Yesterday it was revealed that Shia LaBeouf dropped out of a Broadway revival of Orphans due to “creative differences”—an intentionally vague term most interpreted to mean that LaBeouf balked at the director’s fascistic insistence on reading scripted lines atop a stage, when a real actor would be out in the aisles, getting drunk and having unsimulated sex with audience members. Of course, others inferred that most of those “differences” were likely with his co-star Alec Baldwin, the inevitable result of an unstoppable force of self-regard meeting an immoveable object of exasperation with the human race. And judging by LaBeouf’s typically candid post-mortem explanation on Twitter, that’s most likely what happened.
Amid some typically lofty David Mamet quotes about the craft (“The theater belongs not to the great but to the brash. Acting is not for gentlemen, or bureaucratic-academics. What they do is antiart”), LaBeouf also posts email exchanges between himself, Baldwin, and director David Sullivan that seem to refer to untenable working conditions, when they’re not referring to LaBeouf’s own personal mythology:
“My dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human. But he was a man. He taught me how to be a man. What I know of men Alec is - A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job. It doesn't matter what his job is, because if a man doesn't like his job, he gets a new one… A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, from your posture. A man infers. A man owns up.
That's why Mark McGwire is not a man. A man grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not. Some mistakes, though, he lets pass if no one notices. Like dropping the steak in the dirt… He does not rely on rationalizations or explanations. He doesn't winnow, winnow, winnow until truths can be humbly categorized, or intellectualized, until behavior can be written off with an explanation.
And so on. It’s obviously a profound, deeply personal moment of self-reflection for LaBeouf—save for the fact that, as a commenter at the New York Times first pointed out, LaBeouf didn’t learn these manly lessons from his drug-dealer dad so much as Esquire’s Tom Chiarella, whose 2009 article “What Is A Man?’ LaBeouf simply quoted verbatim. Still, what is an Actor-Man if not the earthbound God who breathes life into the dusty thoughts and feelings and copyrighted words of others? A man recognizes when others have already captured their beliefs better than they ever could, amid recommendations for this season’s best lace-ups. A man copies. A man pastes.
Anyway, LaBeouf did manage to tack on his own, apparently original sentiment at the very, very end, signing off, “Alec, Im [sic] sorry for my part of a dis-agreeable situation.” And further seeming to confirm that it was LaBeouf and Baldwin’s inability to get along that led to these exchanges of platitudes and plagiarism, Sullivan replied with a similar, albeit ostensibly self-written farewell to LaBeouf, saying, “I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it… This one will haunt me. You tried to warn me. You said you were a different breed. I didn’t get it.”
Meanwhile, LaBeouf tweeted another email from the play’s fight director Rick Sordelet, who praised LaBeouf’s “respect for the craft” before concluding, “It must have been difficult for others in the room to be schooled by someone who's [sic] raw talent and enthusiasm out matched theirs”—seemingly a dig at Baldwin, if not all non-Shia LaBeouf actors in the universe.
Nevertheless, despite the exchange of subtly barbed, partially stolen words, the emails between Baldwin and LaBeouf seem to suggest the former bears no ill will toward the latter for “schooling” him before subtly lecturing him on how to be a man using an old Esquire article he found by Googling “How To Be A Man.” Mirroring LaBeouf’s—and unwittingly, Chiarella’s—haughty language, Baldwin writes, “When the change comes, how do we handle it, whether it be good or bad? What do we learn? I don’t have an unkind word to say about you. You have my word.” A mere 9 minutes later, LaBeouf wrote back (all on his own!), “same. be well. good luck on the play. you’ll be great,” diplomatically agreeing to part ways without speaking ill of each other, shortly before LaBeouf proceeded to share every moment of their conversation with the entire world.