You may have noticed that actor Shia LaBeouf, the star of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls and the Transformers films, has been acting pretty bizarre of late. The weirdness began late last year after he was caught plagiarizing a short film he made, and since then he’s started answering questions by quoting famous athletes like Tiger Woods. Last week he even appeared at a film festival wearing a bag over his head with the words “I’m Not Famous Anymore” written across the front. As weird as all that is, though, it’s not as weird as what he did today… directly across the street from my office.
I was on a conference call around 11 a.m. when a buzz went through the office about a press release that announced Shia was going to be putting on an “art exhibit” across the street. The release read:
11th-16th February 2014
Tuesday to Sunday 11am – 6pm
Shia LaBeouf is sorry. Sincerely sorry.
He will be in situ at 7354 Beverly Boulevard for the duration. Implements will be provided. Free admission.
Since this was happening across the street from our offices at BuzzFeed, a number of my co-workers ran over to see what it was all about. When I got off my call they were back with a weird story about how each of them were let, one at a time, into a small room where a man (seemingly Shia) sat at a table wearing a tuxedo and the “I’m Not Famous Anymore” bag over his head. He said nothing, and just stared forward in silence even when people tried to speak to him.
Everyone reported that the experience was surprisingly creepy and unsettling, and that they wished they’d known what they were going to see before they went in. They were all caught off guard, and no one really knew what to do while in the room with Shia.
“I wish I had a game plan before going in,” one co-worker said.
Soon people started to wonder how we could be sure it really were Shia LaBeouf under the bag. That’s when I decided that I was going to head over myself with a game plan – to look under the bag!
Upon entering the art gallery I was asked to choose an item to bring into the room with me. You could choose from a ukulele, an Indiana Jones-esque whip, a Transformer toy, and a bowl of papers with tweets he’d received written on them. (“Uh… okay,” I thought.)
I took the bowl of tweets and went into the tiny room where, sure enough, a figure that appeared to be LaBeouf sat at a table with teary eyes staring out from behind the bag. It was unsettling, as my co-workers said, but I tried to act calm as I sat across from him and started chatting like we were old buddies.
“Wow, you’ve got five more hours until six, huh? I could never sit here and be still that long!”
The figure/Shia just stared forward. I read him a few of the tweets (all of which were from people who had tweeted horrible insults at him), before asking, “Would it be okay if I took off the bag?” Shia, as expected, said nothing.
I continued, “I don’t want to cross any boundaries here, so tell me if this is inappropriate, but may I take off the bag?” Still Shia said nothing.
“I just want to see if it’s really you,” I continued. “Is it okay if I take off the bag?”
The figure finally nodded ever so slightly, so I popped up and pulled off the bag. Underneath the bag it was clearly Shia LaBeouf, looking doleful with wet eyes.
“Yep. It’s you, alright,” I said, then tried to put the bag back onto his head. That’s when things got especially awkward as the bag was small and very hard to fit back over his head. I tugged on it, trying to shimmy the bag down his face, when it ripped! Oops. “Uh, I hope you have another bag around here somewhere,” I said before I was finally able to get the mainly intact bag back over his face.
At that point I was ready to leave, but before I did I felt compelled to say something. Even though this was more than likely just a stunt by a spoiled Hollywood actor upset at being caught plagiarizing, it was hard not to feel bad for him as he sat there all glum with tears in his eyes. Were his tears – and all of this, really – a cry for help? In a lot of ways he hasn’t acted all that differently from other celebrities who’ve been in crisis, and you wonder if drugs or mental health issues might possibly be at play.
Suddenly, I found myself say, “In all seriousness, you’re a talented actor and you’ve got a lot of fans who care a great deal about you. I know you’ve been going through a hard time since this plagiarizing thing hit but you’re going to get through it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep moving forward, and you’re going to be okay.”
I’m sure he didn’t need me to go all older brother/dad on him (especially when telling him to keep “doing what you’re doing” was pretty terrible advice considering he’s been acting like a nut job) but hey – it would have felt pretty cold to just walk out of there and leave the guy crying by his lonesome.
So there you have it! When people say Los Angeles is weird I usually think they’re wrong, but yesterday it was very, very weird!