He is one of the biggest stars in one of the summer's biggest movie blockbusters, discovered, like so many others, by fortuitous accident -- in a Wyoming, Minn., industrial park.

How big? Oh, about 12 feet high, 40 feet long and weighing in at 80,000 pounds. Now that's a Hollywood hunk.

He, or rather, it -- well, OK, it's both actually, depending on the situation in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" -- is an imposing, eye-popping, six-wheel-drive airport firetruck built by Rosenbauer America in the community of 7,800 less than five miles north of Forest Lake.

Or, in its/his alter ego after the truck magically unfolds itself, Sentinel Prime is 32-foot-tall supreme commander Autobot (given voice by actor Leonard Nimoy) armed with omega shield and matrix blade for doing battle with the evil Decepticons.

Rosenbauer, a company with Minnesota roots going back more than 80 years, is the largest manufacturer of firetrucks in the world. But the call from Hollywood in February 2010 asking for one of its vehicles to be used in a fantasy/thriller movie came as a shock, said Tague Johnson, the company's sales coordinator for aircraft rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) vehicles.

"I think [the filmmakers] went on the company website and they were just looking at vehicles," Johnson said. When a representative from Paramount Pictures called the company and said director Michael Bay wanted to use one of the company's trucks in the "Transformers" movie -- the third in a series -- company officials first thought it was a prank.

"It just so happened we had a demo truck available," Johnson said. "It was all a matter of timing."

ARFF vehicles like the one that became Sentinel Prime are not cheap. This one, built in 2007, has been featured at shows and conferences across the country. Like a bit player who hits the big time, the truck's rise to fame was almost overnight.

There was one small hitch.

"I told one of the Bay Films production assistants we do have a truck, but it's lime green," Johnson said. "These trucks have to be lime green in the U.S. -- those are FAA rules. Overseas, ARFF vehicles can be whatever color."

Bay wanted the Rosenbauer truck, but wanted it repainted red.

"Well, repainting one of these vehicles is not easy, it's very expensive," Johnson said. "There's a lot of disassembly. We tried to wrap it in graphics in the color they wanted."

That didn't work, so Rosenbauer and Bay agreed to split the cost of repainting.

The repainting included a stipulation that the distinctive "R" Rosenbauer logo be left on the sides of the truck.

Talk about product placement.

"It's been a very major deal," Johnson said. "This was just a great opportunity that doesn't come along very often. We're getting exposure to a worldwide audience."

"Transformers" was the top-rated summer movie when it opened earlier this month, grossing more than $325 million so far. It was still in fourth place this week.

The truck was shipped on a special trailer to locations in Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles for filming. Closer to home, it's been a crowd pleaser at local parades and festivals.

And then there's the toys.

There are several toy versions of Sentinel Prime, ranging from small models for less than $5 to larger ones that cost more than $40. Rosenbauer signed off the on toy design. Hasbro estimates 300 million little Sentinel Primes will be sold worldwide.

To be clear, the Rosenbauer firefighting vehicle does not actually transform into Sentinel Prime -- that was left to the special effects department with help from company blueprints.

But the truck is amazing in itself, using modern technology to battle aircraft fires and save lives. It holds 3,000 gallons of water and 4,000 gallons of chemical foam, and includes a 54-foot boom holding a spear-like "stinger" that can pierce the fuselages of burning aircraft and douse fires.

Rosenbauer has been doing well despite the rough economy for manufacturing, Johnson said, and has about a year's worth of backlogged orders. It recently took an order for 80 ARFF vehicles for Brazil, which will be hosting both the World Cup and summer Olympics in 2012.

As for Sentinel Prime, he/it is still for sale. The $870,000 price tag includes delivery and a week of training.

Jim Anderson • 651-735-0999