Shia LaBeouf has thought of an eye-catching way to escape the shadow of alien robot movies. Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier will apparently film some real ‘erotic material’ involving the young star in his new feature The Nymphomaniac.
LaBeouf’s developed a bit of a rebellious streak after surviving three movies where he had Michael Bay for a boss. He’s also wrestling with some regret for being publicly disappointed with Indiana Jones 4 and scuppering his relationship with Steven Spielberg in the process. Making a movie with Von Trier is a bold statement of intent. For a young star known mainly for having unfeasibly attractive on-screen girlfriends and running away from expensive visual effects, this seems like a real attempt to be taken seriously as an actor.
So, is it hardcore eroticism for a hardcore actor? Well, assuming it really is, in fact, real, perhaps we should ask why. There comes a time when actors should perhaps return to the roots of their craft and remind themselves that acting is about pretending.
Alongside the performers who coast through their careers playing versions of their own popular personas, cinema history has its share of actors who follow the other extreme and bury themselves in a role. The results can be stunning. Think of De Niro, who see-sawed his body mass to play tragic boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. More recently Christian Bale pulled a similar trick, shedding pretty much everything but his bones for The Machinist, and then bulking up again immediately for Batman Begins.
Crucially, these transformations supported the roles. These days you often hear of actors and actresses hanging out with their real-world counterparts to get a sense of their everyday lives, but sooner or later someone’s going to take it too far and end up experimenting with a role that really shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The Young Rising Star will write a weary communication to his Studio Boss:
“Dear Studio Boss: Going ‘Method’ with my preparations for an audition as the new James Bond has been a complete disaster!
“I’ve met lots of really beautiful women while skulking around the casinos of Monte Carlo, as well as a few femme fatales who are clearly terrorist WAGs. Annoyingly, none of them respond to my secret agent swagger and witty comments about ‘admiring the view’. I hired a Beautiful Assistant to help organise an undercover trip to Eastern Europe, but she quit as soon as she got a call back to guest-star on 90210.
“Next on the list was stealing Government secrets from the Russians. I had a dinner jacket and one of those little spy guns with a silencer on the end. Total mess! The stealth plan didn’t pay off. Massive blister and then I stubbed my toe on a nuclear blast door, tripping off an alarm while I hopped around in pain.
“Turns out the Russians really can shoot and I ended up locked up as a political prisoner with a really painful bullet in my shoulder. Weeks in hospital – which apparently isn’t covered by the insurance – and an amazing amount of pain that comes with being shot. Yep, turns out that hurts. Epic fail!
“Getting back to the UK was a nightmare. A basic lack of money meant I had to backpack to Frankfurt and temp in an underground hollowed-out volcano for two weeks. Eventually I saved enough cash to pay my share of the petrol expense when three guys heading home from a stag do in Prague offered me a list in their old Mini (not one of the cool modern ones!). Even then I ran out of money in Dover and had to do a ten-hour shift at Millie’s Cookies to get the fare back to London. I’m not sure James Bond ever had to do that.
“In the future it might be best just to pretend. I can probably just pretend to be a misogynist dinosaur and relic of the Cold War. I can pretend that I’m a smooth-talking, womanising, stealthy, bullet-proof secret agent with commitment issues and an unwavering sense of duty.
“Otherwise, isn’t it just a documentary?”