Right about now, Shia LaBeouf is becoming a cautionary tale for young actors, showing them how you DO NOT handle fame and success. He needs serious help.
The 31 year old actor is getting into deep trouble every other week it seems like these days, with the charges ranging from disorderly conduct, public intoxication, to the general act of being stupid. If you thought about the kitchen sink of bad choices, LaBeouf's name is at the bottom of the drain.
Recapping the nonsense may give you a stomach ache, so bear with me:
In 2007, it was refusing to leave a Chicago Walgreens while drunk. In 2011, it was two separate bar fights. He once claimed a woman raped him-and he wore a paper bag over his head at a Berlin film festival. In 2014, he screamed at actors at a New York Theater. In October of 2015, it was public intoxication again. Then there was his live stream in January at Donald Trump's inauguration.
The latest bout of bizarre behavior included a racist rant in the back of a police officer's patrol car. This came after LaBeouf got into an argument with a man over a cigarette. At the station, he told an officer he was going to hell.
LaBeouf clearly hasn't handled the rush of fame well, spiraling out of control, wasting an enormous amount of talent in the process, a skill that which will be fully depleted if this madness continues. There's still time for the man to get his act together, but he needs help from someone who has suffered through the same intersection where addictions and inner demons collide.
Nobody is feeling sorry for LaBeouf, but finding a way for him to salvage what is gone is important if you care about the world of film. What is being lost in this descent are the talents of a good actor.
LaBeouf is known for the Transformers films with Michael Bay, but his greatest achievements come in his ability to hold his own with big time performers. Love or hate Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Labeouf held his own with Harrison Ford, even sparking some good chemistry. He went toe to toe with Michael Douglas in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and matched wits with Brad Pitt in 2014's Fury.
He formed a good working bond with D.J. Caruso in Disturbia and Eagle Eye, showing off a knack for high energy thrillers, carrying those films to success. He added much needed comic flavor to the serious tones of I Robot and Constantine while taking heightened risks in thrillers like Lawless and American Honey. The talent is there; Labeouf simply needs the right compass to balance it out.
Enter Robert Downey Jr., an actor who has tasted the same dirty water at the bottom of the barrel of Hollywood's success tank. Downey Jr. burst onto the scene with signature roles in 1987 with Less Than Zero, a parlor room shaded tale about the deplorable side of teenage rebellion. Downey Jr. played an addict in the film almost too well. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 1992 for his wicked portrayal of Charlie Chaplin and played a wild TV journalist in Natural Born Killers.
He could do comedy, as shown in Home for the Holidays and he managed to blend the pair in Wonder Boys. But drug addiction plagued Downey Jr. as well, and even his castmates began to worry about his condition. Imagine seeing a freight train run off track and have no way to stop it. That's what the friends and family of RDJ felt.
Here's the crazy part: Both Labeouf and Downey Jr. hit the brick wall of addiction at the age of 31 years.
In June of 1996, Downey Jr. was arrested when he was found in his truck carrying cocaine, heroin, and a pistol. Two weeks later, he was arrested again when he wandered into a neighbor's home in Malibu under the influence of drugs. He received a sentence of three years of probation, but upon missing a jury hearing, spent six months in jail. Prisoners reportedly beat Downey Jr. several times, with the actor waking up in a pool of his blood. He made money scrubbing dishes in the kitchen jail.
He continued to get in trouble until the early 2000's, when he met his current wife, Susan Downey in 2003. The love of a good woman is what brought him back to life, and ultimately made him quit drugs, something that had cost him roles on Ally McBeal and several other projects.
A few years after telling a judge he liked the taste of gun metal in his mouth, Downey Jr. was starring in a pair of potent films, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
He released a CD in 2007 called The Futurist, but everything changed in 2008 when Jon Favreau went to bat with Marvel to cast Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. The studio wanted nothing to do with an actor who had been in trouble with the law over ten times in the past 12 years, but Favreau convinced them, and the rest is history.
These days, the 52 year old actor is prepping to portray Stark for the eighth time in The Avengers: Infinity War, while his seventh adventure-Spider Man: Homecoming-plays in theaters. He is also prepping a third Sherlock Holmes film. Life is good when you are taking care of yourself. Downey Jr. is in the top five most bankable movie stars, according to Forbes Magazine. From scrubbing dishes in a jail to on top of the world inside 20 years.
LaBeouf, as I previously mentioned, is the same Downey Jr. was at the time of his first arrest in Malibu. He isn't the caliber of actor as the Marvel stud, but there's still time for LaBeouf to rise up and fix things. Call me a forgiving soul, but I like comebacks and hate seeing a waste of talent.
LaBeouf apologized deeply for his racial rant, and showed back up on the set of his latest set, The Peanut Butter Falcon. He plays John McEnroe in a film to be released later this year, so he is still getting work. But, if he keeps this up, Hollywood will stop calling. The older you get, the worse an actor's stock looks if they are wasting their time.
Downey Jr. should call Labeouf up and give the kid a tutorial of how to find his way back to the better side of fame. He's been in deeper waters than the younger man, and can reveal what awaits him shall the descent continue.
Also, this isn't the 1990's and early 2000's, before social media reigned over every single action of a person in the eye of publicity. It's a different game now, and Labeouf has to adapt quickly.
Will this happen? Probably not, but it's hard to deny the parallels in the treks of these two men. Before he was a legit superstar, Downey Jr. was a troubled young actor. LaBeouf rose to fame before he was 30 years old, and has crashed hard.
No one is asking for Hollywood magic; just for one man to help another. Sometimes, good advice can go a long way.
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