The Madness of Shia LaBeouf

With his latest film, Fury, doing extremely well at the box office, and his performance receiving high praise from critics, Shia LaBeouf should have spent the last month celebrating with friends, causing embarrassing scenes at red carpet premieres, or spitting on the shoes of police officers. Something wild and crazy and licentious, right?

That was the old Shia. The new Shia is a changed man, if we’re to take him at his erratic word.

From The Huffington Post:

Shia LaBeouf is really sorry, and he’s not just saying #IAMSORRY through performance art this time.

LaBeouf stopped by The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Friday to promote his movie, Fury, but not without addressing the bizarre stunts that landed him in the tabloids earlier this year.

“I went through like an existential crisis… I had some hiccups, some judgment errors,” LaBeouf said.

These “stunts” included a variety of very interesting things. One was being arrested after showing up drunk to a Broadway play that he was supposed to star in with Alec Baldwin, but had been kicked out of because of his bizarre “method acting” behavior and expressed desire to fight Mr. Baldwin as part of his “prep work.” LaBeouf also got in trouble for plagiarizing the plot to a graphic novel by Daniel Clowe as the basis for his short film HowardCantour.com. He also appeared at the premiere of his movie Nymphomaniac wearing a paper shopping bag over his head with the words “I am not famous anymore” scribbled on it. Somewhere along the way, he hired skywriting planes to pen strange messages to the good folks of Los Angeles in the clouds.

Then there were the Tweets—ah, the Tweets! There were apologies, fake apologies, plagiarized apologies meant as performance art, hashtags about hashtags, and other social media feats only someone wildly creative (or higher than Snoop Lion at a Phish concert) could have concocted.

Sadly, and not more than a year ago, I remember thinking that it would only be a matter of time before the fateful news of Mr. LaBeouf’s suicide or overdose would drop on Twitter. Thankfully that did not happen and today we have what appears to be a (slightly) different, changed, contrite Shia LaBeouf on our hands. From the interview with Ellen I referenced above, to his interview with the aptly named Interview Magazine—in which he claims to have found Jesus and become a Christian during the filming of Fury—there seems to be a leveling-out taking place in the life of the 28-year-old actor.

I found God during Fury. I became a Christian man…in a very real way. I could have just said the prayers that were on the page, but it was a real thing that really saved me. And you can’t identify unless you’re really going through it. It’s a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control.

These are powerful words, to be sure, but are they really his? Or is this more of the “performance art” of a method actor? Or does LaBeouf himself even know what he believes and who he wants to be?

Of course so much of any discussion about the personal life of a human being—regardless of their profession or the size of their bank account—is, at best, speculation. And much of that speculation amounts to little more than gossip. We don’t know Shia LaBeouf. He’s a guy from what sounds like a rough family background who makes his living pretending to be other people for our entertainment.

A big part of me wants to believe he’s changed and that his contrition is genuine. The rest of me doesn’t really care and wonders why that bigger part has so much emotionally invested in a stranger. But I think we all root for young stars to pull out of the tailspins so many of them end up in. As a Christian man myself, no more than a few years ahead of Shia in life’s journey, who finds himself living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career in film production (on the other side of the camera), I look for, and am inspired by tales of redemption in a place that offers so many surface-level enticements which quickly turn into soul-destroying nooses.

Only time will tell what Shia LaBeouf’s renaissance is really all about. Here’s hoping it sticks.

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