Shia LaBeouf: Riding The Crazy Train To “Nymphomaniac”

Isn't that the Unknown Comic? A guy in a tuxedo who might have been Shia LaBeouf decided to bag it in Berlin.Twitter followers of Amanda Bynes or Miley Cyrus are more than aware that all it takes for a young celebrity to take a turn for the insane is a keyboard and the good old Internet. Shia LaBeouf, former Disney star and Transformers lead, is the latest child star to join this tired trend, as he has been posting “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” and nothing else on his twitter, every day for a month, and ending recently with “#IAMSORRY.” This eccentric behavior, seemingly more artistically-inspired than the drug/alcohol-bender-example of Bynes and Cyrus, has been successful in gaining him media attention worldwide, which may or may not be the best publicity stunt for his role in Lars Von Trier’s controversial and acclaimed Nymphomaniac.

Bynes and Cyrus names are now dropped constantly across the populous, as everyone knows of their Internet infamy; their irresponsibility has boosted them to international superstardom. Now a bit later, LaBeouf is similarly gaining media attention for his Twitter account, but that’s not the only strange headline about him recently. At a Berlin press conference for Nymphomaniac, LaBeouf stated only “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much,” before walking out on director Von Trier and his cast, including Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgardm, and Uma Thurman. On the red carpet, he wore a paper bag over his head, inscribed with the same message as his daily Twitter page (I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE). It was quite the comically confusing sight. LaBeouf has even gone as far to claim that he will be retiring from public life after being accused of plagiarizing a short film just a month back. When he wrote an apology, he plagiarized that too.

Although he came to fame via the “low-brow” entertainment of Even Stevens and Transformers, he is now taking a rather unexpected turn in his career, opting instead for the “higher-class” medium of performance art.  This week, he is at the Los Angeles Cohen Gallery as a piece of art, where viewers can sit across a table from LaBeouf, head bagged, and stare into his guilty eyes. LaBeouf’s stint mirrors an actual performance artist named Marina Abramovic, whose 2010 work The Artist Is Present saw her sitting still at a table at the MoMA for two months in New York City.  Unlike LaBeouf, Abramovic actually showed her face the entire time. While I can’t say LaBeouf’s recent actions are a masterpiece of art (I’m simply not progressive enough to appreciate “performance art”) but I think they’re safe to label as pieces of marketing genius.

LaBeouf may share an age range and social networking site with Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes, but he’s definitely branching off down a path of crazy of a different color: a deliberate sort of crazy. At first glance, showing up to a film premiere wearing a paper bag as a mask is purely baffling and absurd.  But I think there is a method to LaBeouf’s madness. Remember in 2008 when Joaquin Phoenix told David Letterman he was quitting acting to focus on his music and his beard?  He seemed to have lost his mind, but what turned out to be a publicity stunt drew massive attention to Phoenix and his mockumentary I’m Still Here. Since Phoenix’s enigmatic stunt, he has established himself as one of the greatest and most well-respected actors of the new millennium, a far cry from the joke he made himself appear to be in 2008. 

Now, all eyes are on Shia LaBeouf and his antics.  I’m willing to bet all of this hubbub was created to spark interest in his upcoming film, the erotic arthouse-epic Nymphomaniac. The precise correlation between LaBeouf’s guilt-ridden antics and his character in the film are as of yet unclear, but regardless, everyone is talking about Shia LaBeouf now more than ever and I think that’s exactly what he wants.  His collaboration with Von Trier is in part an attempt for LaBeouf to break out of the goofy niche he carved himself into as a Disney teen and start being taken seriously as an actor.  LaBeouf’s methods are no doubt eccentric and risky, but we can’t write him off for that just yet.  Let’s hope he can deliver in his performance and earn himself at least a fraction of the respect Joaquin Phoenix did after his publicity stunt.

What are your thoughts on LaBeouf?

Article by Matthew D’Innocenzo

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