If you’ve heard anything about the upcoming indie movie American Honey, it’s probably been that, following its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last week, Shia LaBeouf is getting the “best reviews of his career.” After seeing a trailer for the movie, which is about a group of teenagers on a magazine-selling, crime-filled road trip (but, like, probably a whole lot better than that description indicates), I was preparing myself for the unthinkable: that I might actually begin to like Shia LaBeouf. I didn’t think it was likely, given how insufferable, obnoxious, and potentially dangerous he’s been for years and years. But I wanted to be prepared in case it happened.
And then this interview with Variety dropped and, you guys… I kind of like Shia LaBeouf.
I’m not saying you have to. But this is one of the greatest atonement profiles I’ve ever seen. It’s not the typical celebrity apology we’ve become used to. Some of you might read it as a heavy-handed, manufactured rebranding, and I wouldn’t say you’re necessarily wrong. But here are a few things that haven’t exactly won me over to the way of The Beef, but at least made me interested in him, which is not a thing I’ve ever felt about the guy until now.
He’s gotten sober.
After so much of LaBeouf’s gross behavior was fueled by booze (like getting kicked out of that performance of Cabaret a couple years ago), it’s heartening to hear him say he’s quit drinking.
“You don’t touch it,” he says. “Alcohol or any of that sh-t will send you haywire. I can’t f-k with none of it. I’ve got to keep my head low.”
And it’s maybe even more heartening to hear him admit what an ass he was when he was drinking.
“I got a Napoleonic complex,” he says. “I start drinking and I feel smaller than I am, and I get louder than I should. It’s just not for me, dude.”
All the exhausting antics and behavior? He basically admits it was obnoxious posturing.
You know that kind of guy you went to college with who was sure he was going to be just like Hemingway? But instead of learning to write, he just learned to drink, and assumed they were one and the same? That’s Shia.
“I never knew how to drink. I never liked to drink, but I knew you had to drink. It was a weird post-modern fascination with the f-k-ups. When I met Robert Downey Jr., I was like, ‘Man, you got all this f-king texture. How do I do this? How do I build texture?’”
He acknowledged the double standards that have allowed him to survive this long.
LaBeouf agrees that if he were an actress with the same TMZ rap sheet, his career would probably be over. “It’s a double standard, for sure,” he says. “Women require grace for longevity. I don’t think men require grace. You can be Mickey Rourke.” Or, for that matter, Shia LaBeouf.
And not just survive, but how he’s actively benefitted from people buying into and encouraging his crazy.
LaBeouf acknowledges that his past has led him to his current career. “I don’t think I’d be working with the directors I’ve been working with if I had not f-ked up a bit,” he says. “They wanted a f-king fireball. They wanted a loose cannon. I’m learning how to distill my ‘crazy’ into something manageable, that I can shape and deliver on the day.” He says he didn’t have the tools to do that before. “I was an open wound bleeding on everything.”
He’s also seemed to realize he has no idea what “method acting” actually is other than an excuse to be a shitty human.
“The word is getting embarrassing,” he says. “You don’t hear about female method actors. The whole thing has turned into weird, false masculinity sh-t.”
He has matching Missy Elliott tattoos on his knees.
This is the big WTF outlier. Apparently, during the filming of American Honey, the cast kept visiting tattoo parlors, and Shia ended up with a dozen tattoos, including matching Missy Elliott portraits on the most ticklish, painful part of your body you could probably think to get them. AND HE CAN’T EVEN GIVE A GOOD REASON AS TO WHY.
“I don’t love Missy Elliott like I wanna get two Missy Elliott tattoos,” LaBeouf says. “But you’re in a tattoo parlor, and” — he shrugs — “peer pressure.”
He actually has some really solid advice for Michael Bay.
“Mike is an artist,” LaBeouf says. “People don’t realize how dope that dude is. He’s got to get a little ballsier with his moves — he’s trying to toe the line and be James Cameron, but James Camerons are dying. I don’t know what he’s chasing, but that version of director is dead. If Mike is to sustain, he’s got to get f-king weird.”
He’s almost shockingly honest about his opinion of Spielberg.
Let’s ignore that double standard he addressed earlier and not think about what would happen if a female actress said something like this about film legend Steven Spielberg, and just admire that he can be honest without being entirely exhausting.
He thought Spielberg would be his ticket to a big-screen legacy. “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of,” LaBeouf says. “You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a f-king company.” (Spielberg declined to comment.)
…”I don’t like the movies that I made with Spielberg,” he says. “The only movie that I liked that we made together was ‘Transformers’ one.”
And finally, he straight-up, very simply apologized for stealing Daniel Clowes’ work.
“It’s straight theft, dude,” LaBeouf admits. “I just took the dude’s idea and made a movie. I truly f-ked up and apologized.”
So help me, I think I’m looking forward to seeing a Shia LaBeouf movie. Let’s see how long this lasts.