Shia LaBeouf’s unique approach to method acting seems to be serving him well, but that doesn’t mean he’s always comfortable inhabiting the characters he plays.
At the Cannes press conference for the competition film “American Honey,” Sunday, LeBeouf explained that on the first day of shooting, director Andrea Arnold had him dance atop a Kmart check-out booth in front of all of the other male actors. “It was very awkward amongst the boys in the group,” LeBeouf said. “Everyone was alpha male-ing, and Andrea said, ‘I need you to body roll to Rihanna right now.'”
In the movie, LeBeouf plays Jake, the rat-tailed lead salesman of a traveling magazine sales crew of young misfits. The road-trip movie explores the subject of impoverished youth and struggling families across the U.S., and the striking contrast with wealthy American communities.
One of the ways LeBeouf prepared for the role by following a real group of young traveling salesman. “We went up the Pacific Coast for a week and I saw the hierarchies of the group [and how the money works.]” Asked what he learned about America during the shoot, LeBeouf said he already knew about the realities of impoverished youth.
“I’m part of that underclass,” he said. “That’s where I come from.” When another journalist asked how much of himself he sees in the character of Jake, LeBeouf’s answer was surprisingly short.
“Jake is me. That’s it man. I understand these people, I empathize with them, and I get it.”
Asked about how he felt being hired for a role that included two prolonged sex scenes—one of which included a fleeting shot of his exposed mid-section—Labeouf deflected. “I don’t think I get hired for sex scenes,” he said.
For newcomer Sasha Lane, the lead actress in the role of 18-year-old “Star,” the decision to take part in the wild cross-country road trip that was “American Honey” came down simply to her early interactions with Arnold, as opposed to the opportunity to act in an edgy feature film project that would travel around the U.S.
“I’m just down,” she said. “I felt Andrea’s vibe and I was like ‘Cool man, let’s just do it.'”