‘Pearl Harbor’ at 20: Kate Beckinsale says she didn’t make sense to Michael Bay ‘because I wasn’t blond and my boobs weren’t bigger than my head’

With his mega-budgeted 2001 epic Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay set out to actionize the bombing of a U.S. naval base by Japanese forces in 1941 — albeit with a good old-fashioned Hollywood romance that involved some very good-looking Hollywood actors.

For the three central roles of two first lieutenants and the nurse they both fall in love with, Bay cast Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale.

“There are worse love triangles to be in, for sure,” Beckinsale laughed during a 2016 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above, with Pearl Harbor segment, which turns 20 on Tuesday, starting at 1:27).

Bay, however, was reportedly reluctant to cast Beckinsale, the British actress who had drawn wide acclaim for art house films like Cold Comfort Farm (1995) and Emma (1996).

“I think he was very alarmed because I wasn’t blond and my boobs weren’t bigger than my head, I didn’t make sense to him as an attractive woman,” said Beckinsale of Bay, whose Transformers movies had earned a reputation for introducing actresses like Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Nicola Peltz at the time of our 2016 interview.

“So there was a lot of panic and concern over ‘how on earth are we gonna make her attractive?' You’d think you’d take that really personally, but I sort of managed not to. It’s so extreme I kind of didn’t.”

Jerry Bruckheimer, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett and Michael Bay. (Photo: Jeremy Bembaron/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Jerry Bruckheimer, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Michael Bay. (Photo: Jeremy Bembaron/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images) (Jeremy Bembaron via Getty Images)

Beckinsale, meanwhile, had difficulty making sense of certain other aspects of the $140 million war film.

“I’d never seen a movie on that scale before and I really wasn’t prepared for it,” she said. “There were four units going at once, there was diet plans and exercise regimens that [were] really punishing. [They] really baffled me because I couldn’t understand why a '40s nurse needed to work out that much. It was just a whole different situation.

“But I was so lucky because Ben had had a lot of experience in that department. He’d go, ‘Don’t worry, they’ve got me on the same diet.’”

Stream Pearl Harbor on Amazon.

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