‘Dazed’ Inciteful Interview Gives Us An Incite To Who Shia LaBeouf Is

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Shia LaBeouf is at it again, letting the world into that crazy mind of his. Get ready this guy is deep.

LaBeouf gave a very candid interview via e-mails with Aimee Cliff from Dazed about  his #IAMSORRY event, why he pulled out his tooth, cut his face, and didn’t shower for three months for Fury, on “becoming a man”,  the start of his metamodernest journey, and the “I’m Not Famous” brown bag incident.

What kinds of connections did you form with people during #IAMSORRY? (An event in February, in which LaBeouf silently met members of the public one by one for five days in an LA gallery.)
Almost everyone who came in had ?preconceived notions of what they were going to experience, and as soon as Nastja Rönkkö brought them through the curtain, everything changed. ?I went from being a celebrity or object to a fellow human. I was genuinely remorseful. It wasn’t manipulation, I was heartbroken. People I’ve never met before came ?in and loved on me and with me. Some would hold my hand and cry with me, some would tell me to ‘figure it out’ or to ‘be a man’. ?I’ve never experienced love like ?that; empathy, humanity.

Still, there were others who came in with an agenda they couldn’t let go of. Some folks would come in, take my bag off, pop off a selfie and bounce. That felt terrible.

Did any experiences stand out to you as particularly moving or unsettling?
One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me… There were hundreds of people in line when she walked out with disheveled hair and smudged lipstick. It was no good, not just for me but her man as well. On top of that my girl was in line to see me, because it was Valentine’s Day and I was living in the gallery for the duration of the event – we were separated for five days, no communication. So it really hurt her as well, as I guess the news of it traveled through the line. When she came in she asked for an explanation, and I couldn’t speak, so we both sat with this unexplained trauma silently. It was painful.

Is it true you had your tooth removed, cut your face and didn’t wash while shooting Fury?
Fury is the most meat I’ve ever had to chew on. David (Ayer, director) told us right from the gate: ‘I need you to give me everything.’ So the day after I got the job, I joined the US National Guard. I was baptised – accepted Christ in my heart – tattooed my surrender and became ?a chaplain’s assistant to Captain Yates for the 41st Infantry. I spent a month living on a forward operating base. Then I linked up with my cast and went to Fort Irwin. I pulled my tooth out, knifed my face up and spent days watching horses die. ?I didn’t bathe for four months. I met some tankers who told me that was just the way it was out there – some guys had the same pair of socks on for ?three years.

One of the film’s overriding themes is ‘becoming a man’. Did you bring any of your own ideas about masculinity to the role?
I always had a fucked-up view on masculinity. My father was a gun nut like Hemingway. He was also a junkie and a bully, mainly to prove he wasn’t effeminate, even though he was a painter and a poet, a mime and a storyteller. Every primitive culture has a puberty ceremony where children become men. Jews still have it, but it’s all religious nostalgia. For the most part, super-modern or industrialised societies don’t have them any more. We only have the harrowing journey – war in particular. If a man comes back from war, everyone agrees: ‘Here is a man.’ My dad told me that when he got back from Vietnam, his family agreed: ‘By golly – you look like a man, Jeff.’ I think the withholding of a puberty ceremony from young men in our society is a scheme which has been cunningly devised to make young men go to war. It creates an eagerness to fight; it’s an aggression that stems out ?of insecurity.

Could you pinpoint the start of your metamodernist journey? 
It started as a genuine existential crisis. I made a short film with another person’s (Daniel Clowes’) ideas, took it to Cannes and never properly accredited him. I was in hot water looking for ideas to back my play. I found Kenneth Goldsmith and made contact beginning of January – I ran with that concept for a while, which led very quickly to a dead end in that it didn’t truly match my sensibilities. Not all of them anyway. I am a deeply ironic, cynical person. I was raised on The Simpsons and South Park, it’s my default setting. Which is why “uncreative writing” and Goldsmith felt right. What was missing however was the hopeful, the sublime, the fantasy, God? Not the hallelujah God, but something. I think these things are true of my generation: we want to change things, we want to have hope, we just don’t know how or where to look.

I found Luke (Turner) through the networks, made contact in the middle of January. He started schooling me on metamodernism. I had read some Artaud and Brecht and found a lot of what he was talking about was already in personal application on set. I am immersive in my craft. I saw the stuff we were orchestrating with Nastja (Säde Rönkkö) in the same light. I don’t see a huge difference in the work we do and the work I do – like a car crash or a birthday party. They’re both incredibly immersive, open and intimate.

Did your announcement on the Nymphomaniac red carpet (LaBeouf wore a paper bag on his head bearing the legend “I am not famous any more”) come from a real desire to withdraw from public life?
Yeah, the 80s and 90s fucked us; our culture became a product to be sold, and anyone in a tabloid is a product – an object. American culture is just about blowjobs and golf. I wanted to take back ownership. Fuck the money, that was never the impetus. ?I wanted purpose.

Do you feel like you‘ve taken back ownership of yourself now?
I’m in a nice position in that I don’t think the studios look to me to sell a film anymore. So the work I wind up doing has little or nothing to do with my public persona and everything to do with my performance. Persona acting has little to nothing to do with ability and everything to do with charisma and ticket sales… After five years of that your dreams die. So in a sense I went on strike. I rebelled.

What I’ve found most interesting about your work is that your public persona has been part of it – the metamodernist performances have become indistinguishable from the performance of being ?a celebrity.
It’s not just me, though, it’s all of us. It’s societal. There is a huge push from the internet to find the true self, the one-self, and it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between our private and professional selves. This is true for everyone, not just celebrities. I think it’s okay to say ‘I am not who I am,’ both as a celebrity and as a person raised on web 2.0. I think it’s honest to say that. There’s beauty in people who reinvent themselves. Actors live a thousand lives, as do hackers… The personality can play around forever. Peter Pan shit.

I’m finding my self through the networks and exploring the multiplicity of personas. The public me, the private me. I’m exploring. What started as an actual full blown existential crisis is now a full blown existential exploration. 

The ever evolving Shia LaBeouf. I don’t think we will ever know the true nature of this man, and that’s not a bad thing. He definitely makes you think.

 

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Noelle