And to make them fun, you have to be a dickwad (a word Bay uses repeatedly). Really. You do. At least on the Transformers level of moviemaking. Think about it. You’re orchestrating a carnival of costly effects, you’ve borrowed an arsenal of tanks and fighter jets, and your executive producer, Steven Spielberg, is breathing down your neck to the point where you have to tell him, “Steven, I love you but we’re different directors. I don’t work by committee.” Now the movie posters and the action figures and the goddamn Pepsi tie-ins need your attention. And you’re not going overbudget—you just won’t fucking do that.

So, yes, if some screw-up gets in his face about a lighting problem? Damn right Bay’s gonna go Armageddon on his ass. Why? Jerry Bruckheimer will fucking tell you why.

“Michael,” Bruckheimer says, “cares.”

Bay lives exactly as you would expect him to live. Sharp right through the Bel-Air gate, past mansion walls and 30-foot hedges . . . his is the modern two-story glass-and-concrete fortress with the 250-pound English mastiff bellowing in the driveway. Bay is daring you not to view his dog as a metaphor for the size of his (penis) movies or all-around (penis) showmanship.

Seeing him at home gives you a sense of his outsize proportions, but you also see a more human side. First, there’s the issue of his parentage. Bay, who grew up in the Westwood section of L.A. with adoptive parents, famously claimed his birth mother told him he was the biological son of Manchurian Candidate director John Frankenheimer, something the late filmmaker vehemently denied. Still, Bay seems to have father issues of a sort.

“I never had anyone show me the way,” he says. “Especially coming up in the industry, nobody was there to say, ‘Hey, this is what you do.’ I had to figure it all out on my own.”

You realize he’s still pretty much alone. There’s no wife, no kids. And that seems to gnaw at Bay now. Ever since he was nearly killed while making The Island (a runaway jet-bike came within inches of smashing his skull), he has taken to reflecting on his life. “I’m nowhere near the person I want to be,” Bay says, “but who is?”

He tosses a chew toy, and the mastiff, Grace (named for Liv Tyler’s character in Armageddon), flops away with it, leaving Bay alone.

“I sometimes have a fantasy, and it’s gonna sound bizarre,” he says. “I’m driving around and I’ll think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to go out on the road with my camera and do an art-photo book?’ Driving across America taking pictures, y’know? I mean, yeah, it’s not in the script, but, man, why the fuck not, right?”

He gives the idea a moment to percolate. But then faster than a car can shift into an Autobot, he remembers. “Shit,” he says, “I’ve got a meeting at my office at two.”