Was his character always written as sort of a tough guy with a lighter side or is that something that developed naturally once Cena was cast? Did you ever want him to be more straight-laced? 

CHRISTINA: I would say it developed pretty naturally. He was never super straight-laced. We always generally wanted that humor in this movie and I think there’s almost two kinds of turns in this movie - there’s the very personal, character-driven emotional stuff with Charlie and Bee and then there’s some of the very big and fun action stuff with Decepticons - so humor became the bridge between those two different things.

Both areas, certainly with Dropkick & Shatter, there’s a whole bunch of humor. I think for Agent Burns to have that as well was great and Cena - you’re right, his timing is awesome. He’s so funny and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is awesome. I think it was really fun to see that and to have that arc for him as well.

ROHAN: At the end of the movie, we see Optimus Prime back on Earth and see more Autobots incoming. My first thought was that it was a flash-forward to 2007, to the first movie, but then we cut to a scene where Charlie is driving in her dad’s car, which means we’re still in the ‘80s.

So, does Bumblebee actually tie into the future movie timeline or are we starting with a fresh slate?

: *laughs* That is definitely above my pay grade. I’ll let the studios and the producers answer that because honestly for me, it was just about focusing on this one movie and not worrying about any of the other pieces. I love this universe and would gladly play in it forever. That’s really up to the studios and the producers - and the audience of course. We have to make sure people go and see the movie.

ROHAN: Yeah, I’d imagine it’s a lot more freeing to have a blank slate to work with and not worry about what came before.

CHRISTINA: Exactly, yeah, that was the fun of doing an origin story and setting it in the ‘80s.

ROHAN: In the film, we only meet three Decepticon main characters. If the film falls in the original continuity, there’s also another one on Earth that almost no one is aware of: Megatron. In the original continuity, by the ‘80s, he would’ve been frozen for nearly a century.

Did you ever intend on mentioning what happened to Megatron? Or revealing where he was? Was he ever apart of your script, even in a cameo capacity?

CHRISTINA: I do have an answer… but I don’t know if I’m allowed to give it. *laughs* So, I’m unfortunately going to say: No comment.

It’s fun that Megatron’s not in this movie, just because I think Optimus and Megatron are such massive, beloved characters, who we’ve seen so much of in the first five movies that it was fun to just focus on these characters.

ROHAN: I think I was 15 when the first Transformers came out in 2007 and I was basically the target demo for that movie and I mean I had a blast with it, of course, but after watching Bumblebee, I was just reflecting on how this film would've probably been a much better film to see at that age.

It felt a lot more authentic, a lot more real and has a strong and important message.

CHRISTINA: I appreciate that.

ROHAN: I think it's a lot more compelling to see characters like Charlie and Memo on the big screen. I felt like these are the kinds of people most of us were in high school versus the stereotypical hero/heroine.

: Yeah, that’s how I felt about Charlie. I’m very pleased to hear you say that. I just wanted to see girls like me and the girls that I knew on-screen, a version of those characters.

By the way, not just girls, like people we’re all - The benefit of this movie is really just being about Charlie and Bumblebee is that we give both of them room to have their own arcs and to be really fleshed out and to be fully three-dimensional characters. I’m very pleased to hear you say that.


ROHAN: The movie has such a timely and important message for young adults as well. For example, just at the end, you could feel that almost everyone in the audience wanted to see Charlie and Memo get together - or at least kiss - before the credits rolled and then you sort of realize that they’re just not there yet.

CHRISTINA: That’s not what life is like.

ROHAN: Yeah, exactly. They’re just growing up and still have a lot to figure out. Felt like I could’ve used a lesson like that when I was that age.

CHRISTINA: *laughs* I think we all could’ve.

ROHAN: If you return to write the second one, granted there is a second one, do you already know where you’d want to go with it? Have you already begun brainstorming with Travis and pitching ideas? Characters you’d want to introduce, and I’m assuming we’d see Charlie again.

CHRISTINA: I know where I’d want to go with it, but we gotta see if people want me to go there. *laughs* If you get a chance, ask the producers or the studio, ask them. Tell them my phone number and where to find me.

ROHAN: We’re both of Asian descent - you’re half-Taiwanese and I’m Indian. I think we’re starting to see a lot more representation versus just diversity in films…

CHRISTINA: Working on it!

ROHAN: I’ve noticed that you also gravitate toward a lot of the same movies I like - sci-fi, action, adventure, etc. - and I know we’re starting to see more popular films like Crazy Rich Asians, Slumdog Millionaire, etc. hit theaters, which all sort of tell the story of our respective cultures from a more western point-of-view.

But, I think you’d agree, that we’d much rather see ourselves in big budget action movies like a Terminator 2 or a Mission: Impossible, a film like Bumblebee. Could you talk about writing
for these sorts of films?

: Yeah, that’s very much how I feel. I’m super proud of those movies, but I also just want a movie where, like I just want Constance Wu be the lead in just a normal rom-com that’s not about being Asian, where it’s just normal that she’s in there. And the same way, with like any of these movies, it’s not all about that, it’s just normal.

I want a normalize the idea that a hero isn’t just a 35-year-old white guy with a good jaw. It can be all sorts of different people. And hopefully, soon, that’s what we’re working toward is like making that be their normal. There’s no one thing. It can be a woman, it can be a man, it can be young, it can be old, it can be different shapes, sizes, and colors. That’s kind of the exciting goal that we’re all hopefully heading toward.

As a half-Asian kid growing up, I was always like ‘where are 
the me’s’ *laughs* Like why don’t we ever get to see any of us onscreen.

ROHAN: Yeah, I know what you mean. Temple of Doom wasn't great for me personally as a kid. *laughs*

CHRISTINA: Oh God, tell me about it. Between the kid who played Data in The Goonies and Temple of Doom, there were some problem films in the '80s. *laughs*

ROHAN: Traditionally, I think a lot of us, second-generation immigrants, are pushed more toward medicine, engineering, accounting, etc. Did you ever experience that growing up? You worked as a development executive, what was that transition from executive to screenwriter like?

CHRISTINA: No, my transition was very quick and very weird. I had 90 days when my green card was expiring when I moved from New York to LA and I wasn’t allowed to interview or work or take any development jobs. In those 90 days, I wrote my first screenplay and I got incredibly lucky. I wrote it, flipped it to one friend, who sent it to one agent on a Thursday and on Monday I had an agent and by the end of the week, I think we already had producers reading it and wanting to option it. So, I was very, very, very, very fortunate. It all happened very fast. There wasn’t any time for anyone to object *laughs*

ROHAN: Wow, that’s amazing.

ROHAN: It's still very early, so I know you’re not allowed to say too much just yet, but is there anything you can tease about your Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) script or how Batgirl is coming along?

CHRISTINA: Only that I’m super, super excited.

ROHAN: Birds of Prey starts filming next month, right?

CHRISTINA: Yeah, January. Super excited. Our cast is awesome. Most of it has leaked, so you already know who's playing who. I’m super excited about the cast, about the characters. And it’s really fun and different and honestly, I think aside from the fact that, obviously, the studio would like me to not say anything, I think it’s fun not to say anything yet because that means there’s going to be whole bunch of fun little surprises for fans and for new people to the DC universe to discover.

ROHAN: Yeah, I think a lot of people are very excited. Also, how’s your Batgirl script coming along? Feels like another role that could be tailor-made for Hailee, if she were interested... 

CHRISTINA: Again, above my paygrade. *laughs* Not something I can speak to. But, yeah, I’m loving writing it, I can say that, it’s a total joy to work on. I love the character. And everyday I’m finding new things to love and get excited about.

ROHAN: I don’t think you’re involved with the new Terminator movie that's coming next fall, but because you’re a fan, I just had to ask, how excited are you to see Sarah Connor back on the big screen next year?

CHRISTINA: Always excited. Always. Linda Hamilton has a special place in my heart. So, very, very, very excited. Let’s hope it delivers.

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

Bumblebee features:
Director: Travis Knight
Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie Watson
John Cena as Agent Jack Burns
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Memo
John Ortiz as Dr. Powell
Jason Drucker as Otis Watson
Pamela Adlon as Sally Watson
Rory Markham as Jake Adams
Rachel Crow as Celia
Abby Quinn as Alice
Gracie Dzienny as Tina
Ricardo Hoyos as Trip
Kenneth Choi as Ken
Stephen Schneider as Ron
Len Cariou as Hank
Dylan O'Brien as Bumblebee
Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime
Grey Griffin as Arcee
Steve Blum as Wheeljack
Andrew Morgado as Cliffjumper
Kirk Baily as Brawn
Dennis Singletary as Ratchet
Angela Bassett as Shatter
Justin Theroux as Dropkick
David Sobolov as Blitzwing
Jon Bailey as Shockwave

Bumblebee hits theaters December 21
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