Spielberg's actual influence on choosing Bumblebee’s Amblin-esque main character

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Jun 18, 2018, 11:13 AM EDT

While Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise has won plenty of fans from every walk of life, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s not a stretch to say that teenage boys probably make up the demographic sweet spot when it comes to the series’ target audience. 

But with the casting of a female lead in the upcoming spinoff Bumblebee, things are looking a little more diverse for Transformers, giving the franchise new inroads into converting an even broader fan base. And, according to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, it was none other than blockbuster guru (and Transformers executive producer) Steven Spielberg who inspired the decision to set Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game) in the tough-girl leading role. 

“Steven had always had an idea that a young girl and Bumblebee would be a great combination,” di Bonaventura recently told Entertainment Weekly, “so we headed in that direction… It’s nice it’s changing. When we were debating it, the idea of a young girl seemed to us to be a real change in our direction.”

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Even though Spielberg typically hasn’t involved himself in the creative process for the Transformers series, the report notes, he had a sense that a young woman who could balance empathy and toughness would strike the right tone for Bumblebee, a film that pairs Steinfeld’s Charlie Watson with the titular misfit, Volkswagen Beetle-transforming Autobot.

Director Travis Knight already has confessed that the 1980s-set movie will reflect his love of all those earlier “classic Spielbergian Amblin films,” and that the ramshackle, junkyard setting where Charlie discovers the lone and abandoned Autobot frames a plot anchored by “a beautiful love story between two broken souls who find each other and heal each other.”

Will it all add up to a different, more Spielberg-like vibe for the next installment in the changing Transformers movie-verse? We’ll know before the year is up. Bumblebee buzzes into theaters on Dec. 21.