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by Nigel M Smith
February 20, 2014 11:18 AM
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Is Shia LaBeouf the Next Marlon Brando? James Franco Seems to Think So

Shia LaBeouf

Always one to keep busy, Hollywood's Renaissance Man James Franco took some time out of his schedule to pen an op-ed in The New York Times about Shia LaBeouf's recent headline-making antics and whether there's an end point to the whole charade. 

It should really come as no surprise that Franco feels a kinship to the "Transformers" star. Franco has never toyed with the media to such destructive effect as LaBeouf, but like the former child actor, he's gone out of his way to prove his mettle as an artist by staging gallery installations, like the one LaBeouf launched last week during which he sat across from visitors while wearing a bag over his head that read "I am not famous anymore." (The bag made its first appearance at the "Nymphomaniac" Berlinale premiere.) And like LaBeouf, Franco's never been afraid to make left-field choices, like joining the soap opera "General Hospital" in 2009.

Does LaBeouf's erratic behavior (the bag, plagiarizing his short film "HowardCantour.com," walking out on a "Nymphomaniac" press conference after quoting soccer player Eric Cantona) suggest the actor is pulling a Joaquin Phoenix on us, or is he just having a major and very public breakdown? Franco's not so sure, but hopes it's the former.

"For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona," he writes.

In his best passage, Franco goes on to draw parallels between what LaBeouf might be attempting, and what Marlon Brando famously did.

"Actors have been lashing out against their profession and its grip on their public images since at least Marlon Brando," he writes. "Brando’s performances revolutionized American acting precisely because he didn’t seem to be 'performing,' in the sense that he wasn’t putting something on as much as he was being. Off-screen he defied the studio system’s control over his image, allowing his weight to fluctuate, choosing roles that were considered beneath him and turning down the Oscar for best actor in 1973. These were acts of rebellion against an industry that practically forces an actor to identify with his persona while at the same time repeatedly wresting it from him."

So, is LaBeouf a Hollywood rebel we should take seriously? Only time will tell. For now, Franco just hopes that the actor is "careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist."

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12 Comments

  • Dee | February 21, 2014 2:35 AMReply

    No he isn't. And taking a cue from James "I stopped trying after I didn't win an Oscar" Franco is utterly ridiculous. Shia is a decent actor but his latest antics are not about being artistic, they are about problems with alcohol, mental illness, and an over sensitivity to media spotlight. Marlon Brando was an amazing actor, but he crapped on his own legacy with some of his behavior and messed up his children. Hopefully Shia will wise up and take the gifts he has been given and put them to good use instead of complaining because someone isn't camped near his arse at all times. He needs to grow up.

  • Andre | February 20, 2014 8:43 PMReply

    He's a clown just like his Dad. There are far too many talented actors out there busting their asses to keep giving this guy opportunities. I like a lot of the movies he's been in, I just felt like someone else should have been cast in his roles instead . Franco would have been better suited for Wall Street or The Company you Keep.

  • Dean | February 20, 2014 3:33 PMReply

    what a lazy headline - james franco never said he thinks shia is brando - ur exactly the people that franco was saying he likes to play peek-a-boo with - and u bit it hard

  • Jeff | February 20, 2014 2:36 PMReply

    More like the next Jan Michael Vincent.

  • Jordan | February 20, 2014 2:35 PMReply

    Cool piece Mr. Smith… I always thought he had a lot more potential talent than he has thus far exhibited and his lashing out against the cookie-cutter expectations of the industry at least makes him seem more genuine… I'm interested to see if it carries over into his acting.

  • - | February 20, 2014 2:02 PMReply

    The difference is Brando was as talented as any screen actor who's ever lived (even though I'd put De Niro slightly ahead overall), whereas Shia LaBeouf is at best decent. If we're being honest LaBeouf is pretty mediocre.

  • Ahsoka23 | February 20, 2014 3:05 PM

    I could not agree with you more. Shia is trying to pull a Joaquim Phoenix. Brando was a legend. To compare or try to compare Shia to Brando is blasphemy.

  • FP | February 20, 2014 12:26 PMReply

    Does any of the virtual ink from anyone involved matter?

    No. Waste of 60 seconds.

  • jawsnnn | February 20, 2014 12:17 PMReply

    Shia Labeouf may have a nervy energy, but at his best he is the next James Franco.

  • Teresa Dahlquist | February 20, 2014 12:03 PMReply

    When Shia LaBeouf, at age 11, called my agency at 7;30 AM, asking for representation and read a scene for me from Tom Sawyer I knew he was destined for stardom. After taking him to a few auditions, I knew Shia would eventually be in the same category as Marlon Brando. There are few actors in the history of cinema that shine forever in the classic films we enjoy today. When Shia stars in a film that will show his range? You ain't seen nothing yet. Thank you James Franco for seeing the same talent I witnessed 16 years ago.

  • Brett | February 20, 2014 11:50 AMReply

    Are they saying he could get some Oscar attention next year?

  • CrazyxCrazy | February 20, 2014 11:39 AMReply

    I haven't laughed this much since LaBeouf said "Bay is this generations Kubrick"

    Lay off the H Franco.