“It was one thing for him to do stupidly deadly things, but now you’re talking about things that are seen as a plague for most people,” says PR crisis expert Eric Schiffer.
Bad behavior is the most important thing for many celebrities, and LaBeouf did everything from carrying a paper bag over his head on the red carpet at Cannes to getting a huge tattoo on his belly for his film “The Tax Collector” ”To be condemned to anger by the leadership for a racist tirade targeting the police.
But the #MeToo movement has made sexual misconduct a career-killing crime in Hollywood, even for the most popular movie stars. Johnny Depp was recently forced to leave his role in Warner Bros. ‘Fantastic Beasts franchise after losing a public defamation suit against The Sun and a judge’s ruling that his ex-wife Amber Heard’s allegations that he was a’ wife-beater ‘were’ substantially true ‘. However, LaBeouf does not have the same success records as Depp, even if part of his brand is “crazy” and “crazy”, as a PR expert said.
Last week, FKA Twigs, whose real name is Tahliah Barnett, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing LaBeouf of “incessant abuse,” causing emotional distress, and knowingly giving her a sexually transmitted disease over time. what they were in a relationship. Barnett described an incident in which he said LaBeouf drove quickly on the highway, took off his seat belt and threatened to crash the car unless she confessed his love for him, then threw it away. against the car after he fired. She also said that living with him became frightening, that she was afraid to go to the bathroom at night, because LaBeouf insisted on sleeping with a loaded rifle next to their bed and forced her to sleep naked.
LaBeouf denied some of the allegations against her, but significantly apologized for her behavior, tacitly acknowledging that at least some of her allegations were true. He told The New York Times last week that “many of these allegations are not true,” but added that his accusers should have a platform to talk and accept responsibility for those things we have done. “.
“I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, but only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting those closest to me. I’m ashamed of that story and I’m sorry for those I hurt. I can’t say anything else, “LaBeouf told The Times, adding that he is not cured of PTSD or alcoholism. “But I’m committed to doing what I have to do to recover, and I’m going to be forever sorry for the people I’ve hurt along the way.”
Representatives for LaBeouf did not respond to several requests for comment from TheWrap.
Another PR expert in the crisis said that LaBeouf’s real challenge to move forward will be rehabilitation with his colleagues, rather than the public who already know about his past and his own trauma. He has already played the “therapy card” and the “destructive behavior” has continued, the expert said. So where can he go from here?
“We need to convince Hollywood – insiders, such as filmmakers, producers, directors – that it’s worth a chance to work with them,” said Mark Macias, founder of public relations firm Macias PR. “Everyone wants to forgive someone who went through any childhood traumas. The difference is that childhood trauma is an innocent person in this. In this situation, at least in the process, he is the aggressor. He creates this trauma and this drama for himself … I don’t think a lot of women will have sympathy after reading that process. “
LaBeouf first broke out as a star of the Disney Even 2000 series “Even Stevens” in the early 2000s and then released the first three live action movies “Transformers”, which raised an additional $ 1 billion at the box office. the internal. He continued to record hits, with last year’s independent film “The Peanut Butter Falcon” grossing $ 133 million worldwide. But unlike other top stars, LaBeouf has focused on independent films for much of the last decade. His last major studio film was “Fury” from 2014 with Brad Pitt.
Currently, the actor does not have aligned film projects. He co-stars in the drama “Pieces of a Woman,” a potential Oscar contestant for star Vanessa Kirby, which Netflix is releasing in theaters this month ahead of its January 7 streaming debut. He was also briefly attached to the role in “Don’t Worry Darling” for Olivia Wilde for New Line, but was replaced by Harry Styles in September for what was described as a scheduling conflict.
Outside of the film, LaBeouf remained active with art projects as part of a trio with Finnish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö and British artist Luke Turner. He is also the co-founder of an experimental theater company, Slauson RC Theater School, which recently hosted a drive-thru show during the pandemic.
“I’m sure he has things, but the things he wrote and produced. And he received a lot of offers on indie before these accusations, but nothing from the studios “, said a top agent who spoke to TheWrap. “You know how crazy he is right before all this.”
The agent expected LaBeouf to continue to receive residual compensation from his work in the Transformers franchise, but the agent further acknowledged how a long career in Hollywood has shaped LaBeouf’s behavior.
“Shia is extremely talented. Obviously, he received demons that are downright evil, “a producer who worked with LaBeouf told TheWrap.
LaBeouf examined his own history in detail in the 2019 film “Honey Boy,” a mostly autobiographical film he wrote while in court-ordered rehabilitation. The film explores his career as a young actor, his full relationship with an abusive father (played in the film by LaBeouf himself) and the challenges of serving as a breadwinner for his own family from an early age. But the further complication of the story is that LaBeouf and Barnett became a couple for just under a year, after meeting on the stage of “Honey Boy”.
Moreover, Honey Boy director Alma Har’el, who had previously defended LaBeouf and frequently talked about his personal growth and recovery, issued a statement on Thursday in defense of Barnett and another ex-girlfriend who in the process confirmed his story. Barnett.
“Like many of Shia’s collaborators and fans who have struggled with substance abuse, suffered childhood trauma and are suffering from mental illness, I am painfully aware of my previous investments in his recovery,” Har’el wrote in part. . “I want to send a clear message today that none of the above should apologize, minimize or rationalize domestic violence.”
Even Barnett’s trial seems to acknowledge that the media and the public have excused his past actions and reputation and allowed him to continue to find work.
“Shia LaBeouf harms women,” the complaint begins. “She is OK. He abuses them, both physically and mentally. He is dangerous. For too long, LaBeouf has tried to excuse his reprehensible actions as the eccentricities of a free-thinking “artist.” Although Eve’s history of violent behavior has been well documented, many in the media have treated LaBeouf as a harmless figure of amusement, which has allowed her to perpetuate her cycle of abuse of women over the years. . “
And many in Hollywood are taking stock of their role in turning a blind eye to LaBeouf’s behavior. “The bottom line is that if it’s true, I feel for FKA Twigs, but nonetheless, we in the industry and our celebrity-worshiping company have created the Shia we now see in front of us,” the agent said. “Young children should not be the heads of their families. Because that’s what you get. “
The consequences for LaBeouf may depend on how he responds and how Barnett’s trial unfolds. Evan Nierman, the founder of crisis management firm Red Banyan, says he may have already heard the worst and most salacious allegations about LaBeouf’s behavior, but that his statement to the Times could have done him more harm than good.
“His statement is remarkable in that he says there are some things that are untrue, but he seems to recognize a lot of behavior that is problematic. He considers himself responsible, he is committed to doing better “, said Nierman. “He certainly tacitly admitted that bad things had happened, which is an interesting development. It’s not something you always see in an initial statement. “
“At the moment, his message is very confusing,” Macias added. “She did not have a convincing answer for that. He denies the allegations, which we hope is true, but also says he accepts responsibility for what he did. So what is it? “
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and chairman of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said that although he did not believe the plaintiff would face criminal charges, Barnett had a “decent” civil case. He considers that among the strongest accusations in Barnett’s complaint is the accusation of sexual battery, as Barnett says that LaBeouf knowingly gave him a sexually transmitted disease.
While typical civil domestic abuse trials usually involve little or no corroborating evidence, Rahmani noted that in Barnett’s case there is another ex-girlfriend, Karolyn Pho, who spoke out as a “previous witness to the wrongdoing.”
“This is a much stronger case, especially if they both have the same disease. And then you have the other ex who is willing to show up to confirm, ”he said. “Whenever there are other victims or other women telling the same story, it becomes a much stronger case, because it’s not just ‘Hey, this is a dissatisfied ex-girlfriend, she’s upset because I kept going.’ It helps.”
Schiffer recommends that LaBeouf “be dark for a while” if he wants to overcome the “Hollywood screen” and find opportunities in movies again. And although he will receive empathy from some, he will have to deal with this last crisis himself.
“I hope he can find inner peace and a level of emotional maturity and be able to contain himself constantly so that he can find a way with enough time,” Schiffer said. “Only time and I think a level of true regret and the demonstrated ability to correct his behavior will cure him. And this is a big set of question marks. “