By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist August 16, 2012 at 12:00PM
While it's been a while since we really warmed to him on screen, kudos are certainly due to Shia LaBeouf for giving his career a new lease of life of late. The 26-year-old actor started off in the Disney Channel world before graduating to blockbuster sidekick in films like "Constantine" and "I Robot," and has spent much of the last half-decade going from blockbuster to blockbuster, most notably in the 'Transformers' series and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." But John Hillcoat's "Lawless," which opens in a few weeks, seems to signal a serious sea change in the actor's career.
Because from now on, he doesn't have a studio picture on his slate; instead, he's co-starring in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," he'll reunite with Hillcoat on the L.A. cop thriller "Triple Nine," and most recently, signed on to appear in Lars von Trier's sexually explicit "The Nymphomaniac." And as "Lawless" nears release, LaBeouf has revealed that this is a very deliberate move, with the actor suggesting to the The Hollywood Reporter that he is finished with big-budget studio films. "I'm done. There's no room for being a visionary in the studio system. It literally cannot exist. You give Terrence Malick a movie like 'Transformers,' and he's fucked. There's no way for him to exist in that world."
As such the actor is putting more faith in companies like independent financiers Voltage Pictures, who backed both "The Company You Keep" and the just-wrapped crime thriller "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman," which co-stars Mads Mikkelsen and Evan Rachel Wood. "These dudes are a miracle," LaBeouf said about Voltage. "They give you the money, and they trust you -- [unlike the studios, which] give you the money, then get on a plane and come to the set and stick a finger up your ass and chase you around for five months."
But seemingly abandoning studio fare (although the actor doesn't seem to rule out returning to the fold in the future) has had a price: LaBeouf's diss of his Indiana Jones movie, saying of director Steven Spielberg, "when you drop the ball, you drop the ball" seemingly cost him his relationship with the director, who'd served as something of a mentor to the young star. "He told me there's a time to be a human being and have an opinion, and there's a time to sell cars. It brought me freedom, but it also killed my spirits because this was a dude I looked up to like a sensei." As such, LaBeouf says he now "deeply regrets" what he said.
Working with Spielberg will certainly be worlds away from working with Lars von Trier, as "The Nymphomaniac" gears up to shoot next month with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård and Willem Dafoe also in the cast. And LaBoeuf tells MTV that he certainly has reservations. "He's very dangerous. He's the most dangerous dude I've ever showed up for," the actor said, confirming his role in von Trier's soft-core-like porn-esque drama. "I'm terrified."
It will perhaps be just as terrifying for the audience as for the actors. It appears there's going to be real sex in the film and actors like LaBeouf are expected to go naked and actually engage in sexual acts on screen. "It is what you think it is," LaBeouf said."There's a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says, we're doing [the sex] for real. And anything that is 'illegal' will be shot in blurred images, but other than that, everything is happening."
Is LaBeouf prepared to go there? "Whatever's asked of me," he said with his "Lawless" co-star Jessica Chastain looking on in horror. "It's going to be a wild movie." And he also tells THR that the fear is part of the appeal: "I'm only going to work now when I'm terrified." It's an admirable approach for an actor who could be cashing paycheck after paycheck in studio fare. We'll see how it turns out when "Lawless" hits theaters on August 29th, while "The Nymphomaniac" will follow in 2013.