June 11, 1986 • Los Angeles, California
For three years, from 2000 until 2003, most people knew him as the mop-headed, wise-cracking younger brother Louis on the top-rated Disney Channel series Even Stevens. But in 2003, thanks to his breakthrough lead role in the movie Holes, teen actor Shia LaBeouf made an almost seamless transition from the small screen to the big screen. That same year LaBeouf appeared in no fewer than three other movies, taking small roles in Dumb and Dumberer and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and starring in the acclaimed HBO show The Battle of Shaker Heights. It seemed LaBeouf was everywhere. He garnered praise from surprised critics, who called him an up-and-comer to watch. Teen People placed him firmly on their Young Hollywood Hot List in 2004, and his fan base grew broader by the minute. There was no stopping LaBeouf, who went on to costar in the 2005 blockbuster Constantine and to play American golf icon Francis Ouimet in The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). In less than two years LaBeouf transformed from cheeky child performer to an adult star to be reckoned with.
Young Cajun cutup
Like many young entertainers, Shia (pronounced SHI-yuh) Shaide LaBeouf comes from a showbiz family. He was born on June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Jeffrey and Shayna LaBeouf. At various times Jeffrey was employed as a comedian, a rodeo clown, and a performer in a circus, where it was his job to train chickens. Shayna was a former ballet dancer who eventually turned to designing clothing and jewelry. When the couple had their son they named him Shia after Shayna's father, who was a Jewish comedian; Shia means "gift from God" in Hebrew.
In interviews LaBeouf claims that his Jewish mom and Cajun dad encouraged him to speak his mind from an early age. He took their encouragement to heart and began performing comedy routines at the age of three in the LaBeouf living room. As he told People in 2003, "I'd do five minutes on how crazy our life was, like how at Thanksgiving we'd have matzo gumbo or spicy gefilte." (Gefilte is a traditional Jewish dish; it is a type of seasoned fish.) By the age of twelve the precocious youngster was doing stand-up at local coffeehouses; he also landed a gig at the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena. In the same People article, LaBeouf explained that his material was "really dirty and gross," and "definitely not Disneyesque."
"It's not like I'm Mahatma Gandhi. I'm just a kid from the Disney Channel."
After getting a taste of the spotlight LaBeouf decided he wanted to branch out into acting, especially after a friend of his began appearing on the television drama Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The industrious thirteen-year-old pulled out the telephone book, found the name of an acting agent, and auditioned by performing one of his stand-up routines. The agent signed him immediately and sent LaBeouf on his first casting calls.
Unlike most entertainers just starting out, LaBeouf did not have to endure hundreds of disappointing rejections. In fact, on one of his very first auditions he snagged a leading role on a new comedy series on the Disney Channel called Even Stevens, which centered around an upper-middle-class family living in Sacramento, California. Dad was an attorney; Mom was a state senator. Older son, Donnie, was a high school sports star; and Ren was the ideal daughter. That left the youngest son, Louis, the class clown who was less than perfect and who struggled to fit in with his perfect family.
With his easy grin, quick timing, and just the right touch of geekiness, LaBeouf was the perfect Louis. And, although the show was initially supposed to feature the entire family, it soon became apparent that Christy Romano (1984–) as Ren and LaBeouf as Louis were the program's true stars. When Even Stevens premiered in June 2003, Carole Horst of Variety gave it a tentative thumbs up, but she had nothing but praise for Romano and LaBeouf. According to Horst, they "should start plotting the rest of their careers, as these two young thesps [actors] bring polish and excellent timing to the material." Viewers agreed with the critics, and soon Even Stevens became the highest-rated daytime show on the Disney Channel. Over the next three seasons LaBeouf continued to be prominently featured, and he increasingly drew more and more fans of all ages. In 2003, when he was just sixteen, LaBeouf snagged a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. (Daytime Emmies are awarded each year to honor excellence in all forms of daytime television production.)
A "Hole" lotta luck
Even Stevens was cancelled in 2003, but the lucky LaBeouf was not without a job for long. Competing against hundreds of other hopefuls, he auditioned for the Disney major motion-picture release of Holes. The movie is based on the enormously popular children's book of the same name written in 1998 by Louis Sachar (1954–). Director Andrew Davis had never seen an episode of Even Stevens, but he still tapped the talented LaBeouf to play the main character of both the book and movie, Stanley Yelnats. Stanley is wrongfully convicted of stealing and is sent to a juvenile detention camp called Camp Green Lake, where all the detainees are forced to dig holes in the blistering desert heat.
Before the film began shooting, LaBeouf and cast spent two weeks going through a training camp where they climbed ropes, did countless push-ups, and, of course, dug holes. Although the physical preparation was tough, in interviews LaBeouf said he was glad for the experience because it got him in shape to work in 105-degree heat; plus it gave him a chance to bond with the rest of the actors. The young stars also became tight because they attended school together in air-conditioned trailers on the set. As LaBeouf laughingly told Marie Morreale of Scholastic News, it "was the only time in my life where I ran to school because I was getting air-conditioning and water."
Author Louis Sachar also wrote the screenplay and was on the set every day providing pointers. He and LaBeouf became especially good friends, and as LaBeouf expressed in several interviews, he found the writer to be an "intriguing and knowledgeable character." An ironic twist is that LaBeouf had not read Holes before taking the role of Stanley, but he was assigned to read the book for school during the shooting of the film.
Given the green light
Holes was released in April 2003 to a great deal of critical acclaim. But LaBeouf was just getting started. In June 2003 he had small roles in two more big-screen offerings: the comedy Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd and the action-adventure Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. His next big hit, however, came on the small screen when he took the lead in the HBO-Project Greenlight original movie The Battle of Shaker Heights. Project Greenlight is a production company started by friends-turned-screenwriters-turned-actors Ben Affleck (1972–) and Matt Damon (1970–) to support and encourage other aspiring writers.
Shaker Heights is a coming-of-age story that focuses on seventeen-year-old Kelly Ernswiler, whose primary passion in life is participating in war reenactments. Part of his attraction to fantasy life is that his shaky confidence makes him a target for bullies at school; Kelly must also cope with the illness of his father, who is an ex-drug addict. LaBeouf dug into own past to tap into Kelly's troubled emotions: His father Jeffrey battled a drug addiction for several years while he was growing up.
The movie was originally broadcast in August 2003, but it received only lukewarm reviews. Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter claimed it felt "choppy and unfocused," especially since it tended to veer "sharply back and forth between broad comedy and heartfelt drama, ultimately succeeding on neither level." LaBeouf, however, was singled out as the film's one bright spot. According to Scheck, "The character [of Kelly] is superbly realized by LaBeouf, who balances the role's comedic and emotional demands and whose screen presence always commands attention."
Swings into adult roles
In 2003, sandwiched between film releases, LaBeouf somehow managed to graduate from high school. He told interviewers that he planned to attend college in the future, but in the meantime he was just too busy. As LaBeouf told Fred Topel of about.com, "I just wanted to work and get jobs at first. Now I get to be picky and have fun." Being picky allowed the teenager to join the cast of such blockbusters as 2004's I, Robot, a science fiction thriller starring one of LaBeouf's idols, Will Smith (1968–).
Francis Ouimet: Unlikely American Hero
When twenty-year-old Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open, he became the youngest player and first amateur to take home the top prize in the country's most prestigious golf contest. He not only made sports history, but proved that the American dream was truly obtainable.
Francis Desales Ouimet was born on May 8, 1893, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the youngest son of Louis and Mary Ellen Ouimet. Ouimet's father, a French Canadian immigrant, was a gardener, and as luck would have it, he moved his family to a house situated just across the street from the Brookline Country Club, one of the oldest and most prestigious private golf clubs in the United States. At the time, golf was a sport of the privileged class, which meant that working-class people like the Ouimets did not play. Francis's older brother, Wilfred, however, became a caddy (person hired by a golfer to carry golf clubs), and when he was not working the younger Ouimet would steal a club and hit balls in the cow pasture behind their house.
When he was eleven years old Ouimet became a caddy like his brother and was soon hooked on the game. He often got up at 5:00 AM and played on the Brookline course until he was chased off by the greens-keepers. While attending Brookline High he formed the school's first golf team, and by 1909 the young swinger was the Greater Boston Interscholastic Champion. In 1910, 1911, and 1912, Ouimet tried to qualify for the National Amateur Championships, but failed. In 1913, he had better luck at the state level and scored as the Massachusetts Amateur Champion. To pay for his tournament fees and equipment Ouimet took a job at a local sporting goods store.
That same year, the U.S. Open was being played at Brookline Country Club. In a surprising turn, Ouimet was asked to fill a last-minute spot by Robert Watson, president of the U. S. Golf Association. At first Ouimet was reluctant, especially since he did not want to take time off work. But he assumed he would lose quickly, plus the opportunity to meet two of his heroes, legendary British players Harry Vardon (1870–1937) and Ted Ray (1877–1914), was too tempting to pass up.
Ouimet started off poorly, but he quickly gained confidence thanks to his firsthand knowledge of the course. By the September 19 playoffs he was neck-and-neck with Vardon and Ray, and on September 20, 1913, he pulled ahead, beating Vardon by six strokes and Ray by five. The victory made Ouimet an unexpected American sports hero. At twenty years old, he was the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open, and the first amateur. Ouimet was also an unlikely celebrity, considering he was a very gawky young man—beanpole thin with ears that stuck out.
Although he became a stockbroker in 1919, Ouimet remained an amateur golfer the rest of his life, winning a number of championships both in the United States and abroad. He is considered to be the player who brought the game of golf to the masses. In 1913, approximately 350,000 Americans were golfers; ten years later that number had increased to two million. In 1949, at the age of fifty-six, Ouimet retired from amateur golf, but not from the sport. That same year he also established a college scholarship fund for caddies. Admired by his peers as a cool-headed and modest player until the end, Ouimet died in 1967 in Newton, Massachusetts.
In 2005 LaBeouf costarred in Constantine with another of his favorite actors, Keanu Reeves (1964–). Based on theHell-blazer series of DC/Vertigo graphic novels, the movie centers on the exploits of a supernatural detective named John Constantine, played by Reeves. LaBeouf plays Constantine's sidekick, Chas, who, according to Sarah Wilson of Interview, is a "bighearted, overeager demon slayer in the making." The movie fared well with fans of the original series and there was immediate talk of a sequel. In general, though, most of the praise went to LaBeouf, who provided the few glimpses of comic relief in the dark thriller. Wilson claimed that the fledgling actor stole scene after scene from Reeves. And, according to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, LaBeouf turned in one "juicy" supporting performance."
By mid-2005, with several standout performances under his belt, the eighteen-year-old LaBeouf seemed ready to tackle his first significant, grown-up role. That chance quickly came when he nabbed the lead in The Greatest Game Ever Played. Released in September of 2005 The Greatest Game chronicles the life of Francis Ouimet, an almost forgotten golf legend who, at the age of twenty, became the first amateur (and the youngest player) to ever win the U.S. Open, a major golf tournament. LaBeouf trained for over six months to perfect his swing, sometimes playing golf for almost six hours a day. He also toured with the University of California Los Angeles golf team and worked with several professional trainers. As he boasted to Rob Allstetter of the Detroit News, "Nobody has trained (in golf) like this for a film. And there's no swing like this on film I don't think—ever."
Hotter than ever
Many predicted that his role as Ouimet would be LaBeouf's breakthrough performance, cementing him on the short list of performers who successful made the transition from child star to adult actor. And, in clips heralding the release of The Greatest Game, audiences were given a glimpse of a young man on the brink of being grown up—taller, leaner, and with a newly shorn haircut. Jessica Blatt of CosmoGIRL! commented, "He's always been hilarious and adorable.... Now he's hotter than ever in Hollywood."
Blatt also observed that the young star known for his wisecracking both on screen and off was also pretty deep and "whip-smart." When asked what it was like to be a celebrity, LaBeouf replied, "Celebrity has a different meaning from actor. I have respect for the word actor.... My ultimate goal is to be the most respected actor on the planet, not the most famous celebrity." Perhaps, however, LaBeouf may switch to directing. In his spare time he enjoys making short films, one of which is about a boy who has a lobster for a pet. But whether LaBeouf chooses to stick it out in Hollywood remains to be seen. As he admitted to Blatt, "I don't know if I want to be a director forever or an actor forever, but I just love film. Even before I was in this business, all I ever did was watch movies."
For More Information
"The Ace in Holes." People (May 19, 2003): p. 128.
Blatt, Jessica. "Shia LaBeouf Grows Up." CosmoGIRL! (March 2005): pp. 174–76.
Horst, Carole. "Young Leads Shine in Sibling Sitcom." Variety (June 19, 2000) p. 35.
Scheck, Frank. "'Battle of Shaker Heights' Review." Hollywood Reporter (August 23, 2003): p. 12.
Wilson, Sarah. "Shia LaBeouf: His Latest Role Has Him Battling for the Souls of Humanity—and Stealing Scenes from Keanu Reeves." Interview (March 2005): p. 100.
Allstetter, Rob. "Talking With ... Shia LaBeouf." Detroit News: Sports Insider (February 16, 2005). http://www.detnews.com/2005/golf/0502/16/G04-91013.htm (accessed on August 23, 2005).
Even Stevens Online. http://evenstevens.disneytvzone.com/evenste vens/welcome/launcher.html (accessed on August 23, 2005).
Fischer, Paul. "Interview: Shia LaBeouf 'Constantine."' Dark Horizons. (February 8, 2005). http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/constan3.php (accessed on August 23, 2005).
Morreale, Marie. "Holes Is Definitely Worth Checking Out, Says Shia LaBeouf." Scholastic News.http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/holes/Stanley.htm (accessed on August 23, 2005).
Takagaki, Sarah. "Shia LaBeouf, Actor." TimeforKids.com (April 16, 2003). http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/kidscoops/story/0,14989,444229,00.html (accessed on August 23, 2005).
Topel, Fred. "Shia LaBeouf Interview." about.com:Action-Adventure Movies (August 22, 2003). http://actionadventure.about.com/cs/weeklystories/a/aa082203.htm (accessed on August 23, 2003).
Travers, Peter. "Review of Constantine." Rolling Stone (February 17, 2005). http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/_/id/6153709?pageid=rs.ReviewsMovieArchive&pageregion=mainRegion&rnd=1120954283120&has-player=true&version=220.127.116.114 (accessed on August 23, 2005).
"LaBeouf, Shia." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/labeouf-shia
"LaBeouf, Shia." UXL Newsmakers. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/labeouf-shia
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
LaBeouf, Shia 1986–
LaBEOUF, Shia 1986–
First name is pronounced Shy–a; full name, Shia Shaide LaBeouf; born June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Jeffrey (a circus performer, comedian, and rodeo clown) and Shayna (a ballet dancer and clothing designer) LaBeouf. Education: Studied at the Hamilton Academy of Music, Los Angeles. Religion: Judaism. Avocational Interests: Playing the drums, golfing, snow-boarding, surfing, softball, other sports.
Agent—Teresa Valente, Beverly Hecht Agency, 12001 Ventura Place, Suite 320, Studio City, CA 91604. Manager—John Crosby, John Crosby Management, 8225 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046. Publicist—Catherine Jeffery, I/D Public Relations, 8409 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069. Contact—P.O. Box 450802, Kissimmee, FL 34745–0802. (Fan Club)
Actor and director. Performed as a stand–up comedian in and around Los Angeles, including appearances at Icehouse, Pasadena, CA, beginning c. 1998. Appeared in Express Yourself, a series of public service announcements, beginning 2001; participant in "Shia Live: Shia LaBeouf and Lorenzo Eduardo Tell You How It's Done," a TakeOne! Workshop at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, c. 2004. Made short films with others. Affiliated with the Give Back to the Children's Fund. Also known under the rap name Rap Pi.
YoungStar Award nomination, Hollywood Reporter, best young actor in a comedy television series, 2000, Young Artist Award nominations, Young Artist Foundation, best performance in a television comedy series—leading young actor in a television comedy series, 2001 and 2002, and Daytime Emmy Award, outstanding performer in a children's series, 2003, all for Even Stevens; Young Artist Award nomination, best performance in a feature film—leading young actor, YoungStar Award nomination, best leading young actor in a feature film, and MTV Movie Award nomination, breakthrough male performance, all 2004, for Holes; Breakthrough of the Year Award, Movieline's Hollywood Life, for Constantine.
Kelly Ernswiler, The Battle of Shaker Heights, Miramax, 2003.
Lewis, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, New Line Cinema, 2003.
Max, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Columbia, 2003.
Stanley Yelnats IV, Holes, Buena Vista, 2003.
Voice of Asbel for English version, Kaze no tani no Naushika (anime; originally shown in Japanese; also known as Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, Warriors of the Wind, and Kaze no tani no Nausicaa), Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003.
Himself, The Boys of D–tent (featurette included on the DVD of Holes), c. 2003.
Himself, Digging the First Hole (featurette included on the DVD of Holes), c. 2003.
Farber, I, Robot, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2004.
Chaz Chandler, Constantine, Warner Bros., 2005.
Francis Ouimet, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Buena Vista/Walt Disney, 2005.
(With Lorenzo Eduardo) Let's Love Hate (short film), c. 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
Louis Anthony Stevens, Even Stevens, The Disney Channel, 2000–2003.
Host and judge, Say What? Karaoke, MTV, 2003.
Himself, Project Greenlight 2, HBO, beginning 2003.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Cal, The Christmas Path, Fox Family Channel, 1998.
Joey, Breakfast with Einstein, The Disney Channel, 1998.
Wyatt, Monkey Business, Showtime, 2000.
Ronny Van Dusen, Hounded, The Disney Channel, 2001.
Edward "Eddie" Walker, Tru Confessions, The Disney Channel, 2002.
Louis Stevens, The Even Stevens Movie, The Disney Channel, 2003.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Real Access: Hot 24 in 2004, Noggin, 2003.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The 30th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 2003.
Presenter, The 2004 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2004.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Ethan, "Caroline and the Bar Mitzvah," Caroline in the City (also known as Caroline), NBC, 1998.
Cal, "The Occupant," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1999.
Moe, "Momma Was a Rollin' Stone," Jesse, NBC, 1999.
Richie Lupone, "The Goldberg Variation," The X–Files, Fox, 1999.
Ritchie, "A Day in the Life," Suddenly Susan, NBC, 1999.
Darnel Smith, "Abby Road," ER (also known as Emergency Room), NBC, 2000.
Herbert, "We've Got Spirit," Freaks and Geeks, NBC, 2000.
Dylan, "Scareful What You Wish For," The Nightmare Room, The WB, 2001.
Himself, "The Rookie," Movie Surfers, The Disney Channel, 2002.
Voice of Johnny McBride, "I Love You Penny Proud," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel, 2002.
Guest, "Holes," Super Short Show (also known as Mike's Super–Short Show), 2003.
Guest, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Fox Sports Network, 2003.
Guest, E! News Daily (also known as E! News Live), E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Guest, Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC, 2003.
Guest, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2003.
Guest, Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2003.
Guest, MTV's Movie House (also known as Movie House), MTV, 2003.
Guest, Total Request Live (also known as TRL), MTV, 2003.
Guest, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2003, 2004.
Guest, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2003, 2004.
Host, Beauty and the Beast: Disney's Animation Magic, Walt Disney Home Video, 2002.
Songs on Albums:
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," Holes (soundtrack), Disney, 2003.
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," Radio Disney James 6, 2003.
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," c. 2003.
Songs Featured in Films:
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," Holes, Buena Vista, 2003.
Songs on Albums with Others:
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," Holes (soundtrack), Disney, 2003.
(With the D–tent Boys) "Dig It," Radio Disney James 6, 2003.
Entertainment Weekly, August 15, 2003, pp. 28–30; December 12, 2003, p. 33.
Shia Shaide LaBeouf Home Page, http://www.celebritykidz.com/ShiaLaBoeuf, October 29, 2004.
"LaBeouf, Shia 1986–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/labeouf-shia-1986
"LaBeouf, Shia 1986–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/labeouf-shia-1986
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
B orn Shia Shaide LaBeouf, June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Jeffrey (a performer and ro- deo clown) and Shayna (a ballet dancer and visual artist) LaBeouf.
Addresses: Agent—Teresa Valente, c/o Beverly Hecht Agency, 12001 Ventura Place, Ste. 320, Studio City, CA 91604. Contact—Shia LaBeouf Fan Club, P.O. Box 450802, Kissimmee, FL 34745-0802. Home— Burbank, CA.
A ctor in films, including:Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, 2003; Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, 2003; Holes, 2003; I, Robot, 2004; Constantine, 2005; The Greatest Game Ever Played, 2005; A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, 2006; Bobby, 2006; Disturbia, 2007; Surf’s Up (voice), 2007; Transformers, 2007. Television appearances include: Caroline in the City, 1998; Suddenly Susan, 1999; Touched by an Angel, 1999; The X-Files, 1999; ER, 2000; Even Stevens, 2000-03.
Awards: Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding performer in a children’s series, for Even Stevens, 2003; best actor, Gijón International Film Festival, for A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, 2006; Hollywood Film Award for ensemble of the year, Hollywood Film Festival, for Bobby, 2006; special jury prize (dramatic), Sundance Film Festival, for A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, 2006; ShoWest award for male star of tomorrow, 2007.
M any child actors get their start with Disneyonly to disappear from the entertainment world once they become adults. Shia LaBeouf is an exception. In 2000, LaBeouf, just 14, became a favorite of the pre-teen set after landing on the Disney Channel’s Even Stevens, which became a hit show. Over the next few years, as he crept into adulthood, LaBeouf took on heavier roles that showcased his great range, appearing in thrillers, biographical pictures, animations, and action flicks.
In 2007, LaBeouf proved he could anchor a film when his low-budget thriller Disturbia opened at No. 1 at the box office, drawing a larger audience than the Halle Berry/Bruce Willis suspense thriller Perfect Strangers, which opened the same weekend. “Shia’s not your pretty-boy hunky guy [with] perfect hair. He has that young John Cusack thing— quirky and smart,” Disturbia director D. J. Caruso told Entertainment Weekly’s Missy Schwartz.
LaBeouf was born on June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, California, to Jeffrey and Shayna LaBeouf. His first name, pronounced SHY-ah, comes from his grand father, a veteran of the Catskills comedy circuit. La-Beouf grew up poor in Echo Park, a Los Angeles neighborhood riddled with street crime and gang violence. He attended a school made up largely of Latinos and African Americans. The LaBeouf family never had much money—his parents worked sporadically. LaBeouf has often joked that he is from a long line of artists who never quite made it. His heroin-addicted Cajun father sometimes worked as a rodeo clown or a comedian. He also sold snow cones and toured with the Doobie Brothers, a popular rock group from the 1970s. LaBeouf’s Jewish mother, Shayna, was a ballerina. Forced to give up dancing due to an injury, she became a visual artist and jewelry designer. Speaking to Time’s Rebecca Winters Keegan, LaBeouf described his parents as old hippies. “They’re not really worker bees. They’re artists who just didn’t have enough bureaucrat in them to get it all wrapped up in a nice little package to be able to feed to the American public.”
Early on, Jeffrey LaBeouf pushed his son into street performance, hoping to earn some quick cash from his small son’s quips and tricks. Little Shia LaBeouf became the star of his family’s traveling street act. The elder LaBeouf stole a maid’s cart from a local hotel, spruced it up with paint and streamers, and filled it with hot dogs and shaved ice. He dressed his son up as a clown, then headed for the park. “I hated selling hot dogs,” LaBeouf told Time’s Winters. “I hated dressing up in clown. But the minute somebody would buy into my thing and buy a hot dog from my family because of my shtick, my parents would look at me like, ‘All right, man.’ Besides performing, I’ve never had that validation from anything else I’ve ever done in my life.”
Alongside his father, LaBeouf spent his childhood watching Steve McQueen movies and going to Rolling Stones concerts. He also attended AA meetings, where he began smoking and playing cards at ten. Eventually, LaBeouf’s parents divorced and the family’s money situation worsened. Fed up with being poor, LaBeouf wondered how he could earn some money. One day at the beach, he admired a friend’s surf gear and found out the youth was an actor. “He always had the coolest stuff,” LaBeouf told Los Angeles Times writer Susan King. “His mom drove a nice car. He had a nice watch and nice clothing. He always had a nice surfboard.” After the friend told LaBeouf that he made his money appearing on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, LaBeouf decided to become an actor.
LaBeouf makes it clear that he pursued acting only for the money. “It wasn’t about art,” he told USA Today’s Scott Bowles. “It was about making money to get somewhere and be somebody.” Taking matters into his own hands, LaBeouf flipped through the Yellow Pages looking for an agent. When he got Teresa Valente on the phone, LaBeouf pretended to be a middle-aged talent manager from Europe, representing England’s best up-and-coming talent. Valente knew she was talking to a child but was nonetheless intrigued. She was used to parents calling, insisting their kids needed representation because they were the next big thing; she never had a child call before. So, Valente took a chance on LaBeouf. She paid for head shots and toted him to audition after audition. By this time, LaBeouf’s father, a Vietnam vet, was stuck in a VA hospital, struggling through withdrawal.
LaBeouf joined an improv group and tried his hand at stand-up. He had already been doing a comedy routine at some local nightspots. LaBeouf’s routine was always the same. He went onstage looking young and innocent, wearing overalls and a bowl haircut. But then he spoke, channeling an irritable, foul-mouthed 50year-old through his childish body. LaBeouf’s off-color humor shocked audiences. He continued to audition for bit parts and landed appearances on the situation comedy Suddenly Susan, the family drama Touched by an Angel, the FOX hit The X-Files, and the NBC drama ER.
At 13, LaBeouf secured a starring role on the Disney family comedy Even Stevens. The show, which first aired in 2000, followed the sibling rivalry between class clown Louis Stevens—played by LaBe-ouf—and his older, perfectionist sister, Ren, played by Christy Carlson Romano. LaBeouf’s steady performance as Louis earned him a 2003 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.
The show folded in 2003, but that year LaBeouf made a jump to the big screen, playing supporting roles alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He appeared in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. LaBeouf’s breakout role for 2003, however, was the Disney feature Holes, based on the bestselling teen novel by Louis Sachar. In the film, LaBeouf played Stanley Yelnats. As a juvenile wrongly accused of a crime, Stanley is sent to a detention camp in Texas where kids are mysteriously forced to dig five-foot-deep holes all day, every day. On the set, LaBeouf befriended veteran actor Jon Voight—father of actress Angelina Jolie—who played one of the camp warden’s assistants. Voight coached LaBeouf on his acting and got him to realize that he should look for fulfillment from the work, not just a paycheck. Holes made $67 million and director Andrew Davis credited LaBeouf with its success. “I need[ed] a cross between Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Gene Wilder in a kid’s body,” Davis told Entertainment Weekly’s Nancy Miller. “We looked at Shia and knew he was the right kid.”
As LaBeouf moved into the spotlight, he carefully guarded his image and told the Orange County Register’s Barry Koltnow that he planned to avoid the pitfalls many young actors fall into. “To not party is part of the plan. I have made a calculated effort to stay away from the party scene because that can have as much impact on your career as your performances. If the industry takes you lightly because you’re always partying, then they will take your work lightly as well.” To stay out of trouble, LaBeouf spends his free time attending Dodgers games and playing video games with friends. LaBe-ouf does admit to one bad habit, smoking, and reporters often note another, cussing.
The brown-eyed, lanky-framed LaBeouf appeared opposite Will Smith in 2004’s I, Robot and with Keanu Reeves in 2005’s Constantine. Disney, banking on LaBeouf’s popularity, snapped him up for the lead role in another project, The Greatest Game Ever Played. The film, released in 2005, is a biographical picture that follows the real-life tale of underdog golfer Francis Ouimet as he competes in the 1913 U.S. Open. Playing Ouimet gave LaBeouf the opportunity to prove he could move beyond juvenile films.
In 2006, LaBeouf appeared in writer-director Dito Montiel’s A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, an in-die film about how a would-be gangster escapes street life in Queens, New York. That year, LaBeouf also appeared alongside Anthony Hopkins in Bobby, a fictionalized account that revisits the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
For LaBeouf, 2007 proved to be a breakout year when he opened three major films in a four-month period. LaBeouf provided the voice behind the cocky surfing penguin Cody Maverick in the computer-animated flick Surf’s Up. Unlike most animated films where actors get scripts, the producers wanted the film to have a documentary feel so the stars were forced to ad-lib their lines. Work on the film involved sitting in the studio several hours a day joking and improvising alongside co-star Jeff Bridges.
In a complete change of pace, LaBeouf also starred in the Michael Bay sci-fi thriller Transformers, based on the popular 1980s Hasbro action figures. LaBe-ouf played Sam Witwicky, a teenager whose yellow Camaro transforms into an Autobot named Bumblebee from the planet Cybertron. Unwittingly, LaBeouf’s character finds himself at the center of a feud between some warring alien robots. Steven Spielberg served as the executive producer for this $145 million action thriller, jam-packed full of special effects. During filming, the set often resembled a war zone. There were tanks on the ground, Black Hawk helicopters in the air, and Navy SEALS firing off bazookas.
For LaBeouf, the film was more physically than mentally challenging. “In a Michael Bay movie, you’re blowing up a building, dropping a helicopter, lighting five guys on fire—all before lunch,” La-Beouf told Hollywood Reporter’s Jacqueline Marmo. To prepare, LaBeouf ran several miles a day and did calisthenics to get in shape. During filming, La-Beouf ran from guard dogs, dodged bullets, scurried through flames, and was set on fire. The scari-est action scene required LaBeouf to hang from the side of a building by a wire.
LaBeouf’s biggest success that year, however, was the D.J. Caruso-directed film Disturbia. In this Hitchcockian-themed film, LaBeouf played a depressed, rough-around-the-edges teen named Kale who gets in a tussle with a teacher and ends up sentenced to house arrest. Kale—forced to live with a transmitter on his ankle that alerts police if he leaves his home—gets cabin fever and begins spying on his neighbors. He comes to believe one of them is a serial killer. The film surprised Hollywood its first weekend when it brought in $22 million in ticket sales to open at No. 1 at the box office.
The same weekend Disturbia opened, LaBeouf conquered another Hollywood milestone—he hosted Saturday Night Live. “I’m very fortunate,” LaBeouf told Bob Strauss of the Daily News of Los Angeles. “When you start this business, the pinnacles are meeting Spielberg, working with Scorsese, winning an Oscar, doing Saturday Night Live, things like that. And, at 20, some of those things are off my list. It’s jarring, it’s very weird.”
Soon after the release of his 2007 films, LaBeouf was back in front of the camera, this time working for Spielberg, who cast the young hotshot actor in the fourth Indiana Jones installment. It was rumored that LaBeouf would play Harrison Ford’s son in the film. The much-anticipated sequel was scheduled for release in 2008.
As for the future of his career, LaBeouf told the Hollywood Reporter’s Marmo that he plans to continue choosing films in various genres so he does not get typecast. “I want to do drama and comedy. I want to do all of it because that’s human. People are funny, and they’re not funny, and they’re dramatic and confused. If I was just to play one emotion my whole career, I wouldn’t have a very long career. My whole goal is longevity—not necessarily fame and stardom. I want to be working until I’m 70. I want to be Michael Caine. And the only way I can be Michael Caine is to do everything and not do the same thing back-to-back.”
Daily News of Los Angeles, April 8, 2007, p. U4. Entertainment Weekly, August 15, 2003, pp. 28-30; April 27, 2007, p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter, March 15, 2007, p. S13. Interview, October 2006, p. 128.
Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2007, p. E6; July 1, 2007, p. E5.
Orange County Register, April 13, 2007, p. 1M. People, May 19, 2003, p. 128.
Time, July 16, 2007, p. 63.
“Shia LaBeouf is riding a wave of success,” MSNBC.com, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19074228.tif (June 27, 2007).
“Shia LaBeouf makes waves in Hollywood,” USA Today,http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2007-06-05-shia-labeouf_N.htm (June 27, 2007).
"LaBeouf, Shia." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/journals/culture-magazines/labeouf-shia
"LaBeouf, Shia." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Retrieved December 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/journals/culture-magazines/labeouf-shia