Shia LaBeouf’s career has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs: he’s got both raw talent and a raw temper, and has jumped from Disney channel comedy star to A-list actor to performance artist (or something). He’s dramatic and maybe a little ridiculous, but he’s always compelling—and that makes for some pretty great facts. Buckle yourself up into that yellow Camaro and get ready for 42 controversial facts about Shia LaBeouf.
Shia LaBeouf’s mother, Shayna, was a dancer and ballerina, and later a visual artist and jewelry designer. His father, Jeffrey Craig, was a veteran of the Vietnam war who held down a variety of jobs.
LaBeouf has described his parents as hippies and “pretty weird people,” and he would often go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with his father as a child.
Just how strange was it growing up in the LaBeouf household? Well, maybe this will give you some idea: his parents would dress up as clowns in order to sell hot dogs outside of their apartment. Whatever you can do to make ends meet, right?
Bizarrely, LaBeouf has two Missy Elliot tattoos on his knees, though he admits he doesn’t love the vanguard female rapper that much.
His father, as evidenced by those Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, also abused illicit substances during LaBeouf’s childhood, and attended rehab for intravenous substance addiction.
After his parents divorced, the family went through significant financial troubles, and LaBeouf’s uncle almost adopted him because his parents were too proud to go on welfare.
LaBeouf dealt with these hardships through comedy, and would often perform imitations of his father to his family. Now that he’s famous for his performances, LaBeouf supports both his parents financially and remains close to them.
LaBeouf began performing at comedy clubs at the age of 10, and describes his appeal as having a "50-year-old mouth on [a] 10-year-old kid.”
The comedian pulled a classic Even Stevens trick to get himself an agent: he looked through the Yellow Pages, called an agent up, and pretended to be his own manager in order to snag a rep.
LaBeouf has said that his initial attraction to acting, besides his love of performing, was that it was a way into making his family financially stable; he had previously met another child actor who had everything the young LaBeouf wanted, and he thought that he could also benefit from acting.
His last name, LaBeouf, is actually a misspelling. “Boeuf” in French means “Beef” (his father is French Cajun), but in Shia’s name, the letters O and E are flipped. Also, in French, nouns are gendered, and so it should be Le (masculine) instead of La (feminine). I would imagine, for this reason, that French journalists don't bother covering the star, as it'd make their spell check explode.
All of his Yellow Pages hustling paid off, and in the early 2000s, he was signed for his breakthrough role as Louis Stevens in the Disney Channel’s comedy show Even Stevens. LaBeouf has said that being cast in the show was the best thing that ever happened to him.
LaBeouf claims that he was briefly considered for the cast for Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad, but by then his volatile reputation had caught up with him, and execs felt that he was too much of a risk to cast in such a big investment.
It’s difficult to remember this, considering the different career paths they each took, but LaBeouf dated his Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps co-star Carey Mulligan from 2009 to 2010. Mulligan is now married to Mumford and Sons frontman Marcus Mumford.
LaBeouf was actually accepted into the Ivy League’s Yale University but opted to focus on his acting career instead.
When Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen came out, LaBeouf shared the nomination for the Razzie’s Worst Screen Couple of 2009 with “either Megan Fox or any Transformer.”
In 2013, LaBeouf released his short film HowardCantour.com on the internet. Almost immediately, bloggers pointed out the similarities between LaBeouf’s film and Justin M. Damiano, a comic by Dan Clowes. It wasn’t exactly even clever plagiarism: the opening monologues of each work are almost identical.
LaBeouf has written three graphic novels, but in 2013, following the scrutiny of his short film, it was also discovered that at least two of these comics cribbed their text from Benoît Duteurtre and Charles Bukowski.
When LaBeouf apologized for his plagiarism transgressions, he actually plagiarized his apology from the Yahoo Answers page. Is this performance art or something?
Well, maybe it was performance art. In 2014, LaBeouf caused even more scandalized stirrings when he showed up to the red carpet of the Berlin International Film Festival with a paper bag on his head. Yeah, remember that? Scrawled on the bag in permanent marker were the words, “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE.” It was later revealed that this was a part of a larger performance piece with two other artists, intended as a commentary of, among other things, the plagiarism debacle.
During this performance art campaign, LaBeouf tweeted out “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” every day.
Since working with him on the film Holes, LaBeouf considers the actor Jon Voight as his mentor. You might know Voight from his own films or, if you’re a pop culture buff, for being Angelina Jolie’s estranged father.
The tattoo on his right wrist, which says “1986-2004,” commemorates the year he decided to become an adult.
LaBeouf has said that he was drawn to performance art because of his method-acting heroes like Daniel-Day Lewis and Sean Penn. As he said, “I loved the myths I heard about how their performances were created. And I thought, ‘Oh man, it would be great if you could see the process, you’d enjoy the performance a bit more.’”
Through his work directing the rapper Cage’s music video for “I Never Knew You,” LaBeouf also met rapper Kid Cudi. The three of them developed a friendship and continue to collaborate to this day.
LaBeouf is named after his grandfather, who, it just so happens, was also a comedian.
In 2016, LaBeouf met Mia Goth in 2012, while the two of them were on set for the film Nymphomaniac. After they were seen getting married by an Elvis impersonator in 2016, the pair revealed that they weren't legally married—the scene with Elvis has been a commitment ceremony. However, when they split in 2018, they filed for divorce.
So I guess they were married after all?
Since the turmoil of the early 2010s, LaBeouf has been working on making his way back into Hollywood’s good graces and is trying to attend AA meetings regularly and stay on the straight and narrow.
LaBeouf got out of the Transformers franchise after three films; he was replaced by Mark Wahlberg in the lead role for later installments. He has said that he just didn’t feel like there was any way to develop his character, Sam Witwicky, any further. To be fair, he was probably right about that one.
LaBeouf has never been afraid to bare it all, whether emotionally physically, and in a music video for Icelandic indie darlings Sigur Ros, he did a full frontal scene. Don’t all rush to YouTube at once, now.
LaBeouf once publically watched 20 of his movies in a row (from most recent to oldest) in a movie theatre. It was a three-day-long endeavor, and fans were invited to join him along the journey; those who weren’t able to make it could live stream the event.
LaBeouf’s installment of the Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was almost universally reviled. LaBeouf played Indy’s leather-jacket toting son Mutt Williams to very little acclaim. Nonetheless, Steven Spielberg had faith in LaBeouf from all the way back when the young actor starred in Holes and cast him in not only the Indiana installment but also in Disturbia, among other films.
LaBeouf pretty much agrees with the critical consensus on the sequel and his performance: he once said that he “dropped the ball” on the Indiana Jones franchise.
LaBeouf also admitted that he was disappointed not only in himself on the film, but also in his interactions with Steven Spielberg. As he said, “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of. You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a f***ing company.”
While filming a fight scene in Disturbia, LaBeouf suffered an injury, and still has a scar on his ribs to this day.
In recent years, LaBeouf has been experiencing something of a career renaissance. In 2016, many were shocked when he was cast in the indie film American Honey—yet his critics ate their words when they saw the movie. One reviewer admitted that he viewed LaBeouf’s appearance as a “stunt casting,” but went on to say that the actor ended up giving the best performance of his career.
American Honey marked a turnaround for LaBeouf, but filming it wasn't easy. In one scene, LaBeouf had to smash his head through a glass window. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this stunt didn't go well, and LaBeouf ended up in the hospital with cuts to his head and hand. The wounds required stitches, but he was able to return to continue filming just a few days later.
Some of LaBeouf's most controversial projects have been with the performance art trio LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, along with a British artist, Luke Turner, and a Finnish artist, Nastja Säde Rönkkö.
LaBeouf's infamous "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE" stunt was one of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner's performance art pieces. After recieving backlash for the bizarre stunt, they followed it up with another project, called #IAMSORRY, where LaBeouf stood in an art gallery for six days, wearing the bag and silently crying.
LaBeouf claims that one female museum-goer sexually assaulted him during the #IAMSORRY performance, though Rönkkö and Turner claim that they intervened before anything actually happened.
The internet exploded after a video of a ponytailed LaBeouf giving a bizarre motivational speech in front of a green screen was released. It eventually became a popular meme, and it spawned the most searched GIF of 2015. Though everyone has seen it, most people don't realize that the stunt was actually yet another LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner piece, titled #INTRODUCTIONS.
On June 26, 2014, LaBeouf made a public scene at New York's Studio 54 theater. He was allegedly "acting disorderly, yelling and being loud." After being asked to leave, LaBeouf angrily refused, and so someone called the authorities. Officers eventually detained the actor, but not before he angrily swore at them and spat in their faces.
Many believed that LaBeouf's life was turning around after his comeback appearance in American Honey—but the actor was still in the depths of addiction. In July 2017, in Savannah, Georgia, LaBeouf was apprehended for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and obstruction. Officer bodycams revealed an utterly intoxicated LaBeouf racially taunting the arresting officers.
LaBeouf was eventually found not guilty on a public intoxication charge, but pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct. He was fined $1,000, sentenced to 12 months probation, and required to attend anger management training.
Following his 2017 arrest, LaBeouf entered a drug rehabilitation program. Later, he would report that he had been diagnosed with PTSD while attending therapy in rehab.
As part of his therapy during rehab, LaBeouf wrote a screenplay as a way of confronting his relationship with his father. This was no mere exercise, however—he actually ended up making the movie! After enlisting the help of his friend, director Alma Har'el, LaBeouf's script became the movie Honey Boy. To make the therapeutic project even more potent, LaBeouf actually plays his own father in the film.
Since premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, Honey Boy has received universal acclaim, and it's already considered LaBeouf's magnum opus. However, despite the positive reception, LaBeouf has admitted that he feels strange about it. After all, he wrote the screenplay as a way to confront childhood trauma, not to gain praise.
As he put it, "It is strange to fetishize your pain and make a product out of it and feel guilty about that. It felt very selfish. This whole thing felt very selfish."
In recent years, LaBeouf has become close friends with the members of the hip hop collective BROCKHAMPTON. Though he started out as a fan, he eventually met and formed a bond with the members of the group. LaBeouf and BROCKHAMPTON now have weekly group therapy sessions together at the group's Los Angeles home.
In 2018, LaBeouf interviewed his friend Kevin Abstract of BROCKHAMPTON for i-D magazine. During the interview, Abstract revealed the profound effect that their group therapy sessions have had on himself, the band's relationships, and their new music.
Though LaBeouf has given varied responses to his many scandals—from denial to pride and everything in between—he has recently taken responsibility for his controversial past, saying, "I’m a buffoon. My public outbursts are failures. They’re not strategic. They’re a struggling mother****** showing his [butt] in front of the world."
The press tour for his film Borg vs. McEnroe came right on the heels of LaBeouf's 2017 arrest, and LaBeouf set out to make sure that it was less controversial than his previous public appearances. He obsessively prepared for his interviews, workshopped his responses to any potential questions, and even did practice interviews with his therapist.
When he was young, LaBeouf was horrified to see his mother get hit by a car in a parking lot. Apparently, the actor tried to chase the driver down with a knife, but didn't manage to catch him. The experience left LaBeouf scarred, and he bought a firearm to protect himself soon after. Reportedly, he still sleeps with the weapon today.
LaBeouf's idols are method actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Sean Penn—yet his attempts to follow in their footsteps have led to many ridiculous on-set antics. While filming Lawless, he got intoxicated off moonshine and knocked Tom Hardy out. During production on Charlie Countryman, he dropped acid and tried to choke out Fredrik Bond, the film's director.
His acting out hasn't been limited to others, either. To prepare for the WWI drama Fury, LaBeouf shaved down one of his teeth below his gums so that his character would sound like he'd been hit in the face from his firearm's recoil. You can say a lot about LaBeouf, but you have to admit—he shows commitment!
In order to snag his role in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, LaBeouf reportedly took photographs of his, er, nether regions, and sent them to the director. If that weren’t enough, he also recorded himself having intercourse with his girlfriend and sent the tape along too. Von Trier is no stranger to courting controversy, and LaBeouf got the part.
Shortly after Even Stevens shot him to stardom, LaBeouf was flooded with film offers. In 2003, he starred in the adaptation of the young adult novel Holes. According to LaBeouf, when his father came to visit him on the set of his son’s major film, dear old dad started flirting with one of Shia’s co-star. That co-star? Sigourney Weaver. Shia says this was one of the most embarrassing moments of his life.
LaBeouf has said that his father was “tough as nails and a different breed of man,” and often subjected him to both verbal and mental abuse. On one occasion, while in the midst of a Vietnam flashback, his father once pointed a firearm at Shia.
According to LaBeouf, he and his Transformers co-star Megan Fox had an affair while they were filming. At the time, Fox may or may not have been involved with her now-husband, Brian Austin Green; the two had a volatile relationship, and it looks like LaBeouf never thought to ask. As he explained the tryst, “Look, you're on the set for six months, with someone who's rooting to be attracted to you, and you're rooting to be attracted to them."
LaBeouf also confirmed that it was Fox’s comments about Transformers director Michael Bay—comments that compared him to Hitler—that got her booted from the Transformers franchise. However, it wasn’t Bay’s idea, it was executive producer Steven Spielberg’s idea.
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