The Tragic Life of Shia LaBeouf



The Tragic Life of Shia LaBeouf

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
One of the most interesting and flawed characters in Hollywood, Shia LaBeouf's life has been truly tragic. For this video, we'll be looking at the history and tragic past of controversial actor Shia LaBeouf. From being the sole financial provider for his family as a ten year-old to having addiction problems as an adult, Shia LaBeouf has fought against all the odds and we love him for it.
Script Written by Nathan Sharp

The Tragic Life of Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf is arguably among the most interesting yet flawed entertainers in the business. But no matter how egregious or headline-grabbing his missteps may be, they only serve to make him more human, and therefore, more alluring. Let’s be honest – no one likes the picture perfect, corporate-idealized actors and entertainers. They are boring. We like the humans, the people who struggle in everyday life and who fight for their art and acclaim. They remind us of us. And few actors working today have fought as hard. Welcome to WatchMojo and today and today we’re exploring the tragic life of Shia LaBeouf.

Shia was born into turmoil on June 11, 1986. His mother, Shayna LaBeouf, was a visual artist and designer, and his father Jeffrey -after returning from Vietnam- held down numerous jobs both legitimate and… morally questionable - reportedly selling drugs to the Hawaiian mafia. His parents also started a fashion company that failed to generate a profit. As such, Shia grew up in poverty and has since referred to his upbringing as a “hippie lifestyle".

But being poor wasn’t the only obstacle that young Shia had to contend with. In fact, that may have been the most straightforward and normal of them all. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War placed an enormous strain on his father’s mental health, and Shia was often the target of his demons. Jeffrey Craig LaBeouf was an alcoholic, and young Shia was said to accompany his father to various Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Jeffrey was a regular user of heroin, and at one point was placed into rehab to help quell his addiction. To make matters worse, the elder LaBeouf also had a criminal record for attempted rape, as he once pled no contest to the assault of a 29-year-old woman while blackout drunk and high on cocaine.

His internal demons also manifested in the form of abuse, and young Shia has said that he was regularly subjected to both physical and mental abuse at the hands of his father. His father admits that when Shia was a baby, he would pick him up by his foot and hold him upside down to stop him from crying. In one particularly troubling and disturbing instance, Jeffrey was suffering from a Vietnam flashback and pointed a gun at young Shia. In Shia’s own words as told to the Los Angeles Times: “He got lost in the drugs of it all. He didn’t know when the party was over. He didn’t know how to be a father at the time”.

His parents’ dour financial situation eventually drove them apart, with his mother blaming his father for the failed fashion company. They eventually divorced, and Shia went to live with his mother in Echo Park. During this time, Shayna LaBeouf was making a living selling fabrics and brooches, but it wasn’t enough to sustain her and her child, and the family fell deeper into poverty. At one point, Shia’s uncle was thinking of adopting him because his parents couldn’t afford to provide for him.

The need for money pushed Shia into performance art. Shia told The Hollywood Reporter, “...having money meant having a family. The more money I had, the more I could have my family around”. He began doing stand-up in clubs when he was just ten years old, but he finally found creative and (more importantly) financial success on “Even Stevens.” The show premiered on June 17, 2000, just six days after Shia’s 14th birthday.

While this did lead to a better financial situation, it didn’t heal the rift between father and son. In fact, their relationship got worse in many ways . Jeffrey soon grew resentful of Shia, not only because of the success he’d found, but because of the shame he felt as a result of being supported by his teenage son. As Jeffrey puts it, “ can’t imagine how it feels to be paid by your son. It was a contention there between he and I as long as I was on the set”. Shia made Jeffrey feel like a failure. But this newfound fame wasn’t easy on Shia either; he knew that everything would fall apart again if he failed, which naturally placed an enormous burden and an incredible amount of stress on the young actor. Not only was Shia forced to provide for his family, but he was being guilt-tripped and pressured into avoiding failure.

Luckily, “Even Stevens” was a success, and it led to more prosperous acting opportunities. Shia was suddenly starring in movies like “Holes,” “I, Robot,” and “Constantine.” Then in 2007 he led the first “Transformers” movie in the role of Sam Witwicky. Shia avoided failure and found success, not to mention millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, wealth and fame did not translate into happiness. The stress of financially supporting his family, finding the next big role, and constantly avoiding down time for fear of failure took a major toll on his mental health. Like his father before him, Shia sought solace in a bottle. By 2014, he was in the throes of alcoholism. On June 26, 2014, Shia was arrested for disorderly conduct after causing trouble at New York’s Studio 54. Following this, Shia voluntarily entered a 12-step program to treat his alcoholism. Unfortunately, this particular incident couldn’t have come at a worse time.

In December 2013, Shia was accused of plagiarizing Dan Clowes’s comic “Justin M. Damiano” in his short film “Howard”, which eventually resulted in his infamous “I am not famous anymore” red carpet appearance. It was also around this time that Shia began creating performance art. The plagiarism accusations, bizarre red carpet appearance, and foray into wacky performance art all made for a messy combination, and many people were quick to judge Shia, laugh at his eccentric behavior and/or go so far as to write him off. As such, when he was arrested in June for disorderly conduct, it was dismissed as just another peculiar and foolish action from an idiosyncratic celebrity. Some people must have recognized that he was a young man in need of help, but tabloids love a good “fall from grace” story, and Shia was seen as just another child star gone bad by the public.

Things eventually culminated in Shia being arrested in Savannah, Georgia for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in July of 2017. The arresting officer was wearing a bodycam, and Shia’s profanity-laced tirade made its way onto the internet. Shia was ordered into court-appointed therapy.

With professional help from psychologists, Shia was seemingly finally able to get to the root of his alcoholism and mental troubles. He wasn’t just a stressed-out child star – he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Shia’s upbringing was so relentlessly stressful and taxing that it eventually gave him PTSD. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Shia stated, “It was the first time I’d been told I had PTSD. I just thought I was an alcoholic…I knew it was an issue but didn’t know there was this whole extra other thing that was hindering my ability to have any peace in my life...”.

While in therapy, Shia wrote a screenplay as a form of self expression and rehabilitation. The result was “Honey Boy,” a critically acclaimed drama inspired by Shia’s own tragic upbringing, his meteoric rise to fame, and his problematic relationship with his father (whom Shia portrays).

Shia now seems to be on the upswing, although he once again faced a personal obstacle in September 2018 when he separated from his partner Mia Goth. Thankfully, his relationship with his parents seems better than ever, despite how personal his screenplay got. Shia admits that they found “Honey Boy” difficult to watch, but claims that they also expressed being proud of his bravery and what he had personally accomplished with the movie.

Jeffrey LaBeouf, for his part, is about fifteen years sober and clearly incredibly proud of his son. He calls Shia “the light in [his] life” and “the sweetest, kindest soul.” He also states, quite truthfully, that Shia is now “stepping into some amazing shit”.

We can’t wait to see what Shia has in store, but one thing’s for sure: it will be with a newfound sense of happiness. Of contentment. Of peace.