Shia LaBeouf is a talented actor. It’s easy to forget this, given his association with the Transformers movies, that godawful Indiana Jones revival, poorly defended plagiaristic “performance art,” and, of course, the fact that he makes more headlines these days for acting like an obnoxiously misguided goofball (or outright shithead) than starring in good films.
A profile of LaBeouf by Esquire’s Eric Sullivan shows that not only is the actor aware of the reputation he’s earned for himself, but that he’s looking to own up to it with a simple, bold strategy: say meaner things about himself than any of his critics can.
Comparing himself with the legendarily bad-tempered John McEnroe (who he portrayed in last year’s Borg Vs McEnroe), LaBeouf says that his embarrassments are even worse than the tennis star’s. “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.”
The profile takes a tour through LaBeouf’s career, on and off the screen, and is peppered with self-admonishments (“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”) as well as a few defensive jabs at Sullivan (“‘I know you have a job to do,’ he says, leaning across the table, locking eyes. I ask what that is. ‘To continue this narrative that I’m a piece of shit.’”).
Mostly, though, it’s hard not to feel at least a little bad for LaBeouf, as the piece details his troubled childhood and the alcohol abuse that has lead him to recently conclude rehab. Rather than blame the difficulties of his personal life for his behavior, though, LaBeouf owns up to acting like a jerk. He admits that some of his worst moments are the result of “self-centered delusion.”
Whether the profile will retrospectively look like just one more set of apologies in a career filled with them or a genuine turning point in an actor’s career is anyone’s guess. Hopefully it’s the latter, and we can look forward to less shitty performance art, awful TMZ-captured arrest footage, and more instances of LaBeouf portraying characters like “rat-tailed sleazeball,” or starring in the Holes reboot our nostalgia-hungry culture so desperately craves.
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