[Update: Michael Bay himself is speaking out about his involvement with TF4. See quote below.]

Yesterday we rehashed some old thoughts from the summer where we discussed our belief that Michael Bay could return to the Transformers franchise to direct a fourth installment. Since before Transformers: Dark of the Moon released this summer, Michael Bay and series star Shia LaBeouf adamantly claimed that this trilogy-concluding film would be the last for the both of them for the franchise.

Of course, money talks, and Michael Bay is far from denying he’ll return now. The latest reports go as far as saying Bay’s almost signed a deal with Paramount Pictures for him to return to direct Transformers 4.

After Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the series’ second installment, Michael Bay was determined to take a break to work on a passion project of his titled Pain & Gain before returning to the bigger budget, sci-fi action genre with another Transformers movie. Executive producer Steven Spielberg and the studio managed to convince him otherwise which resulted in the last 6 years of Michael Bay’s life in the film business spent nearly entirely directing a cast chock full of Cybertronian characters.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason Bay spoke so assuredly that he’d be done after doing three, but ever since day one of the release of Dark of the Moon, I knew there was a darn good chance he’d return thanks to something he told us at the Miami premiere of the film.

Last Friday, Michael Bay said the following during the unveiling of a Transformers-themed ride at at Universal Studios Singapore:

“We’re talking about it, but there’s nothing right now… I’m going to do a tiny movie first, then we’ll talk about it, if I potentially do it.”

This came shortly after Spielberg was quoted revealing his desire to have Bay return as well. According to insiders of New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Bay is now in final negotiations to return to direct another Transformers movie and that it could be officially announced by next week. The one stipulation is that he’ll finally be able to make Pain & Gain first, a film he started on a decade ago and one that he’s hoping to have Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg star in.

The tentative plan is for Bay to begin work on Pain & Gain early next year in the spring, followed by Transformers 4 shooting in the Winter. There’s no word on the previous rumors of Transformers 4 & 5 shooting together and that will depend on the deal Bay signs with director.

UPDATE: Bay himself has spoken out about directing TF4, and though the studios are pushing for his involvement, Bay is still weighing his options:

Right now I’m not decided on Transformers 4… Studio’s are passing rumors but I’m not sure what I’m doing? I know I’m going to do Pain and Gain early spring but that’s it for right now. I’m leaving all my options on the table. I’ve got several Studio meetings in the next two weeks.

What we do know is that there’s already a rough plan in place for the film since producer Don Murphy already came out and said the next film would not be a prequel and that it would continue the franchise’s focus on human characters in an effort to kickstart a second Transformers trilogy. According to Vulture, this remains true and TF4 will “delve deeper into Transformers canon to mine older characters and lore.” One of their insiders says the following that we can take as a hint:

 “Regular people might not care about bringing out a character like Sentinel Prime. But believe me, fans of the series cared.”

Fans who saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon understand that it would be difficult to continue the series as is due to how of the characters ended up by the story’s conclusion. We can therefore expect radical changes and plethora of new characters, perhaps even mining stories from some of the other animated television series.

Expect Transformers 4 to release in summer 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: Vulture & Shoot for the Edit