Shia Labeouf has spent the better part of the last decade in public meltdown mode. There are literally too many episodes to recount, and he’s already given one apology as peformance art. But now that he’s been to rehab — and he’s got a movie coming out in April (Borg vs. McEnroe) — it’s time for another public apology tour, beginning with an interview in Esquire magazine where suggests that he’s been suffering from PTSD for years, after having witnessed his mother being raped.
One day, LaBeouf overheard a man raping his mother. “I froze,” he tells me, pausing. “The man ran out, and my mom ran after him. Dave came running over. I remember he had a crossbow.” By then, the rapist had fled. During a counseling session at the sheriff’s office, LaBeouf listened as his mother recounted her attacker’s appearance. “It was the first time I ever heard the word pubic,” he says. “That’s how she described his facial hair. The next day at school, I told some kid that his hair looked like pubic hair, and I remember getting in trouble. They never found the guy.
“When I got to rehab last year,” LaBeouf continues, “they said I had PTSD.” He says he now understands that the violence toward his mother that he witnessed, that he could not prevent, is the reason for his defensiveness, his own hair trigger for violence. “The first time I got arrested with a real charge, it stemmed from the same shit. Some guy bumped into my mother’s car with his car in a parking lot, and my head went right to ‘You need to avenge your mother!’ So I went after the dude with a knife.” (He didn’t use it.) It’s also why LaBeouf bought a gun as soon as he was able to; to this day, he sleeps with it. “I’ve always thought somebody was coming in. My whole life.”
That’s obviously not nothing, and I’ll give a newly sober Labeouf credit for saying some of the right things. From Esquire:
On redemption: “I’ve got to look at my failures in the face for a while. I need to take ownership of my shit and clean up my side of the street a bit before I can go out there and work again, so I’m trying to stay creative and learn from my mistakes. The truth is, in my desperation, I lost the plot.”
On the similarities between his character tennis phenom John McEnroe’s outbursts and his own: “McEnroe was a master at his rage. I’m a buffoon. My public outbursts are failures. They’re not strategic. They’re a struggling motherfucker showing his ass in front of the world.”
He also spoke about the Georgia incident, where he was caught on tape saying a lot of fucked up things to and about a black police officer in the back of a cruiser. On that incident, Labeouf offers: “What went on in Georgia was mortifying. White privilege and desperation and disaster … I fucked up.”
That is all accurate.
And yet, he is talented. He is young. And he is white, which by birthright, gives him another shot at redemption. And it may or may not be his last shot at redemption. If his performance in Borg vs. McEnroe and, later this year, The Peanut Butter Falcon, reflect that talent, he will no doubt land more roles, and by the time he is 35, he could be starring in his own Marvel franchise, a la Robert Downey, Jr. Lindsay Lohan can play his Pepper Potts.
I’m not saying that’s good. I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying that as fact. The media loves a good comeback story, as long as the comeback kid is white and good looking and says all the right things.