The rise of the young actor generally goes one of two ways, with the most common being the Haley Joel Osment Syndrome, hitting big with a number of notable performances which could be awards bothering, picking up attention from hot directors – in his case none less than Spielberg himself – and being anointed as the next big thing, before finding that when the young appearance morphs into the difficult teenage years, they are dropped like a stone ready for DUIs and appearing in ”ironic” cameos in comedies years hence. The other way is one Chloe Moretz appears to be going through, standout roles which morph into continuing work on the way to what should be a successful career.
Shia LaBeouf is certainly in the latter camp, but the events of the last couple of years in his life, and particularly the last few weeks, appear to be opening up a new and rather contemporary avenue for the idea of the former child star; that of setting fire to his old image almost completely.
While he seems to be at peace with his work when he was in his pre-teens, LaBoeuf seems to have a healthy appetite in criticising his more recent work. In the aftermath of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there was an obvious air of discontent from those involved in the production but most in the Hollywood manner of not shitting on your doorstep chose to keep their mouths shut. But in an act of youthful defiance, LaBeouf decided to come right out and told a press conference for Wall Street 2 “We (Harrison Ford and he) had major discussions. He wasn’t happy with it either”, though in fairness LaBoeuf was also critical of himself claiming he had “dropped the ball”.
Why he felt the need to do this is in his, and his management’s own minds, with no Indy due out in the forseeable it’s not something he necessarily “had” to comment on. And indeed he’s had situations where this has been more appropriate, the key one being his criticism of Transformers 2 in the run-up to Transformers 3 saying “None of us had any clue what we were doing”, though at the same time he said of Wall Street 2 that”a message of hope wasn’t what people were looking for”. What does LaBeouf hope to get out of this? While a little bit of honesty is refreshing, the constant smacking down of the previous films he starred in is a strange tack to take.
LaBeouf’s work over the last year or so has pointed to someone who is actively trying to change up his career. After Transformers 3 finally released him from a multi-picture “you WILL do this” contract, he’s been looking at somewhat more alternative farewith the forthcoming The Company You Keep teaming him up with heavy hitter Robert Redford and this week’s Lawless looking to combine his charm with a cast of insanely strong talents both in front and behind the camera to elevate his own level. This is of course, rather respectable and in a world full of actors being tied to multi-picture contracts it’s nice to see someone step out of this and dare to lose some box office appeal in favour of artistic cred.
Lars Von Trier and Shia LaBeouf feel like as appropriate a pairing as Michael Haneke and Zach Galifanakis (though what a film that would be) but the two look to be hooking up (as such) for Nymphomaniac, a two-part hardcore porn filled film which LaBeouf has been trumpeting in a massive way this past week with a promise that he will be having real sex on screen himself and has even sent recordings of himself doing this to Von Trier.
It’s hard to get yourself in the headspace that would allow you to do this but here’s the question. Is this out of some sort of desire to prove himself? If it is, why does he have to parade it in front of everyone? It’s the kind of publicity stunt I’m sure Von Trier, one of the great enfant terribles of modern filmmaking would approve of, but is there just a sense that this is another role for LaBoeuf? Moving on from the mouthy youngbuck to the “edgy” serious actor unafraid to take risks before moving onto something else. He is a man of contradictions, someone who sucked from the Hollywood teet for years but was unafraid to take a bite out of it before turning into someone who wants to be respected but can’t seem to stop shouting about it.
All this does for me is have it take away from the impact of the man on-screen. With an increasing amount of odd press conference based declarations, it only makes it more of a mission to appreciate what he seems to be trying to promote: his acting. His role in Nymphomaniac may feature real sex but are we all going to be appreciating any nuance or skill he brings to the piece or are we just going to be thinking about his prior proclamations? It’s an interesting question about an actor who either deserves more respect or needs to just shut the hell up. I’m intrigued to see what you guys think.