Shia LaBeouf has grown up before our eyes. The former Disney Channel star announced his presence in the thriller Disturbia, became a blockbuster star courtesy of the Transformers films and now appears in Lawless. The actor gives a performance that firmly plants him as a dramatic actor to be reckoned with, as we state in our Lawless review.
LaBeouf recently sat down to talk about his latest picture that co-stars Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce. The film is based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers and their Prohibition moonshining business that outsmarted big city gangsters and law enforcement alike.
Knowing it was a true tale prompted LaBeouf to dig deep. “The big thing for actors is the level of commitment. So, if you know something’s already happened, there’s not a whole lot of whys and hows that go down,” he said. “You just innately commit ‘cause it happened.”
His biggest thrill arose from starring with Gary Oldman and being able to put a check on the bucket list item shared by many actors of his generation. “It’s (expletive) Gary Oldman! All of us tripped out on it,” LaBeouf said and laughed. “At the end of the day, we’re still film fans and that doesn’t go away. I still am in a fantasy world when I get there and he’s simply the best.”
Lawless is based on the book by Matt Bondurant, grandson of one of the trio of bootlegging brothers. LaBeouf read the book, but upon talking to the author, found that interestingly enough, he needed to focus his character building elsewhere.
“I talked to Matt briefly and then realized there was no value at all in talking to him for me. My prep had to do with John (Hillcoat, director) and Nick Cave (screenwriter),” LaBeouf said. “I thought it would hinder me from feeling truly free, and I didn’t want to do an impersonation of his grandfather.”
LaBeouf even found a contemporary parallel in Lawless and its Prohibition story. “We’re in the middle of a marijuana prohibition -- the war on drugs is failing miserably -- and funding a huge war in Mexico. It’s the same thing we did with Al Capone. All the alcohol bought him guns, and now we’re buying guns for the cartels.”
As the film showcases a time when alcohol was illegal, to find connection to that world today, one only has to look back to life before turning twenty-one. For LaBeouf, his first taste of booze was from family.
“My first drink came from my father. I think I was 14, sitting with him and watching Westerns. I said, ‘Dad, what’s that?’ And he said, ‘Try it!’ I think it’s strange that you have the wherewithal to give your body to the army, but you don’t have the wherewithal to have a sip of alcohol,” LaBeouf added about America's legal drinking age.
“In other countries, it’s not that way. They basically say, ‘If you’re old enough to decide what to do with your life, in terms of living or dying for a cause, then you could probably discern whether or not you should be able to have alcohol.’ I think that’s silly in our country, but it’s built off of old theology and Christianity that America is still labored with.”
LaBeouf’s character, as seen in the Lawless red band trailer, buys a nice car with his first financial windfall. What did LaBeouf do with his initial Hollywood paycheck?
“My mom had a rape van with no windows for a long time. The first little bit of money I got, I got her a car with windows,” LaBeouf said and laughed.
“My first car, I got it in an auction at my temple. It was an ‘86 Volvo that I got for 500 bucks, and then wound up throwing $10,000 into the stereo system and put TVs in the foot rests. It was the most ridiculous Volvo you’d ever seen!”
Some have criticized the star for his comments about his participation in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and even the Transformers series, but LaBeouf cautions that all those experiences were ones to treasure.
“I loved that project. I didn’t commit less to Indiana Jones, or less to Transformers. It’s just different sensibilities,” LaBeouf said.
It simply has to do with what one wants out of life at any given age.
“If you asked an eighteen-year-old what they want to do with their life, and the options are Transformers or Lars von Trier, he’s probably shipping out for Transformers. If you ask a twenty-six-year-old what he wants to do, Transformers or Lars von Trier, he’d probably pick Lars von Trier. So, my sensibilities are changing as I change.”