Shia LaBeouf Interview

Shia Labeouf in Transformers 3

Shia LaBeouf is Hollywood’s fastest rising male star. His films Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen have been some of the biggest hits of the last decade. We talk to him about life in the fast lane, why he feels that Michelle Trachtenberg is the female Garry Shandling and which leading actor is nicknamed “Glass Dick”.

by Chris Neumer

Extra Information

CHRIS NEUMER: I did this thing with Nick Nolte in New York, I don’t know if you know Nick, but he’s nuts. (read Nolte’s interview)

SHIA LABEOUF: He’s a lunatic.

CHRIS NEUMER: A fun lunatic. If I had kids, I wouldn’t feel bad if he was with my kids, but at same time he’s out there. I was sitting on a couch in his suite in New York just like that, waiting for him. He came up to me and sat down so close to me that one ass cheek landed on the top of my thigh and slid down. As he’s doing that, I’m looking around the room and seeing a couple of other chairs way on the far side of it. But that’s how we ended up doing the interview, sitting like that on a love seat.

SHIA LABEOUF: He told me the craziest story at Sundance, about how he used to be a glassblower.

CHRIS NEUMER: Nothing surprises me with him.

SHIA LABEOUF: He was glassblowing, he said, in his boxers in his garage, and one of the bubbles popped. The glass got on his dick, and it wouldn’t get off, because it’s like molten lava when it comes off the bubble. He said he went to the hospital and at the hospital they said, “Look, we can’t remove the glass because doing so will puncture a vein and then we’ll have to sever your penis.” So his wife called him “glass dick Nolte”. I don’t know if he has a wife or if that actually happened. But I know he likes to tell stories like that.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t think he does have a wife actually… Yep, and the stories are good too. And anytime I mention Nick Nolte, everybody’s like, “Oh my god, you would not believe what happened to me.” By the way, here’s a copy of the magazine, I brought it because Dito [Montiel, LaBeouf’s director in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints] something for us on that one. (read Montiel’s article) He’s a different kind of guy.

SHIA LABEOUF: He’s a completely different breed of human.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yes, working with him on that piece, it started out with him writing things in all capitals…

SHIA LABEOUF: Yeah, that’s how we got the script.

CHRIS NEUMER: …and then, he had things where he was watching Maury while he was writing it and he started talking about things going on in Maury while he was watching it. I said, “You know we can’t print this.” The main point of contention was his original last paragraph where he said that watching the movie would make people want to puke.

SHIA LABEOUF: I don’t see that, that’s kind of bullshit. See, I feel he’s trying to be weird sometimes.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah. You think?

SHIA LABEOUF: I think he’s kind of forced. Like an act.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t know.

SHIA LABEOUF: I think it’s him going back to that rock star thing, where he is trying to be the rock star again.

CHRIS NEUMER: He definitely is a unique guy.

SHIA LABEOUF: He’s a unique guy. I’m going to go through the magazine right when you leave.

CHRIS NEUMER: I always like to hear that. I was glad to be able to talk to you, because there are two people, of which you’re one, whom I find absolutely fascinating because of the way you’re both transitioning from child stars to adult actors. You and Joe Gordon-Levitt are just breezing through…

SHIA LABEOUF: Joe Gordon-Levitt is talented.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yes, he is amazing. Do you find it harder being a male and making the transition from child actor?

SHIA LABEOUF: No, no. It’s much easier.

CHRIS NEUMER: Why do you say that? I assumed the exact opposite was true.

SHIA LABEOUF: It’s less vain. First off, look at me and Joe. We’re not like classic beauties or Adonis’.

CHRIS NEUMER: Not like me.

SHIA LABEOUF: Not like you. No, definitely not. A woman… it’s very vain, you need that sex factor. If you look like me and you’re a female, obviously there’d be a problem. If you were like the Garry Shandling version of a woman, no matter how good you are as an actress, you’re Michelle Trachtenberg. [You’re] kind of in this weird position where you’re not sexy enough to be a leading lady, no matter how talented you are. It’s tough; it’s harder for a female. It’s always been that way, in film for any age no matter what it’s always harder for the woman.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’m on the periphery of the industry writing about film as I do, but at the same time I still feel like I have some kind of idea of what goes on. And thinking about this last night I came to the conclusion that if you have boobs and are willing to show them off, that’s got to help a lot.

SHIA LABEOUF: Sure.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s what I was saying. Now, I don’t know how that reflects back to Michelle Trachtenberg.

SHIA LABEOUF: Yeah, you look at Sienna Miller. Because she’s beautiful, she has a career. That’s as simple as it gets. I haven’t seen her movies, but I know that where she came from as a tabloid goddess, into the actor thing, it’s not an easy transition, unless you’re beautiful. If you’re beautiful, then it works.

CHRIS NEUMER: I think that’s why you become a tabloid princess.

SHIA LABEOUF: Exactly, so it’s not the same for me and Joe. Me and Joe aren’t personalities, so it’s different. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an actor’s actor. He’s an actor, but he’s darker at this point in his career and his choices and his path than I am.

CHRIS NEUMER: Are you just saying that because he’s played gay prostitutes and severe manic-depressives who need to be hospitalized? That’s a bold statement!

SHIA LABEOUF: It’s just different choices; you can’t put Joseph in a type. He’s an actor, but you can’t type him, which means he’s going to have longevity if he keeps that up.

CHRIS NEUMER: Now let me ask you this–and feel free to tell me to go to hell because I know this is something that most actors don’t like to talk about–particularly for someone in your position, you’ve got to figure that money is a pretty big factor.

SHIA LABEOUF: Oh, hell yeah!

CHRIS NEUMER: Certain people just grab for the cash and, in my eyes, that screws you over in the long run. I read a quote of yours where you said you weren’t picking projects for the money, just what interested you. But you have Even Stevens money in the bank.

SHIA LABEOUF: I initially got into this career because of money; pure and simple. There was no other reason I got into this. When I got onto Even Stevens, I didn’t know shit about craft, I’d never read Stanislavski, I didn’t know anything about Strasberg, I knew shit. All I knew was this was a way to get cash and get me out of Echo Park. My dad was a drug dealer, my mom had a job selling pens. This was my life. It was all money. You could make $8,000 a week doing this show. What the fuck? Of course, I’m in! Sold! That was Even Stevens. I didn’t learn about craft until I meet Jon Voight.
I knew nothing about acting, I knew nothing about the magic, I did not watch Papillion and Dustin Hoffman do all this insanity, Kramer vs. Kramer, then Midnight Cowboy, I never watched movies like that. I was watching [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles, Yogi Bear, the Transformers, I knew nothing about any of that art. You started getting introduced by Jon Voight. You start realizing who he is. You watch Coming Home and Midnight Cowboy you realize this dude’s a magician. Then he starts showing you John Hurt in Elephant Man. I start watching Gary Oldman with him; we had a Gary Oldman night. It’s fucking insanity, the dude’s a magician. Magic was created for me. I knew nothing about it before that. After Voight, it became something else. But again there are steps you’ve got to go through. Joseph’s in a peculiar situation. He’s in a lucky situation because he’s show was on a way bigger scale then Even Stevens was, so his audience was sort of built in. The audience that would follow from 3rd Rock would be way bigger than the one from Even Stevens. Not only that but he’s not coming off a show with a stigma, you come off the Disney channel, you’re kind of fucked. You’re “the Hilary Duff guy”.

CHRIS NEUMER: That was the impetus of your Hilary Duff, Gary Oldman quote.

SHIA LABEOUF: Right.

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