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Five Smart Moves from Shia LaBeouf

Five Smart Moves from Shia LaBeouf

A.O. Scott of “The New York Times” praised LaBeouf as “excellent” and noted that he and Brad Pitt as Wardaddy, the hardened leader of their tank squadron, are a good match together: “There is a tenderness between him and Wardaddy that is one of the film’s subtlest and most intriguing touches.”
 
“LaBeouf is actually appealing and strong onscreen for the first time in ages,” writes Todd McCarthy of Variety. “Maybe the army discipline was good for him.”
 
Fury,” LaBeouf ‘s first No. 1 opener in three years, has proven to be no small victory. His last was the second “Transformers” sequel. “Fury” also has grossed a little more than $46 million in just two weeks. That’s not bad considering his last three movies — 2013’s “Charlie Countryman” and Lars Von Trier’s double helping of “Nymphomaniac” this year – grossed an average $376,843. 

As celebrity train-wreck recoveries go, thanks to the good will engendered by his so-called “Tour of Contrition” while promoting “Fury,” LeBeouf is pulling out of the enduring backlash suffered by the likes of Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson. Being upfront and expressing genuine excitement about doing good work can make a difference. Time will tell if he is serious about cleaning up his act. But a few good performances go a long way.

Here are the ways the actor has proven savvy about restoring his public image:

 1. Own your public meltdown – and apologize as needed.
Using the talk-show circuit to his own advantage is one smart move made by LaBeouf to get back on track. In contrast to his loutish drunken outburst in June that landed him in a New York City jail for 25 hours after disrupting a performance of “Cabaret” on Broadway, LaBeouf came across as self-effacing, humble, cogent and sincerely sorry for his behavior during his appearances on talk shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres, where he made good on his promise to be photographed wearing a pair of shiny hot pink leggings in public to raise $10,000 for breast cancer research. 

“Man, I went through, like, an existential crisis” is how LaBeouf described his confounding erratic behavior in the past couple of years to DeGeneres. He owned up to having “some hiccups, some judgment errors.” That included wearing a paper bag over his head printed with the words, “I am not famous anymore” at the premiere of “Nymphomaniac” in February. He also gave a shout-out to the cop whose shoes he spat on during his June episode. “I’m sorry if you’re watching, dude. I’m sorry. That was crazy man.”

We love his explanation of why he manhandled “Cabaret” star Alan Cumming  while he was performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: “All I’m thinking about is the leather pants and him winking at me. He walks past so I give him a slap on the ass, because I think he deserves it … he’s the sexiest man I’ve ever seen.” Turns out, that compliment made quite an impression on Cumming, judging from what he told Conan O’Brien on his talk show a week later. 

Natch, clips of the chatfests went viral. 

2. Do your comeback print interview with a film buff who might cut you a break.  Instead of pouring his heart out in magazines like “People” or “Vanity Fair,” LaBeouf wisely picked “Interview,” which often serves as a friendly open forum for celebrity types.
 
That the current cover boy for the November issue was questioned by Elvis Mitchell, a noted critic whose has survived some issues of his own in the past was a wise choice. The actor was at ease enough to candidly address additional transgressions, such as his run-ins with Alec Baldwin during rehearsals for the 2013 Broadway revival of “Orphans” (LaBeouf, who ended up quitting and being replaced, has since made peace with Baldwin) and accusations of plagiarism both on Twitter and with his 2012 short film, HowardCantour.com.
 
As Mitchell wrote in the intro to his revealing piece, “rather than pretentiously discursive, he was intent and thoughtful. His focus was evident and translated into an impressive sense of impact, with the same kind of raw emotion he brings to his newest film.”
 
3. Accept any attention as a positive sign.

Even when you have become a punchline, you can recover – if you maintain your sense of humor and even turn it into a kind of public performance. LaBeouf could have shunned questions about his recent travails whole promoting “Fury,” insisting on only discussing the movie as some actors in the midst of controversy are known to do. Instead, he was open to pretty much discuss anything. That included his #IAMSORRY exhibit at a Los Angeles gallery, in which the actor sat with a paper bag on his head and observers were able to choose from an array of implements – one participant carried a whip, a reference to his film, 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” – and say anything they wanted to him.

 
Most sullied celebs are forced to face a makeshift jury in the media nowadays, but at least LaBeouf took control of his and turned it into art.
 
4. Choose a role in a mainstream ensemble piece to re-establish your cred as an actor.

“Fury” proved to be the perfect tonic to solve LaBeouf’s woes professionally and erase lingering doubt.

 
Even some of the more negative reviews have said nice things about his efforts. When expectations are low, it is that much easier to blow them away. He also chose a vehicle where a bigger name than his would bear the brunt of criticism if the movie failed. And now he has a supporter for life in Brad Pitt as well.

Pitt is convinced that LaBeouf is serious about his craft. “Oh, I love this boy,” Pitt told British GQ. “He’s one of the best actors I’ve ever seen. He’s full-on commitment, man. He’s living it like no one else, let me tell you. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of great actors. He’s one of the best I’ve seen.”
 
5. Work with a co-star you admire and a filmmaker you trust.

LaBeouf’s next movie will be “Man Down,” a psychological thriller directed by Dito Montiel – whose previous collaboration with the actor was 2006’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”

 
LaBeouf plays an Afghanistan war veteran trying to deal with his past while searching for his relatives in a post-apocalyptic America. Gary Oldman, whose “Sid & Nancy” from 1986 is one of the younger actor’s favorites, will be his therapist.
 
As he told Mitchell, “Yeah, we really like each other. He worked on “Lawless” (2012) for a few days and we really bonded. It was like meeting Superman. And he knew how much I looked up to him. I’m pretty blunt about it. In those three days, he couldn’t get away from me. I thought, ‘This man will never want to work with me again. I’ve bombarded him.’ But then this “Man Down” thing came up and he was really into it.”
 
Things are apparently already going swimmingly with his female co-star in “Man Down,” Kate Mara of “House of Cards.” They recently were spied visiting Disneyland together, sparking rumors that they were a possible item, although he did take longtime girlfriend Mia Goth to the “Fury” premiere. While these sort of rumors might bother some actors, for LaBeouf, it is a refreshing change of pace.
 

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