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Thesp transformed

LaBeouf to play lead in Bay's 'Transformers'

Michael Bay’s big-budget action pic “The Transformers: The Movie” finally has a face to join all the shape-changing robots.

Shia LaBeouf is in final negotiations to play a lead role in the DreamWorks/Paramount live-action production. Shooting starts in late May with a July 4, 2007 bow already flagged on the release schedule.

Budgeted well north of $100 million, “Transformers” will see LaBeouf star as the unlikely hero Sam in the project based on comic book cartoon and Hasbro toy line hugely popular in the 1980s. Story centers on the central saga of the Autobots vs. the Decepticons. “Transformers” has been a major tentpole priority for the two studios and the rest of the cast is expected to be finalized shortly.

Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy and Par-based Lorenzo di Bonaventura are producing the film with Steven Spielberg and Hasbro’s Brian Goldner executive producing. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci penned the screenplay.

Originally introduced in 1984, the Transformers franchise is visible as a toy line, an animated series and comic book series from IDW Publishing. Discussions are currently underway for a possible new video game and other merchandising tie-ins to bow concurrent with the pic’s release.

As for LaBeouf, the casting marks his second straight lead role in a DW pic. He is about to go in front of cameras on the DJ Caruso-directed thriller “Disturbia” playing a troubled high school senior who is sentenced to house arrest only to become convinced that his neighbor is a serial killer. He was last seen in the lead role in Disney’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and will next appear in the indie “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”  He just wrapped “Bobby” for the Weinstein Company.