Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner's very recent announcement that Transformers 4 was being actively developed came as a shock to... no one, essentially. The "fourquel" has been all but assured ever since the third installment, Dark of the Moon, grossed over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office this past summer.
However, reports are now in that Paramount and Hasbro officials are developing plans to shoot Transformers 4 and Transformers 5 simultaneously - and already have an actor in mind to replace Shia LaBeouf as the human star of the series.
Variety says that the fourth and fifth Transformers movies - which Dark of the Moon scriber Ehren Kruger is said to already have concocted a storyline for - could be filmed back-to-back, as a cost-cutting measure. The site also reports that action maestro Jason Statham is being considered as the potential new lead for the franchise, but that an actual offer has yet to be made.
If this all sounds somewhat familiar, that's probably because you're remembering the rumors from a few weeks back - ones claiming that Fast and Furious 6 & 7 could also be filmed simultaneously, with Jason Statham joining their cast(s) in a supporting role.
However, while nothing is set in stone for either high-octane blockbuster franchise, it's certainly feasible that Statham could ultimately be hired on for both the new Fast and Furious and Transformers movies. The latter project isn't expected to begin principal photography until either late 2012 or early 2013 - a date that could (theoretically) allow Michael Bay to first direct Pain & Gain, should he decide to reprise his role as the Transformers series' helmer - so there shouldn't be too much overlap between the production timelines for either of the aforementioned pairs of sequels.
UPDATE: Here's the word from Michael Bay himself, with regards to Transformers 4:
I am currently not talking to Paramount on T4 and T5 despite reports. I'm looking at a lot of possibilities coming my way right now weighing options. Most likely going to be doing the low budget Pain and Gain, a true story crime thriller. It's a very quick shoot and quite funny. Also just finishing the 3 disc set of the Transformer trilogy.
This is all strictly speculation at this point, seeing how Statham has not yet (by all accounts) officially been made an offer to appear in either action movie series - not to mention, it's not known whether or not he actually wants the job(s). One thing you can count on, though: if Paramount can devise a practical plan for how to shoot the next two Transformers movies at once - an approach guaranteed to be more cost-efficient - the studio definitely will.
One last thing - we're gong to go out on a limb here and say most fans would consider Statham as the human protagonist in the new Transformers movies a significant "upgrade" from LaBeouf. We could be wrong, though... ;-)
RE-UPDATE: Statham spoke to MTV recently and indicated that he's not actually been approached to headline any future Transformers movies. In the actor's own words:
"You know, I don't know how those things start. You read them. Someone told me about it. [But] the internet is a dangerous place. [laughs] There's a lot of stuff out there... I've got a lot of stuff in front of me, but Michael Bay is a talented man. This last [Transformers movie] just made a billion dollars around the world, so people like his films. He's a talented man."
We will keep you posted on the status of Transformers 4 and 5 as the story develops.