In this summer’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Shia LaBeouf is once again battling with giants. By which we don’t necessarily mean robots. We’re talking about Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, a statuesque British model who towers over her leading man. It’s a refreshing tack for Hollywood, where milk crates and tricky camera angles are usually deployed to mask height disparities. “Shia was a man about it,” the 5-foot-9-inch actress tells The Post with a laugh. “He was a short guy and I was a tall girl, and that’s the way it is. I think it’s hot, anyway.”
Director Michael Bay — back for this third installment, which hits theaters June 29 — certainly agreed. He refused to hide the height difference because he thought it might give short men hope that they could one day bag someone as hot as his star.
Aspirational? Yes. Realistic? Probably not. This is a model-turned-actress, after all, recently voted sexiest woman alive by two men’s magazines.
Also, she’s got a boyfriend already -— one who would probably break your wrists if you got anywhere near her. He’s Jason Statham, the British action star of “The Transporter” franchise. The two went public with their relationship in April 2010 at the Coachella music festival, and are now shopping for a house in LA. The pair have said little about their relationship. “I’ve got a girlie, and she’s precious to me,” Statham told Men’s Journal earlier this year. “If you say nothing, you can’t get f – – ked over. So I’m saying nothing.”
Prior to Statham, she was linked to Tyrone Wood (son of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie) back in England.
The pillow-lipped Huntington-Whiteley, 24, grew up in Devon, England. Her mother was a fitness instructor, her father a surveyor. She was discovered by a London-based modeling agency in 2003 while applying for an internship. She appeared on the cover of Japanese Vogue in 2005, and her profile skyrocketed stateside after she walked in a 2006 Victoria’s Secret show. Two years later, she became the face of Burberry and in 2010 was featured topless in the notorious Pirelli calendar.
Despite all this experience in front of the camera, “Transformers” marks her acting debut. Nothing like coming out the gate with a modest indie flick. “Dark of the Moon” promises to be one of the summer’s bigger moneymakers.
Last year, out of the blue, she received an e-mail from Bay, with whom she’d previously worked on an underwear commercial. He asked if she’d consider auditioning for “Transformers.” A couple days after her screen test, she was offered the part, so late into production that she missed rehearsals and was thrown in the deep end with little preparation beyond a few days’ work with an acting coach. Producers were desperate to cast a new female lead after the franchise’s resident hottie, Megan Fox, was suddenly fired (or quit, depending on who you believe) after clashing with Bay.
Huntington-Whiteley never got to pump Fox for tips on the role. Instead, she relies on her modeling training.
“Modeling gave me an awareness of myself and an awareness of being in front of a camera,” she says. “Which is probably alien to a lot of people, but it’s all I know.” Her biggest issue was grappling with all the technical aspects of a special-effects-heavy movie.
“When we have a scene with one of the robots, we’re talking to a Swiffer sweeper pole with a face cutout on it,” she says. “Shia would remind me to take in the entire mass of these robots. You’ve got to remember that they’re 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.”
Further help came from Statham. When she came home covered with bruises from stunt work, he bought her some ultra-thin stunt pads. She should hang onto those. More action movies could be in her future.
“I’ve always loved action and I’ve always loved girls that are badass,” she says. “Nothing that takes itself too seriously, because I don’t take myself too seriously.”
She also doesn’t like watching herself on-screen: “It’s not an enjoyable experience. I don’t know if I’ll be watching the movie too many times.”
Given the way Bay’s camera lingers on her skin-tight skirt, we’d wager most men won’t have the same issues.