Two years ago, Shia LaBeouf née Stevens graced me with a beautiful birthday gift: he spent my entire birthday in an elevator at Oxford University and live-streamed it on the internet. Shia has been performing social experiments like this online for years now. As a thank you for the hours of entertainment he has provided, today we celebrate his 31st birthday. Here are some of his greatest hits since leaving the Disney Channel.
5. Even Stevens
Okay, so a “greatest hits” list about Shia LaBeouf without Even Stevens would be neglectful at best. LaBeouf burst on to the scene seventeen years ago as a pre-teen prankster with a heart of gold. For three glorious years, he was a perfectly pure, amazingly awkward kid with very little ambition. But what he lacked in goals he more than made up for in his collection of Hawaiian shirts and cargo pants. LaBeouf’s character Louis shared the screen with his sister Ren (Christy Carlson Romano), best friends Tawny (Margo Harshman) and Twitty (AJ Trauth), brother Donny (Nick Spano) and next-door neighbor/partner in crime “Beans” (Steven Anthony Lawrence). Both Romano and Trauth continued at Disney on Kim Possible, but LaBeouf had…more than meets the eye…in his future.
4. LaBeouf’s Career Transforms
LaBeouf performed in several films while still at Disney, including an adaptation of the YA novel Holes. Then in 2007, LaBeouf starred in both the thriller Disturbia, and the summer blockbuster Transformers. Both performances surprised fans with more complex performances than he’d tackled before. Gone were the days of puberty-squeakiness and awkward limbs. Michael Bay, bless his heart, did his best to turn LaBeouf into a mature presence on-screen, and the Transformers franchise was the first step towards a dramatically adult career.
Did you think I was exaggerating about the adult career? I was not. Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is a two part, 5.5 hour long film which rounds out the director’s “depression trilogy”. LaBeouf plays a character who takes narrator Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourgh/Stacy Martin) virginity, eventually has a child with her, and plays a role in her career. The film is exhausting and difficult to watch for its graphic content, but also for the psychology of the main character. Both parts of the film were released in 2013, just shy of the beginning of LaBeouf’s social experimentation off-screen.
2. Aversion to Fame
LaBeouf tweeted “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” 22 times, before attended the 2014 Berlin film festival wearing a paper bag over his head with the same words written on it. The bag reappeared at an art performance which LaBeouf called “#IAMSORRY” the next month. Between slapping people in a performance of Cabaret, getting banned from an L.A. restaurant for public urination, and ongoing plagiarization charges, LaBeouf stays in the public eye in a bad way before checking himself into rehab for alcohol addiction. Press coverage of LaBeouf is almost entirely focused on his “troubled” private life for a short time, before he took the reins back with some socially conscious performance art.
1. JUST DO IT
The time of Shia, the living meme and performance artist, is now upon us. In 2015, he shouted at no one, and everyone all at once about siezing the day. He took part in a music video which declared him an actual cannibal. LaBeouf watched every movie in which he performed, and invited the public to join him (though he slept through Transformers out of apparent self-loathing). He spent a whole day in an elevator, talking to strangers about politics, snack foods, and the weather. Shia LaBeouf has been slowly clawing his way from self-inflicted partial oblivion back into the public eye. None of his live performances have been without controversy. However, the controversy has revealed more about the American public than LaBeouf himself.
Most recently he made headlines when fighting back against a man who pulled LaBeouf towards him before shouting nazi sentiments. The incident occured during a performance piece titled “#HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS”, a gathering in response to President Trump’s inauguration. Considering his tumultuous career and personal life, public response to LaBeouf is typically dramatically divided. These days, it seems the world is just waiting to see what he does next. Happy 31st, Shia. Keep doing whatever it is you do these days.