Is Shia LaBeouf's Latest Act One Giant Troll?

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rexusa_1277930atPhoto: Courtesy of Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Shia LaBeouf is out of control.

At least that's what Daniel Clowes' attorney, Michael Kump, writes in a cease and desist letter he sent to LaBeouf's lawyer, after the now infamous incident in which the actor plagiarized Clowes' short film HowardCantour.com from the writer's book, Justin M. Damiano.

Instead of heeding to the lawyer's advice, LaBeouf tweeted the letter for all to see, then swiftly removed it, only to tweet it again. It was the latest act in his twisted mea culpa to Clowes, an apology of sorts that also included LaBeouf cribbing his initial public apology from a Yahoo Answers page, then hiring a plane to facetiously write, "I Am Sorry Daniel Clowes" across the L.A. sky. Basically, LaBeouf is sorry not sorry.

So, is Kump right? Is the actor out of control? Or, is all this one big troll, a page taken straight from the James Franco/Joaquin Phoenix book of celebrity performance art? We're not sure. But, his recent behavior is proving equal parts fascinating and frustrating, which makes it just as easy to love the new Shia as it is to hate him.

LaBeouf's recent transgressions are just the latest in what has become a troubling pattern of over-the-top behavior and mini meltdowns. Whole essays have been devoted to the 27-year-old's well-being. As Grantland's Amos Barshad wondered last year, "So What The Hell Has Been Going On With Shia LaBeouf Lately?"

Ever since the Transformers franchise made him a household name, LaBeouf has been in rebellion mode, relentlessly sabotaging his career by talking smack to whoever would listen. He publicly bashed the movies that made him a star, kiss-and-told about trailer hook-ups with co-stars, and tried to knock the teeth out of anyone that looked at him cockeyed. LaBeouf didn't want to be Hollywood's golden boy anymore, and he wanted everyone to know it.
clowesPhoto: Courtesy of Twitter.
However, there's an underlying difference between the way he acted out then and the way he's acting out now. His past misdeeds could be attributed to the typical, bratty entitlement felt by someone who got a taste of fame too early, the same middle-finger-in-the-air, youthful bravado seen from a younger Johnny Depp or Leo DiCaprio. Everybody wants to be taken seriously, and for teen stars looking to validate themselves, giving no effs can seem like the fastest way to get there.

LaBeouf, more than anything, wanted to be taken seriously as an actor.

Horror stories from movie sets about the extreme measures he took to prepare for a role are abundant. While shooting the prohibition drama Lawless, he drank to such excess that co-star Mia Wasikowska threatened to walk off the set. For his role in The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, LaBeouf dropped acid. While shooting his upcoming WWII drama Fury, sources say that LaBeouf pulled out his own tooth and refused to shower, which angered the crew and cast, including Brad Pitt. (But, can LaBeouf be crucified for taking his craft a little too seriously? Daniel Day Lewis is notorious for pushing the limits of method acting, and he's swimming in Oscars.)

The point is, there are precedents for that kind of stuff. What there are no real precedents for, is the truly odd and subversive behavior of LaBeouf The Plagiarizer. In fact, the incident with Clowes was not the first time LaBeouf was caught stealing other people's words. After falling out with Alec Baldwin during their brief time co-starring in the Broadway play Orphans, LaBeouf published an e-mail exchange between two of them, in which many of LaBeouf's seemingly heartfelt words were lifted straight from an Esquire article.

So, what is he trying to prove?

In a recent, surreal exchange with Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston, LaBeouf defends his recent actions by insisting that plagiarism is just another form of cultural appropriation. We're all guilty of it, he says. That may be true on some level, but passing off someone's exact words as your own is something else entirely. It's an act of desperation from someone desperate to be an outsider.

Picking fights at bars became too predictable. Soon, this will be too.