James Franco Writes Op-Ed on Shia LaBeouf and ‘Why Actors Act Out’

Shia LaBeouf stormed out of an international press conference.
Has Shia LaBeouf’s recent bizarre behavior – including plagiarizing a short film, headbutting a man in a bar and wearing a paper bag over his head on a red carpet – all been part of a performance art piece?

That’s the question James Franco posed in an opinion piece from Wednesday’s New York Times.

Franco cites examples of other actors, including Marlon Brando, Joaquin Phoenix and himself, who have engaged in “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.”

According to Franco, being both an actor and a celebrity puts a lot of stress on a person. Having to contend with the public’s perception often leads to a distance between personality and persona.

“Our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control,” he wrote.

“Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct,” said Franco.

James went on to say that, “This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness,” Franco writes. “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.”

“Mr. LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult,” wrote Franco. “I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. 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.”

Be sure to read Franco’s full op-ed in The New York Times.