Capone Chats With Shia LaBeouf Re: DISTURBIA, Talkbackers/'Flames on Optimus', INDIANA JONES, Evil Twins & David Morse's Hair!!
Published at: April 9, 2007, 10:24 a.m. CST by merrick
Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here with one of the most laugh-filled interviews I've had in a long time.
I kept trying my best to keep things professional by soon-to-be 21-year-old Shia LaBeouf kept daring to make our conversation fun, darn him. In our short time together, we cover a lot of ground because, well, the kid has a lot going on and he has since he was a wee lad. I first saw Shia when he was cast in the lead role of the "Project Greenlight" film THE BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS, and a couple times a year since then, he's popped up in a wide variety of roles playing both youngsters and young adults in films such as HOLES, THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED, CONSTANTINE, I, ROBOT, BOBBY, and my personal favorite, last year's A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS. Our conversation happened in conjunction with his latest work, DISTURBIA (opening Friday), but we also managed to sneak in some discussion of TRANSFORMERS, SURF'S UP, and whether or not his status on INDIANA JONES 4 has changed at all.
As I was getting off the elevator, one of the film's representatives met me with an important question directly from Shia: "What is your alias on the site?" I told her, and she disappeared into the interview suite with the information. When I finally walked into the room, the first thing out of Shia's mouth was, "I can't believe you gave up the alias so easily." I didn't have the heart to tell him that I started giving out my real name years ago, but the fact that he even knew who I was was a nice compliment. Since Quint did a fairly extensive interview on the TRANSFORMERS set a while back, I figured he was familiar with AICN, and that's always useful. Anyway, Shia was great fun to talk to, is really energetic and excited about the future, and he's a pretty actor to boot. Enjoy...
Capone: How has DISTURBIA been playing with preview audiences so far?
Shia LaBeouf: We got an awesome reception at SXSW. Were you down there?
Capone: I wasn't, but I go down to Austin a couple of times a year, so I get to enjoy it. I’ll be going down again in the summer for Harry’s wedding.
SL: Harry’s getting married…No! Wow.
C: Go to his MySpace page, you can see the countdown.
SL: He’s got a marriage countdown?! [laughs]
C: He does indeed. Just last night, the Sci-Fi Channel played the “The X-Files” episode that you were on.
C: Yeah. What do you remember about that experience?
SL: I remember that it was like my third job, ever in life.
C: How old were you?
SL: Oh, man, I was 11, maybe. It was great. “The X-Files” at that time was the biggest show on television. And, this was three weeks after the guy had died on set, and that was a big deal. So, there was this weird vibe on set. But it was fun to be around, you know? It sucks because the guy died, obviously, but it was still a really cool vibe--scary as hell. And, I think I had hepatitis in the episode, or something like that? They had these big yellow contacts. They would paint me yellow every day. I had never experienced anything like that.
C: I noticed in looking over your film roles in particular over the years, you really seem to have not repeated yourself. Every role is different than the one before or any of the ones before. Is that a deliberate effort on your part?
SL: That’s the goal. My favorite actors are always, you know…Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Gary Oldman, Tom Hanks even. And the only way to create longevity is to make it interesting for the audience. I don’t want to shit on any actors, but if you start looking like the romantic comedy types, you’re dead.
The minute you become a "type," it’s over. You just don’t want to become a "type" of actor, the comedy type or the dark type. So, the only way to stay away from that typing and that shoeboxing is to do something different every time. And, it’s hard, because at 20, how different can you get?
C: I was going to ask you that. When you’re younger, it’s got to be more difficult to find variety in the work.
SL: It is difficult.
C: I have to imagine you get calls to be in high school movies a few times a month.
SL: Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s poison. That’s the poison of it, and I could do that movie really quick, and make a lot of money doing it, and have a really nice house, and a really nice bed, and never be able to sleep because I’d be reading Talkbacks, and I’d want to kill myself, you know, I’d want to stab myself in the face. Even now, I read the Talkbacks and it’s, like, Argh-h-h, my God! The pressure’s insane.
And, it’s bullshit--any actor says he doesn’t read the Talkbacks is lying. And, I was talking to Quint about it, and Quint’s, like, “Aw, no man, don’t worry about it. Don’t read Talkbacks. Anything you read in Talkbacks is garbage. Don’t even read the Talkbacks.” [Talkbackers, he's all yours.]
C: For about the first three years I wrote for the site, it really upset me to read the Talkbacks.
SL: Yeah, it drives me fucking’ crazy. It drives me nuts.
C: And I made the mistake of responding to some of them. Then I’d go, No, I gotta stop. It only makes it worse if I respond. Now, I say you’ve done different things, but you’ve made two films in which robots are brutalizing humans, so is that going to be your new niche?
SL: No, no, no. For me, Isaac Asimov is big, but TRANSFORMERS is on a different level.
C: Oh, I know, they’re totally different. And, the other thing I’ve noticed about your career is that you’ve struck a really great balance between the bigger movies and the smaller-scale human dramas. And, I’d include things like DISTURBIA in that latter category. There are really only a handful of characters in that film. Even fewer than A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS from last year.
SL: …or BOBBY.
SL: Again, that’s part of the mixture. And, part of the Tom Hanks quality of a career. That’s the route, that’s the route, just to mix it up.
C: Are you going to continue that process? Always keep an eye out for the smaller films of substance?
SL: Always. I read everything. There are five or six actors in this business that always go for the same things. And, every different variable of it, like, Emile’s [Hirsch] doing the same thing now. Only this is the first time he’s doing something ‘big,’ you know? SPEED RACER is going to be nuts. And, he’s doing the same thing.
And, Joe Gordon-Levitt is going to start…I mean, that’s the way it goes—the ebb and flow of this. We’re all after the same films. They’re both great actors. It’s fun to have people in your age group that you respect, because it drives you. If there was nobody else, you’d be kind of lazy, you know, da-da-da-da [sings a lazy tune], ‘I’m okay,’ but there’s always that lack of…you know, there’s that insecurity, because they are so good that you start watching their shit, and you’re going, ‘Oh-h-h, man. Fuck, I got to bring it down…gotta go study up’. That’s great to have that around, or watch a Ryan Gosling do something that nobody’s ever done in this industry, the way he’s doing it, the amount of control he has. It’s amazing to have these type of people as your peers.
C: Yeah. Actually, when I interviewed Joseph, he mentioned Ryan Gosling, too, as someone just a little bit older, but as a real inspiration.
SL: But, even Joe. Gosling’s almost 10 years older than me. Joe’s about five or six years older than me. Me and Emile are probably the closest in age right now. And, Jamie Bell is another one who’s just, like, [mimics ‘shot out of a cannon’ sound effects]. BILLY ELLIOT is still one of the sickest movies I’ve seen, as far as performance goes.
And, there’s Michael Angarano, who’s doing that karate thing, that [still untitled] Jet Li-Jackie Chan thing. All of us got that call. Everyone gets that call. That’s the way this goes. Everyone gets the DISTURBIA call. Everyone gets that call. And so, it’s tough. Everybody’s got their thing going, but we all hear about everybody’s stuff.
C: Two years ago, I guess, when A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS was still making the festival circuit, and I interviewed [writer-director] Dito Montiel here. What a responsibility you had to not just work with a first-time writer/director, but playing the guy that is writing and directing.
SL: Right there, yeah. Me and Robert [Downey] both had a tough time with that. And, Dito is such a nut job, he’d start doing mannerisms in his everyday routine, because he knew we were studying him. So, things he wanted in the movie, he wouldn’t even tell us. He would just start…you know [he tugs at his pants as an example], you’d start seeing him do it all the time. He was a nut, that guy’s insane. But he didn’t want me for that movie. [He] hated the fact that I was a Disney Channel kid, and I’d go in and earn, so you always get that, too. It’s always reinvention, or people don’t accept you as a certain thing, or you start getting the same job over and over and over again. You can get really locked into that.
C: As a Disney Channel kid, do you feel you have to work twice as hard to overcome that?
SL: There’s a stigma. And, that was where I started, so I’m lucky and not, at the same time. It opened me up to a huge audience, but at the time, Disney was a shit channel. And, anybody who tells you different [pauses] is working for Disney. The Disney Channel at the time was, like, it wasn’t a good channel. It’s like the “Jet Jackson” [and] “The Jersey” days, and it hadn’t turned into what it is now, which is a huge…It’s like a monster now, with “High School Musical” taking over everything. This is all after the “Even Stevens” days--and that’s a big audience. So, SURF’S UP [an upcoming animated feature in which Shia voices the lead, a penguin who surfs] is aimed at that certain target audience.
C: Right, right. I was going to ask you about that, because most people are focusing so much on TRANSFORMERS they don’t even know that before that you’ve got an animated film coming out this summer as well.
SL: But, we’ve been working on that for about four years. It just so happens to be coming to fruition at the same as the rest of the explosion. But, again, it is a stigma. And, as an actor, it’s debilitating to work for a company that doesn’t allow you anything but this one tone and one-note performances. That sucks, you know. It’s hard, because you can do so much, yet you’re not allowed to. But, I can’t crap on it, because it was my beginning, that’s how I started. And, where you go with that is different for all of us.
Again, Gosling came from Disney. So, you look back at that career, and he took time away from it to be able to build his mystery. And now, he can do whatever he wants, whereas I didn’t really take much time. It went straight from Disney Channel to HOLES. There will come a time when I’ll have to take some time off.
C: I’d heard that you had gotten into Yale. Would going there be a part of the mystery building?
SL: I did. I got in, and I haven’t gone. I mean, I wanted to go, because it’s just insane. I don’t know if I can fit in there, what it would be, but when you pick colleges, why not go for the best? You'd be insane not to try. But, I don’t know, I don’t know. I haven’t been to New Haven. I don’t know what living there would be like. I haven’t really researched it. I just know that I sent an application, they sent me back a letter.
C: Well, congratulations! I do want to talk about DISTURBIA, but I have to ask one more thing, just because I’m practically legally bound to ask…The talk that has connected you with the next INDIANA JONES movie, you've said it many times before that it's rumor. Is that still the case?
SL: It’s a rumor, it’s a rumor. Yeah, I mean, I know what the rumor is, and I know where it started. And, I know who started it, and I know where it was started, and how it was started. This came from a dinner conversation after a screening of DISTURBIA, and somebody ran with something that was never said. And, then it went nuts. And, then when it hits your site, that is when the explosion happens. Then all the feedback started coming in. But, I still have not had the conversation with ‘the man’. So, at the end of the day, until I have that conversation, or have a contract in front of me, or have read a script, or have been told a character, it is a rumor. But, I’m perpetuating it. I love to keep it going.
C: You don’t want to look disinterested!
SL: No, no. I’m into it, believe me. Anybody would be. And, it’s better to be rumored to be in INDIANA JONES IV than KANGAROO JACK V. So, it’s not killing my career. It’s almost like a blessing, but it is a rumor. And, I’d be lying if I said anything but that, because you look at Cate Blanchett--her being cast in the film was announced.
C: Right. They are at the point now where they’re actually announcing new cast members.
SL: Right, they’re announcing people. So, if I’d been rumored all this time, and it was real, it wouldn’t be a rumor. It would be an announcement.
C: Well, good luck with that, either way.
SL: I’m going to keep perpetuating it, I’ll keep fueling it.
C: Just keep the schedule open. DISTURBIA is an interesting mix, a mix I’m not sure has ever been attempted--that sort of high school/John Hughes stuff mixed with the old-school Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery, a little bit of the suburban paranoia. What element of the script grabbed you first?
SL: It wasn’t the script that grabbed me first. It was D.J. [Caruso, director] and his film THE SALTON SEA.
C: Great movie.
SL: In my top 10. After that, it was the chance to talk to Spielberg once [the film is a Dreamworks production]. It was just that. And then it was the script. The original script had an evil twin in it, which was really not the way to go.
C: A twin for you?
SL: A twin. My character had an evil twin, the killer, and then it was just very…it was lame. It was really lame. It was B-movie lame, but bad B movie lame. We had three weeks before shooting, and we were in the ‘evil twin’ stage. And, then we had Carl [Ellsworth, screenwriter] come in, and he called D.J., and then Spielberg later on …and we started throwing stuff around.
Not that I was the writer, but someone said let’s just brainstorm for a while, let’s figure out character stuff. The fact that it was that…you were in, you were i the epicenter of the creation. I had never experienced that, like an actor. I had never been in that position, where your word meant something, where D.J. was asking, What do you think? I had never had that happen to me.
And, that was just in the meetings. But, I had to audition for it, because the part was already cast. They were three weeks away, and they already had their guy. That was the word: ‘We already have a contract. We got our dude. You’re not the guy, and that’s it.’ That’s what was told to me, but I didn’t care, because I didn’t have a job, and I wanted to work with D.J., so I went in, and they were casting the women at this point. But, they weren’t casting the guys. Guys were cast. The dude was cast.
But, it was the women’s audition, so they told me where they were casting the females, and I wrote my name down on the thing, and the casting director didn’t know who I was, and my name kind of sounds like a girl’s name--well, it could--so they called out, and I came up and walked right past the casting director, who was, like, ‘Uh-h-h-hh’, because they already had the guy, and they weren’t casting guys. And, I walked in, shut the door and said, ‘I’m going to audition for you now’ and then started reading, going with the flow. And, then I got the role. But before that, it wasn’t mine to even attempt.
C: I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of an evil twin instead of the David Morse character.
SL: That was the original idea.
C: Wow, that’s a radical departure from where it ended up, though.
SL: I think there was the David Morse character always built in, but there was an evil twin element to my character, which is just, [he pretends to gag]…didn’t make any sense.
C: David Morse has never been scarier. I guess we’ve seen him do sort of bad guy sometimes, but usually, he’s just this very gentle, big guy…
SL:…which is part of the fear of him. You don’t know if he’s playing…you don’t know, and because he’s got this baby face, and he’s a sweet-looking man, but he’s seven feet tall.
C: I blame the hair. His hair scared me a little, long and greasy.
SL: He does have some strange hair. Those are choices he makes. And even with the earring he wears, just small little details, where the hair is a bit overgrown, and there’s the earring. Those are choices that David made.
[We are given the two-minute warning.]
C: I should ask one TRANSFORMERS question. When Quint talked to you, you were in the middle of it. So, now you’re done making it. How did you survive? Did you have to take a month off and go to the islands, or were you energized? How did you fare? A little battered and bruised?
SL: It was an insane shoot, and Quint was there, and he saw how insane, and that was every day. But, again, you never experience anything like this--to see a functioning robot, you know…To see a bumblebee in person, as a fan, is nuts. To meet Colin [Fickes], you know, to meet him, to watch Mike [Bay, director] go through the editing. I took, I think, a week off and then went into press, went into promotion, then enduring ADR and a bunch of post-production for these three films. So, I really haven’t had time off, yet.
I still haven’t wound down from it. It’s still this insanity. It’s still this crazy…it’s still nuts, but I’ve had a chance to read scripts and take meetings and things like that. But, haven’t wound down off TRANSFORMERS. It’s aneurysm inducing. That’s how nuts it is. We went to get our MPAA rating. They didn’t want to give us an R. They said ‘You want to be PG13? You can’t have an R’.
C: Wait, were you going for R?
SL: No, we were going for PG13. But, they wouldn’t give us the R rating. They said it was too intense to release, and they said Mike had to cut it down. Of course, Mike’s not going to cut it down. And, we have Spielberg go fight the good fight and get our rating down, but it’s just an intense movie. It’s the type of movie where you watch, and you’re holding yourself and your heart’s going crazy to the point where it doesn’t feel right. It’s just nuts.
And, to have ILM say things like, ‘It’s the most ridiculous movie we've ever worked on. It’s the best graphics we’ve ever made.’ And, this is a company that’s been around. So, when you start getting feedback like that, and the excitement from…You read these Talk-backers, and they’re… ‘The flames, [yelling] THE FLAMES. Just the level of…the intricacies and the importance, it just makes it all feel like you worked on something important, really important, to the point where it’s beyond you. You’re part of something magical. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in it or not.
C: Just to be a part of the machine, literally?
SL: That’s it. Just to see Optimist Prime Transformer is enough to bring people in theaters. So, we’ll see where it goes. It’s been a fun ride so far, though.
C: I’m looking forward to it. I think the first time I saw you and remembered your name was watching the second season of “Project Greenlight,” and I’ve met the directors of the first and third ones.
SL: …the horror guy?
C: Right, John Gulager and Pete Jones, who’s from here. But, I had never met anyone from the SHAKER HEIGHT project. So, do you have any thoughts on that now? Was there something inherently wrong about the whole process?
SL: The problem was you’re making a movie, but all the importance and the priority is the show. The show’s crew is getting paid more than the movie’s crew. So, then, you’ve got that whole fuckin’ animosity going. Their craft service is better than ours, which is fucked. You steal cameras and start filming them. The crews just hated the other crews, so you had this crew war.
C: That’s the interesting reality show: "Crew Wars."
SL: Yeah, if you were filming that process, so that was weird. And, some things were, like, created: You’d show up and your set wouldn’t be there. That doesn’t happen on normal films…‘Oh, we had the church, but now we don’t have the church’, then ‘What do you mean, Chris, We don’t have the church. That’s not right. Are you kidding me?’ So, it was things like that that would happen just to perpetuate the drama of the show.