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.
Perhaps you should ask yourself the same thing, Shia.
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!
You’re such a good guy! Most people would go in there and humiliate the guy. You were honorable and spoke from the heart! I admire you!
Okay what you did was SO sweet! But when you said that telling him to keep doing what he was doing was terrible advice cause he’d been acting like a nutjob I busted out laughing and haven’t stopped!! Thank you for the laugh I needed it!
This story is amazing. Lol. I do feel that what Shia is doing is a publicity stunt and even feel he is kind of copying Joaquin Phoenix when it comes to his “Im not famous anymore” persona. I also think Shia is a good actor and it’s a shame that alot of actors these days are being ruined by drugs and the media. That being said I so would have taken the bag off his head too. lol
An accompanying photo!
Are those your initial tears in the bag? Cool.
Interesting… I’m not sure if those are the tears from my encounter or not, but apparently he was crying a lot.
Oh, my. How awkward. You handled if well!
The thought of you trying to shimmy the too tight bag down over his head will keep me entertained all day! Thank You!
I saw tmz’s encounter with him at that exhibit too. What a weird thing he did. I can’t stand him.
Sometimes when I read your guys blog I think “wow, they’re so much like me…” then other times…not so much.
WOW! The craziest stuff happens to you, Mike. I’m glad you got confirmation that it was actually him, though. It would have been awful if it was some imposter that Shia LeBeouf had no idea was doing that. Great advice, too. Hopefully, he’s able to turn it around soon.
Damita H says:
I went from actually tearing up at your story (when you took the bag off and it really was him) to cracking up laughing (right around the time the bag tore!). Now I feel like crap because I’m still laughing, just thinking about it. Clearly he is going through something and I hope it doesn’t end badly for him. It was really nice of you to offer him words of encouragement, yes, even the “keep doing what you’re doing” part.
OMG, so hilarious. I love that you took off the bag. Thanks for the laughs this morning…what a nutjob!!!
you forget Shia’s most remarkable piece of work… he was Louis on Evens Stevens! I kid. But that *is* what this disney channel kid remembers him from… Never did I imagine him becoming some big movie star after that role. Also never imagined him sitting in a room with a bag over his head as an “art exhibit”, but really, WHO DOES THAT?!? Hope he gets some help.
Always good to see your writing on here, Mike! I enjoy reading your buzzfeed articles as well
Thank you, Jordan!
After reading this, Shia’s performance art reminded me a lot of Marina Abramovic’s exhibit, The Artist is Present, that she did back in 2010 at the NYC MoMA. Very cool that you got to take part in something like this.
That being said, I cracked up when I read that you ripped the bag trying to put it back on his head. That’s hilarious!
Even his performance art is plagiarized! Marina Abramovic did this first!
Amy C. says:
Wow. This story really got to me. You know, no one is Shia Lebouf other than him, and no one has walked in his shoes other than him. To leave oneself completely open and vulnerable like that is, I don’t know, I think it may be a cry for help or a form of self punishment. I thought he was doing all this to prepare for a role but it looks like he isn’t. He now just seems lost, sad, and disillusioned. Good for you, Mike, for what you said. Good for you too, for taking the bag off of him. Lebouf is a human being, first and foremost. By taking off the bag and saying that to him you brought the humanity back. I also like that the bag didn’t quite fit when you tried to put it back on him. Very symbolic.
Lisa F. says:
OK, this is the craziest story I’ve ever heard! It sounds like he’s either going through some emotional issues, or pulling a Joaquin Phoenix and making a “documentary.” Either way, how cool that you got to see this firsthand!
Amy C. says:
Now that I think about it, I think I know. No doubt others have come to this conclusion as well. He was inviting people to insult him to his face in a sense. The tweets were all horrible right? The question was were people able to step in front of the actual man and say the things to him that they wrote about. I wonder how many people asked if he would take off the bag too just to see if it was really him. What if that was everyone’s question? What if everyone that came in there for the most part was supportive of him? Would those people who tweeted those horrible messages be able to say the same thing to a man with tears in his eyes, not saying anything? Probably not. So it is an interesting contradiction it seems. There was another article written by a journalist who asked Lebouf to take off his bag. He did. Then he asked if he could take his picture, saying it was okay if Lebouf said no. When does that EVER happen to celebrities? Do reporters and photographers that chase celebrities down the street ever stop and ask? I don’t know. Maybe it is pointing out how hypocritical we all can be. We can bash someone online but can we stand in front of that person and haul insults at him? When he is sitting in front of us silent and crying? Someone most of us don’t know personally? What gives us the right to do that? Anyway, some deep thoughts for the morning.
Amy… I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! I think you bring up a lot of really interesting questions!
Amy C. says:
Thanks, Mike. I posted my first comment and then thought, wait a minute, maybe he is trying to make some kind of statement. I would like to think that perhaps that was what he was going for. It would make sense.
This was, far and above, the oddest blog ever. Don’t misconstrue, I enjoyed it, but it was odd. LA is an odd town.
I do think he’s got the spoiled actor complex (“affluenza,” if you will) because he’s been in this game since he was a kid. But the year of apologizing and self-shame leads me to believe he’s got true remorse. He just doesn’t know what to do with it. Like a child who wants to be punished. At least he has some sense of justice. Trying to look at the bright side here. Other actors have caused physical harm to people and threatened lives in DUI cases and haven’t (seemingly) gone through so much guilt.
That is an absolutely nutso story! Mike, I think you’re a great guy. I would like to think I’d have said something similar to him. It’s one thing to hurl anonymous insults at people we don’t know on the Internet, but to do it face-to-face? How many of us have had the experience of knowing a friend or coworker was talking about us behind our backs, then smiling innocently in our faces? Not a good feeling. Though I don’t have many feelings on Shia one way or another (and don’t know him!), I think this was an interesting project.
This had me laughing, especially about you trying to get the bag back on his head!
But seriously, what is up with that guy….
WOW…just WOW. Hope he gets some professional help – sounds like he is in serious duress. That was extremely kind of you to offer words of encouragement. It seems as if he doesn’t have enough people around him doing the same.
Sitting in my office laughing at the bag breaking. How nice of you to offer those words. You never know when these people going through emotional issues really just want kindness.
This is hilarious! The part about the bag breaking especially killed me. But I love most of all that you were so kind to him. I hope that got to him a little and maybe he’ll stop acting like such a douche? If he does, we have you to thank, Mike!
This is so odd!! I hope he’s okay and we’re not witnessing the middle of some crazy downward spiral, but what the heck is he trying to achieve here? I’m just so confused by all of it.
I have to say, the bag ripping part was quite hilarious. Like a sitcom moment.
The ripping the bag part was definitely hilarious. And as a longtime blog reader, I am not one iota surprised at the kindness you showed him. You are truly a kind soul. I hope if he is struggling inside, perhaps your words spoke to him.
You’re a good man, Mike. You’ve proven yourself over and over.
Well, I am torn. I want to feel sorry for him and OTOH, I think he’s a big baby. Seriously. There are far worse things to deal with in life than get caught stealing someone else’s work. I also can’t stand when people steal and when caught they get all indignant like it wasn’t there fault.
Grow the fuck up, kid. Life still goes on.
And that would have been my advice to him.
It’s good that you didn’t make fun of him. Many more in the media need to return to having a more humanistic approach towards troubled celebrities. Ofc, that’s as likely to happen as finding a unicorn.
Thanks for sharing this! I probably would have bursted into laughter and apologies after ripping the bag. I’ve read a few stories online now from people who went to Shia’s exhibit and I’ve become really intrigued by it all. I hope there’s an actual purpose/message to all of his stunts and that it’s not just madness.
Looks like he’s wearing orange ear plugs? Maybe he didn’t hear a word you said? It’s kind of symbolic ( if you want to go there?) Discuss…
Haha! Another stunt by spoiled kid actor. You treated him kindly and hopefully that had an impact on him (thats, of course if he could hear you ?)
I really want to know what some of your coworkers responses were to your actions??
The orange earplug theory is interesting because earplugs would make it easier to not respond and just stare, but I’m not sure that’s the case because from many accounts (from me and others) he has seemed to respond to certain comments. For example, he nodded when I asked to take off the bag. But you never know!
My co-workers were very happy that I looked under the bag. Our entertainment section had just posted a story on the “exhibit,” and when I told them what I saw they updated the post with the info that it was indeed Shia!
Maybe he just put the ear plugs in for the photo opp… who knows! You have an interesting job.
YOU TOLD HIM HE WAS A TALENTED ACTOR?
Now that’s just mean.
I have to admit, I giggled a bit about the bag breaking and you trying to force it back over his face. I do also think that this man seems to be really troubled, mentally. His actions are erratic, he’s impulsive, he’s wreckless, he’s vulnerable…. I actually really think it’s crazy he put himself out there like that and it was a brave thing for him to do. Anyone, celebrity or not, putting themselves out there like that, that takes courage. I have no doubt that the guy is an asshole or a douchebag, I have to admit I don’t really know jack squat about him as an actor or a person, but I think coming from a place where I am myself going through a bunch of crap, I can see that he’s hurting and I think he’s crying out for help. It’s actually quite sad…. He may be a bit of an attention whore but I think deep down, he’s unwell…….. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed reading it Mike.
Shoot, I hope my post didn’t vanish into thin air. If this message is all for naught, please delete. Sorry
Yep it did.
Grrrr. What I said was that I think this may is crying out for help. Sure he may be an “attention whore” or a spoiled brat in Hollywood, I think he’s crying out for help. I really don’t know much about the man as an actor or a person at all but lately, the things I’ve read, this man seems deeply troubled. Albeit strange, I think what he did yesterday was courageous. Anyone that would put themselves out there, to be that vulnerable, takes courage. He’s been on a downward spiral for some time now I think and it’s just becoming more and more evident and he’s also not shying away from exposing his true self.
Thanks for the post though, I enjoyed the read.
Just read about this on line…I’m sure I would have thought it was bunk, but I had read about it here first.
I think you handled it all very appropriately & with great caring & courage. I would have been too “afraid” to even ask to remove the bag…let alone give such a great talk You rock!
Did you go see Jerry O’ Connell today?????
Ok, so you write here about this moment of connection but then you pose James with a bag on his head over at buzzfeed and take the mickey out of the guy?
I really can’t believe you posed James like that. It makes me feel uneasy about the “while you were at preschool” series, something I assumed Heather would do for herself and Annie regardless of the internet audience but seeing James with that bag on his head made me feel bad for him. He is not a prop.
I am the one that took the picture, and it was stupid and I regret it. My mom and I we goofing around and it’s not funny (although James was laughing like we were playing peek-a-boo). I’m really sorry that I made you feel that way.
Thanks for replying Heather. It did feel incongruous to how I feel you guys conduct yourself and some additional context makes sense. Goofing around one night we discovered a laundry basket over my daughter’s bouncer at dinner time made her stop crying and we could eat our dinner in peace with two hands. It became part of the dinner routine, the cone of silence
You can’t please everyone, Heather. I hope you don’t feel bad. Judging from your blog, you're one heck of a parent.