Ahh, Shia LaBeouf. You lovable scamp, you.
People say you’re crazy, Shia LaBeouf. They say you’ve lost the plot. They tell me to stop writing you letters — that you’ll never respond. But I know you read them, Shia. I know you’re reading this right now, Shia. I know everything, Shia. I can read your mind, Shia. Oh yeah? Prove it, friend, is what you just said to your screen, Shia. Now you’re freaking out. You’re trying to trick me, trying to think completely random things to prove to yourself that you aren’t crazy and that I’m not reading your mind. But I am, Shia. Purple lemur in roller skates spinning gracefully on an upside-down Toyota. See? I’m in your head, Shia. Accept it. Embrace it.
I’m not writing this article for my fans, of which there are plenty. No, I’m writing this for you. See, I’ve been watching you. Studying your habits. I believe you should be president, Shia; I think you should run in 2024. You’d add a nice touch of well-meaning chaos, which would be a pleasant change from the current evil-chaos thing we’ve got going on.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a voice in your head, Shia. Anyway, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday, man. Here’s a brief history of weird shit you’ve done that was fucking awesome. Consider this your résumé for president 2024. You’ve got my vote.
November 2007: The Walgreens incident
Riding the wave of success of the first Transformers movie, the young Shia decided to celebrate his 21st birthday by getting arrested at a Walgreens. At 2:15 a.m.
Apparently our man Shia was craving cigarettes and made three unsuccessful trips to the store (each time in a different outfit for some reason) because he kept forgetting to actually buy the cigarettes in his inebriated state. On his third visit, Shia was detained until police arrived.
March 2012: Actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf
In 2012, singer-songwriter Rob Cantor uploaded a song titled “Shia LaBeouf” to SoundCloud. The song is a fucking masterpiece that tells the story of a frightening encounter in the woods with Hollywood superstar and actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf. The song was a hit, and its popularity inspired an extended version, which was eventually made into a music video featuring a cameo from the actual cannibal himself, who can be seen at the end of the clip enthusiastically giving the performance a standing ovation in an otherwise empty theater.
May 2012: Shia the thief
The film Howard Cantour.com premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival to wide acclaim. Director Shia LaBeouf was praised for the work, until people eventually caught on to the fact that Shia had basically plagiarized the entire script of the film from the 2007 graphic novella Justin M. Damiano by artist Daniel Clowes. To his credit, Shia did eventually apologize. Kind of. Turns out his “apology,” which he posted on Twitter, was actually plagiarized from a Yahoo Answers post.
July 2013: Biker stare
Imagine this. You’re just chilling at the traffic lights. You look to your right and see Shia LaBeouf staring back at you deadpan. Look at this shit. It’s incredible.
When I first saw the footage, I laughed it off as Shia just trolling the dude. But perhaps it goes a little deeper. Shia has gone on the record in past interviews stating that part of what drove him to be so successful was to fill the void left by his father.
Almost two years after the biker stare, while filming the video art project #Introductions for an arts college in London, Shia opened up about how he felt every time he saw a motorcycle on the road: “Every time I see a man on a motorbike, I think it’s my dad.”
This project also spawned the infamous “DO IT” meme, which we’ll touch on later.
Or perhaps I’m digging too deep into this and Shia just likes to fuck with motorcyclists. I guess we’ll never know.
February 2014: When the seagulls follow the trawler…
At a press conference for his new film Nymphomaniac, Shia abruptly stormed out after answering just one question. Upon being asked about his role in the film, Shia responded cryptically with the following: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea… Thank you very much,” he said, before subsequently getting up and leaving the press conference. Reporters were initially baffled until people realized he was re-creating an infamous press conference from controversial footballing great Eric Cantona, who himself responded in the same exact manner in 1995 when asked by reporters about his arrest following a kung fu kick on a fan.
At the time, Cantona was insinuating that the press were nothing but a bunch of seagulls following stars frantically in the hopes of scooping up any sort of gossip. The accuracy in which Shia paid homage to Cantona was impressive, with every detail down to the timing of the sip of water midsentence re-created perfectly.
Here’s Shia’s presser:
And here’s Cantona’s original:
February 2014: I am not famous anymore
Just an hour after his Eric Cantona press conference homage, Shia stepped out onto the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival premiere of Nymphomaniac wearing a paper bag over his head with the words “I am not famous anymore” written on it.
February 2014: #iamsorry
February 2014 was a big month for Shia, and after his recent controversies he decided to apologize in the most Shia way possible — by staging a performance at a gallery in L.A. titled #iamsorry. For five days Shia sat at a table in an empty room wearing that now-infamous paper bag over his head.
People lined up around the block for the chance to have some brief one-on-one time with the actor, with many leaving the exhibit genuinely touched from Shia’s apparent sincerity. According to many, Shia was visibly outpouring emotion, crying almost the whole time.
It was a fairly risky move, considering props were placed on the table in front of him which members of the public were free to use in any way they saw fit, including a Jack Daniel’s bottle and an Indiana Jones style whip, amongst a host of other things. Shia later described how pleasantly surprised he was from most of the people who came to see him, going into detail in an interview with Ellen: “I thought, for sure people were going to come in and be super mean, because it was what I had been reading… but it wasn’t that way at all; it was very human. Once they got in there, everything changed — they stopped looking at me as like an object and started looking at me as like a human,” he said.
However, there was one negative incident which Shia opened up about in an email interview with Dazed: “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.”
June 2014: Broadway arrest
“Witnesses say the star was yelling and even slapping audience members,” according to a news report released at the time. Some people attending the performance of Cabaret in New York thought Shia was just really getting into a new role or doing some sort of live performance art, but he wasn’t. He was just being Shia and was subsequently arrested for a number of shenanigans, including slapping Alan Cumming’s ass and standing up in the middle of the show to yell at the performers on the stage, all while never dropping the cigarette in his mouth. Shia was officially charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of criminal trespassing.
October 2014: The #interview
When Dazed journalist Aimee Cliff began writing on Shia’s recent work in the realm of performance art, she could never have imagined he would actually reach out to her, let alone invite her for an hourlong “interview” in a London hotel room. But that’s exactly what happened.
As Aimee puts it: “Rather than a regular interview, LaBeouf suggests that we keep all of our words online, and meet in person without speaking. It’s mid-October when we come face-to-face in his hotel room, both of us with GoPros strapped to our heads, for an hour. The pull of a digital connection follows us into the room yet morphs into something entirely different.”
The two sit in the hotel room for an hour not saying a word, both wearing GoPros. It’s weirdly fascinating to watch. See the entire footage and read Aimee’s incredible piece in its entirety here.
March 2015: #FOLLOWMYHEART
Shia broadcast his heartbeat for six days with real-time audio, describing the project as “an exploration of just how intimate digital space can get,” and a “reminder of our collective humanity.”
May 2015: JUST DO IT
This is fucking iconic. Hundreds of years from now, historians will look back at Shia yelling “DO IT” with absolute fascination. “And so, by the mere act of standing in front of a green screen and imploring his fellow man to do it, the actor Shia LaBeouf instantly catapulted his way into the homes of the many, all across the globe,” a futuristic college professor will say to a crowded lecture hall. “Back in the early 21st century, this was called going viral” he’ll add, as hundreds of Space University students hastily take notes on their SpaceBooks. What did Shia mean by this? They’ll ponder. Hundreds of thousands of students across the galaxy will write essays on the meaning of Shia’s philosophy. Consensus will never be reached. The debate will rage on until time itself ceases to exist.
June 2015: Oh, shit. Dude can rap
In June 2015 a video emerged of a shirtless Shia LaBeouf freestyling. And, well. Just watch it:
What I love most about this is that it looks like Shia just fucking creeped up out of the bushes and started rapping to a random group of people who don’t know who this rat-tailed crackhead is but they’re feeling his rhymes. Look, the guy has tattoos of Pac, Biggie and Missy. So it’s no great surprise that Shia is a fan of hip-hop. But the dude can actually spit some fucking bars, man. The internet is full of more examples of Shia spitting straight Shia fire if you wanna hear some more. He even started a weird beef with Lil Yachty in late 2016.
November 2015: #ALLMYMOVIES
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Shia invited the public to join him in watching all his movies back-to-back at New York’s Angelika Film Center, all the while recording his reactions to his own films on a live stream.
January 2017: #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS
To mark the inauguration of Trump, Shia set up a camera on a wall outside the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, with the words “He will not divide us” written above it. Shia initially intended the feed to last four years — the duration of Trump’s presidency, but less than a month later the museum abandoned the project, citing public safety concerns. The location of the #hewillnotdivideus feed has since changed locations a number of times. It is currently streaming from France at http://www.hewillnotdivide.us/.
This is just the tip of the strange yet captivating iceberg that is Shia LaBeouf. And yo, Shia, if you’re reading this, you’ve given us all a wild ride, man. Have a sick birthday and keep being weird. And run for president. It’ll be sick. DO IT. What are you waiting for?