How Former Disney Child Star Shia LaBeouf Turned His Pain Into A Comeback For The Ages
If you’re a millennial, chances are you grew up on a steady diet of children's programmes airing on the Disney Channel. The 2000s heyday produced magic wand-yielding household names like Demi Lovato (Camp Rock), Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place), Dylan and Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody), Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire), Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) - the list goes on and on.
And of course there was Shia LaBeouf, the enigmatic child actor who could light up a scene with comedic timing and presence years beyond his age. From the minute we saw him on Even Stevens - the TV comedy caper that offered a little bit more than your average - you could tell, a star was born.
That innate talent set him on a Hollywood trajectory that fledgling Disney actors could only dream of. First there was his feature film, Holes (which undoubtedly has gone down as a defining movie for many including Billie Eilish), then he was plucked for a Transformers franchise and major roles in blockbusters like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starring alongside the legendary, Harrison Ford.
He was touted as the next big thing, standing on the edge of a career that was expected to hold a legacy of brilliant roles akin to the likes of DeNiro, Brando and Pacino.
During the mid 2000s a series of arrests; drunken outbursts; bizarre Twitter beefs with Lena Dunham; very experimental performance art; lost jobs and bad movie reviews, sent Shia on a downward spiral. But in hindsight, it would appear that tabloid conjecture did little to shed light on what was really going on in the actor’s life. Shia’s ‘breakdown’ story is a lot more nuanced than the ‘young Disney star goes off the rails’ narrative that gets spun so often in the media.
2019 saw the triumphant return to the screen in what has been the actor’s most personal work yet in, Honey Boy, a film based on his painful upbringing with an abusive, substance and alcohol addicted father. In spectacular fashion we begin to peel back the layers and learn more about the disturbing reality that was going on behind closed doors during Shia’s Disney days.
Written by Shia during his stint in rehab, this screenplay became his therapy, catharsis and magnum opus all in one. It was a batsh*t crazy move for Shia to cast himself as his manic father, and yet it makes total sense. He had to do it.
Empire’s Alex Godfrey wrote, “It’s hard to recall any other film that does what this does, an actor laying himself bare like this, in terms of both the script and his own performance as his father — there are levels and levels and levels.”
In one of his very few interviews last year, Shia told MTV’s Josh Horowitz about the lows he was experiencing before creating this film. "They were throwing dirt on my back. I was totally lost. And quite apathetic to my whole craft and my life. Really like bottom barrel for me, which is what I needed. I wasn't going to stop doing what I was doing until that happened to me,” he said.
Honey Boy saved his career, but most importantly it saved his life.
He followed up the success of his own film by starring in The Peanut Butter Falcon, a story about a down-and-out fisherman mourning the death of his brother, who meets a young professional wrestling-obsessed man with Down syndrome. Together they form an incredible bond as they embark on a Huckleberry Finn-esque adventure. It’s moving, inspiring and, whilst not his own story to tell, is a deeply emotional performance from Shia.
Being a part of a generation widely stunted by some form of anxiety, Shia seems to have cracked the code by liberating himself through art, which of course is nothing new, people have been doing it since the beginning of time. Although it is refreshing to see that, it works. We might not all have the tools to go ahead and create a film to purge ourselves of painful pasts, but well, that’s the point of art. We go along to a cinema to feel something and at the end of the day perhaps see a bit of ourselves being reflected on the screen in order to feel a little less alone. For Shia, he has taken his ‘daddy issues’ and maybe for the first time has understood the true meaning of giving back through his work.
Yes his path could have gone a very different way, but it didn’t and (honey) boy are we glad about that. Let this be the official beginning of the Shia-naissance.
Main Image Credit: Licensed by Getty.
Take A Look At Which Movies Broke The Box Office Each Year Of The Last Decade...
Take A Look At Which Movies Broke The Box Office Each Year Of This Decade
Disney Pixar1 of 10
Warner Bros. Pictures2 of 10
Marvel Studios3 of 10
Disney4 of 10
Paramount Pictures5 of 10
Disney6 of 10
Marvel Studios7 of 10
Disney8 of 10
Marvel Studios9 of 10
Marvel Studios10 of 10