hen Transformers 5: The Last Knight hit the big screen last month, locals Jason McClure and Brian Smyth were first in line to see the big budget action flick. Eager to catch a glimpse of their junkyard in the flick, the duo couldn’t have been happier to note that 15-minutes of the movie featured scenes filmed at Desert Valley Auto Parts (DVAP). No stranger to being in front of the camera, Jason starred in Desert Car Kings, a 2011 reality show on the Discovery Channel that chronicled the challenges and adventures of running DVAP, the largest antique junkyard in the world. The pair also knows a thing or two about being behind the camera. When vintage automobiles and parts are needed for period flicks, they typically get a call from a movie’s art director. They suspected something bigger was brewing when they heard Michael Bay, the director of blockbusters including The Rock and Armageddon, wanted to tour DVAP. In town for the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, Michael stopped by to take a look around. DVAP’s 40-acre facility, located north of the Deer Valley Airport, is worldrenowned in car circles for its vast inventory, and no doubt made an impression on the big-time director. Filled with classic cars and car parts including Trans Ams and pickups from the 1970s, it has the right look for a Transformers movie. It wasn’t long before contracts and legal forms were signed. All very hush-hush, Jason, Brian, and their team were sworn to secrecy about what was going down at DVAP, which served as the base camp for the cast and crew for over two months. While a big deal was made about a stretch of Loop 303 between Interstate 17 and Lake Pleasant Parkway being closed for several days in June of last year for the film, it was DVAP where a lot of the film’s Arizona scenes were shot. On hand for filming as part of their contractual obligations, Jason and Brian were allowed to bring their families to the set to meet star Mark Wahlberg and watch the director in action. “They were very friendly,” says Brian. “Michael Bay is big on explosions,” says Jason, in reference to the pyrotechnics and action on set. “There were Apache helicopters flying all over the place,” adds Brian. “It was stressful when it was happening.” But, what really impressed Jason and Brian was how seamlessly the crew of 400 worked together to orchestrate big scenes with such a tremendous scope. To transform DVAP into the junkyard that serves as a sanctuary for many of the surviving Autobots in the movie including Bumblebee, Hound, Drift and Crosshairs, a lot of Transformers parts were brought in as props, along with an Airstream trailer where Mark Wahlberg’s character (Cade Yeager) hides outs. Among the props left behind after production wrapped include a bed made out of car parts and a landmark sign that Brian says fans are more than welcome to come check out during DVAP’s regular operating hours. Filming in June of last year presented some unique challenges for the crew, including 118-degree days. “They set up tents and cooling stations with gigantic swamp coolers like you see on the field at Cardinals games,” explains Brian. “They did a good job trying to keep people cool.” According to Phoenix Film Commissioner Phil Bradstock in an article in the Phoenix Business Journal, “Producers spent about $15 million in the state, hired around 40 locals—mostly production assistant-level positions—and used more than 50 local vendors, including dry cleaners, telecommunications, and possibly even a bull or sheep wrangler.” In the same article, he also says that the entire reason that Transformers: The Last Knight decided to film in Arizona was because of a junkyard, a fact that’s not lost on Jason and Brian. “Us saying ‘yes’ solidified them filming in Arizona,” says Brian, who views the experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he got to share with the DVAP team, as well as with Jason, who he’s been working with since Jason started the company in 1993.
Brian and his family surround Michael Bay’s director’s chair
Cade’s (Mark Wahlberg’s character) Airstream trailer.
Filming a scene above DVAP
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Michael Bay (in light blue shirt and white pants) on set