James Franco is doing his best to give the public another lens to look at Shia LaBeouf’s recent erratic behavior through, in an article for the New York Times.

Franco is inclined to think that LaBeouf’s bizarre behavior (which includes plagiarism and wearing a paper bag over his head that read “I am not famous anymore” to a movie premiere) is actually living performance art and that the “Transformers” star is trying to “reclaim his public persona.”


Franco blah blah blahs about how tough it is to be an actor, Marlon Brando and his own work on “General Hospital.” The “Oz the Great and Powerful” star does give some insights on the burden of fame and the ways an actor might try to subvert it:

As an actor, you are often in the uncomfortable position of being the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form. In one of the most striking scenes in “I’m Still Here,” a 2010 film co-written by Joaquin Phoenix that purported to document his life as he retired from acting and became a hip-hop artist, Mr. Phoenix paced around his yard at night, ranting about the submissiveness of being an actor. Even if the conceit was ultimately a joke (and initially it wasn’t clear that it was, for Mr. Phoenix stayed in character in public throughout the filming), the movie was nonetheless earnest about an actor’s need to take back a little bit of power over his image by making such a film.

Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona. But because film actors typically experience fame in greater measure, our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control. Our rebellion against the hand that feeds us can 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.

James Franco concludes with cautious support for Shia LaBeouf, writing:

Mr. LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult. I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. 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.

James Franco has a perspective that someone who is not a celebrity (i.e. the people who are consuming this entire spectacle) could never understand, and it’s quite possible that Shia LaBeouf’s behavior, while strange and annoying, is actually well-intentioned. Guess time will tell.

J-Connection: Both Shia LaBeouf and James Franco are Jewish.