News Column

James Franco supports Shia LaBeouf in New York Times piece

February 21, 2014

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, theguardian.com



The Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf has been performing a series of bold and strange public performances in recent weeks, from hiring a skywriter to apologise to a writer he plagiarised to wearing a paper bag on his head to the premiere of Nymphomaniac, the Lars Von Trier film he stars in.

Now another actor with tendencies towards art production, James Franco, has come out in favour of LaBeouf's actions, which have generated a fair amount of negative press. Writing in the New York Times, Franco says that "I think Mr. LaBeouf's project, if it is a project, is a worthy one."

Franco highlights some of LaBeouf's recent actions, including a performance called #IAmSorry that took place in Los Angeles last week - LaBeouf wore another paper bag on his head while sat in a small room as individual members of the public sat opposite him, seemingly riffing on Marina Abramovic's famous and similar piece The Artist is Present. After LaBeouf was found to have lifted the storyline from a piece by comic book author Daniel Clowes for his short film Howard Cantour.com, he has theatrically apologised by plagiarising other famous apologies by the likes of Kanye West and Eric Cantona. He also questioned notions of artistic originality in an online interview, and this Abramovic lift seems to be in the same spirit.

"This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness," writes Franco. "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."

He acknowledged the difficulty of self-identifying within Hollywood, describing it as "an industry that practically forces an actor to identify with his persona while at the same time repeatedly wresting it from him."

Franco interprets LaBeouf's actions as trying to "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. Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d'Être... 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."

Abramovic, for her part, has said of LaBeouf's art piece: "It's very interesting to me that the Hollywood world wanted to go back to performance, which is something so different than what they are doing. Maybe they need our experience; maybe they need simplicity; maybe they need to be connected to [the] direct public, which, you know, being a Hollywood actor doesn't permit you."

As well as making mainstream films like Oz the Great and Powerful and This Is the End, Franco has also made his own visual art as well as writing and directing his own film work he recently also founded a new acting school. LaBeouf meanwhile can currently be seen in Nymphomaniac, and recently completed Fury, a war drama co-starring Brad Pitt.


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Source: Guardian Web


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