When outlaws become heroes
SHIA LaBeouf is shifting. After carving out
a career in the Transformers films, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, the 26- year- old is enjoying a run of indie flicks.
The first is Lawless, a prohibition- era drama which premiered at Cannes in May, where it was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or award.
LaBeouf, who has made jokes about the Transformers films being ‘‘ rubbish’’ and will not be returning for the fourth instalment, was the first actor to join the cast of Lawless three years ago – after the Australian director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave, better known for his musical projects with The Bad Seeds and Grinderman.
‘‘ I was the first person in,’’ LaBeouf declares proudly.
‘‘ That’s my squad. If I could work with them for the rest of my life, I would.
‘‘ I’d seen all of John’s work and I loved it, and I really wanted to work with him because I think he’s one of the very best.’’ The deal was agreed over burgers. ‘‘ He took me to Hamburger Hamlet and said ‘ Let’s make Goodfellas in the woods’. And I was like, ‘ Word! Let’s do that’,’’ LaBeouf says.
Despite two years of setbacks and near-starts, the actor, who is today sporting slicked- back, wavy hair to his shoulder, and stubble, remained committed to the project, even when his star status rose with the Transformers series.
Actually, the timing ended up having advantages, he now thinks.
‘‘ Lawless is closer to my own sensibility but I’ve been working on things that you can’t say no to, because they’re incredible opportunities, and help to make films like this possible,’’ LaBeouf says.
‘‘ Had Transformers not been a success then I don’t think Lawless would have happened. So every step is linked and I don’t regret any of it.’’
LaBeouf plays youngest brother Jack Bondurant, alongside Tom Hardy and newcomer Jason Clarke as elder siblings Forrest and Howard, in Hillcoat’s big- screen adaptation of Matt Bondurant’s true- to- life novel The Wettest County In The World.
‘‘ I hadn’t been given a lot of opportunity to make a film like this. This is a boy becoming a man in many ways,’’ he says.
‘‘ He has his first drink of moonshine, his first kiss. Jack finds an appetite for violence and this gangster life and it’s like he’s transformed from a teddy bear into a rock star and outlaw.
‘‘ It’s the most tangible, rooted character I’ve ever been able to play in my life.
‘‘ When you work on something that is character- driven, everyone is hyper focused on the little details, like the way you move your finger.
‘‘ It’s just a completely different way of working and I loved it.’’
It was LaBeouf who took it upon himself to get Hardy on board. The pair became friends after LaBeouf sent the British actor a fan email about his performance in crime biopic Bronson, and they later forwarded scripts to each other. LaBeouf sent Bondurant’s novel and Cave’s screenplay to Hardy, who loved them both.
‘‘ I love him, he’s incredible. I look at Hardy like a hero, he’s one of the best actors around,’’ he says.
In fact, for LaBeouf, it was a dream cast all round.
‘‘ When you have actors of the calibre of Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce in there, it does something for your confidence level,’’ he says.
‘‘ It was an extraordinary opportunity for me to work with kings and gods.
‘‘ Being around them, I was obviously appearing like a young buck, but I was the happiest guy in the world.’’
While LaBeouf evidently relished the role, he didn’t enjoy having to put on weight and train for around two months to tone up.
‘‘ I had to gain 40 pounds. That was probably the most physically arduous. It’s something to get used to,’’ he admits.
However, the regular training sessions did ensure that LaBeouf, Hardy and Clarke were able to bond like brothers.
‘‘ We were always in the gym, that was like our community. Our brotherhood started in the gym,’’ he recalls.
LaBeouf says a fight scene with Guy Pearce, who plays Special Agent Charley Rakes, turned out to be quite spontaneous.
‘‘ The fight scene I did with Guy was really organic, it happened really fast,’’ he recalls.
‘‘ That’s the way John Hillcoat does his violence. It’s messy, dirty and realistic, and so it’s not rehearsed like a ballet. It’s rough around the edges.’’
Fans who are used to seeing LaBeouf in boy- next- door roles may well be shocked by his new direction.
Having stripped bare for Sigur Ros’ music video Fjogur Piano , he will next star in Lars von Trier’s erotic drama Nymphomaniac, for which he may have to shoot real sex scenes.