Though his personal issues sometimes overshadow his talent and enthusiasm for his craft, Shia LaBeouf has a proven track record of doing great work.
The “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” stud chatted with Interview magazine about his crazy life and roller coaster career, starting with 2003’s “The Battle of Shaker Heights.”
Shia began, “I was just joyful to have a trade. At that point, meeting Ben Affleck and Matt Damon was like, ‘Wow.’ I’d worked with Jon Voight on Holes, and he was a hero for my father. But Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were heroes from my generation. It was a level that I didn’t think I would ever attain. We were still living in this ‘Holy sh*t, this is really happening to us’ kind of thing. And it wasn’t just a solo thing, like I’d jaunted off on my own. My mom was a fabric salesman, my dad was a drug dealer, among other things, and they both quit their trades to become sort of like carnie folk and do this thing with me. So it was big for all of us when Project Greenlight [the HBO reality show, the second season of which documented the embattled making of Shaker Heights] happened. My mother was so impressed with Ben Affleck being at the premiere. Ben is a really charming dude. He was the first guy who really took me off to the side and made me feel like I could do it.”
Of his conversation with Affleck, LaBeouf shared, “[He said] ‘Keep your head on straight, kid, and don’t let all this get to you.’ He knew that I had cameras in my face and that there were expectations to perform. I think that’s always been my issue. I’m prone to theatrics in my life.”
“When you’re in front of a film crew, the worst thing that an actor can be is boring, and that flows over into my life. Ben saw that I turned reality up to 11. I was a wild man at that wrap party. I was still very edgy and remained so for a long time—and that was sort of my appeal to a lot of directors and casting agents. Ben saw that and was trying to curb it before it became an issue. He was unsuccessful.”
Shia continued, “Spielberg was the next guy to try—I remember him saying to me, ‘Tom Cruise never picks his nose in public.’ And all I thought was, ‘I don’t want to be Tom Cruise.’ It was this gut reaction. And Steven was a hero in my house. I remember when I was 3, taking baths with my mom, her petting my head and going, ‘One day you’re going to meet Steven Spielberg.’ And then it happened. He made that comment to me right around the time Vanity Fair put out a piece with me in a spacesuit saying I was the next Tom Hanks. And though I respect both Hanks and Cruise, it just didn’t appeal to my sensibilities. They’re both great actors. But I just didn’t feel like we were cut from the same fabric. My upbringing was darker. The guys who I looked up to were far darker. So I rejected that label hard.”
As for his role models, the “Nymphomaniac” actor noted, “Gary Oldman, Sean Penn, Joaquin Phoenix—guys who dealt with material that had more intrinsic value. This can be a very debilitating job for an actor. Sometimes you don’t have any say about your creative process. And when I watched the movies of the guys I admired, it felt like they had put a spin on it. They were working on things that appealed to a certain kind of mythos. Whereas I think Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks came with something more heroic about them. Even in the comics I used to read, I didn’t like Superman, I liked Venom. I was raised on The Simpsons, Bebe’s Kids, and South Park. I was raised with irony. And when I watch Sean Penn or Johnny Depp, guys who skew toward irony, it’s far more appealing to me.”