Photo: REX USA; Picture Perfect/REX USA.With his recent streak of bizarre behavior, including last week's weepy stint at an L.A. art gallery, Shia LaBeouf has done everything in his power to alienate himself from his straighter-edged Hollywood counterparts. However, James Franco isn't one of them.
In a New York Times op-ed piece published earlier today, our leading meta-celebrity came to LaBeouf's defense, writing that the actor's behavior "could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness." Showing genuine concern, he added: "For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious."
Franco has long been exploring his own identity as a celebrity and relationship to the media through a dizzying array of self-reflexive visual art projects, so it's no wonder that he sympathizes with LaBeouf's creative plight. "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," he wrote. "One in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.”
Franco used Marlon Brando, Joaquin Phoenix, and, of course, himself, as historical precedents in which actors purposely try to subvert their own public selves, and the vicious cycle of attention that such behavior often results in. "Our rebellion against the hand that feeds us can instigate a frenzy of commentary that sets in motion a feedback loop: acting out, followed by negative publicity, followed by acting out in response to that publicity, followed by more publicity, and so on." That seems to be a pretty apt description of the tailspin LaBeouf current finds himself in.
Franco ultimately chose to ignore the fact that LaBeouf's behavior may be a desperate reaction by someone who was caught plagiarizing another artist's work, as many observers have implied when discussing LaBeouf's recent endeavors. " I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one,” Franco concluded. “I just hope that he 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.” (The New York Times)