LaBeouf, Shia (Constantine)

Chances are the name isn’t going to jump right out at you, but there’s a good reason for that. Unless you paid close attention to the credits in I, Robot or were an avid watcher of “Project Greenlight 2”, you probably aren’t familiar with Shia LeBeouf…but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be. As part of the Constantine junket we chatted with a young kid who’s already seen some great dreams come true.

Question: So how did you enjoy doing this type of genre?

Shia LaBeouf: It’s fun. I mean it’s different than I’m used to. It’s a rated R film which is different for me. I don’t know if a lot of my audience will be able to see it…I don’t understand why because most of my audience are young but they go home and play Grand Theft Auto till six in the morning anyways. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m trying to raise my audience in a weird way and put them on to quality films rather than make these stupid ass… whatever films. It’s so funny that studios make these dumb films. Kids won’t see them and then they feel dumb about making it. It doesn’t make any sense. Kids want to see quality films. There’s a reason for it. There’s a reason why Michael Moore’s documentary made so much money. It’s because it had intellect and sparked an idea that kids wanted to know about. Twelve year olds aren’t that stupid. So yeah it was a lot of fun for me and a lot of fun to make and I don’t think I’m pushing my audience away at all.

Q: What are some of the dumb ideas you’ve had to turn down?

SL: Oh, we could get into that and I won’t be able to work in this business anymore (laughs).

Q: Do you feel like in this film you’re standing in for kids who are looking at people that they want to have be their mentors?

SL: Yeah definitely. I think that Chaz, when I read it and did it, he feels like the eye of the audience. He’s not the narrator but he is definitely the most human of all the people in the film. He’s the only one that doesn’t have this connection with the other world. So yeah, he feels very human. I definitely think a lot of people, kids and adults, will connect with Chaz because they don’t have that power or connection with the other world. So I definitely feel that he is an inclusive character.

Q: Since it isn’t in the film did you come up with your own back story for Chaz and how he became involved with Constantine?

SL: Definitely. I always thought at some point John had saved Chaz and exorcised him. So he had felt what it was like to have the devil inside him, he felt the demon, he felt what that energy felt like and that’s why he’s so intrigued by it and so studied up on it. That was just my personal back story. Then he devoted his life to John because John saved his life. I don’t know if that is in the comic or not, that was just my personal back story I created.

Q: Have you found a niche playing the friend of the action hero?

SL: Well the only two times I have done that was in I, Robot and in this.

Q: So will you continue doing that?

SL: No, no, no. I won’t continue doing anything. I feel like the thing with that is; in I, Robot I wasn’t really that prominent at all, and it was sort of a stepping stone to get here into this film. It’s the same writer, and you have to build relationships. A lot of times in people’s careers you have to do a certain thing to get out of a certain place to be able to go somewhere else. At that point in my career I needed to do that so I could move forward.

Q: Would full on action hero be a future step?

SL: I don’t know if there are any Jewish comic books (laughs). The Adventures of Moisha (laughs).

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your chemistry with Keanu on screen as well as your relationship with him off screen? Is he two completely different people?

SL: When we are filming he is Constantine. I know a lot of people think that Keanu Reeves, an actor. I’m the same guy. I had preconceived notions when I walked in the door. Oh Keanu Reeves he isn’t a great actor. He’s just the whoa guy or the guy in Speed. But the truth is he has one of the most elaborate resumes and has worked with the best actors in this business. When you really think about it, Keanu Reeves is the all American super star. He is on that level with Tom Cruise. He is the biggest of the big. This is the reason I think I respect him so much, the fact that he has all the money; he has all the fame so he’s not working for either of those two reasons, which a lot of people do. Ask Paul Walker why he is making movies, you know what I mean? Keanu Reeves doesn’t want fame; he doesn’t want money; it’s not that. He is working for respect. That is what he is all about. When you tell Keanu, “Hey man I loved you in the Matrix man it was awesome!” That’s not really a compliment to him, he doesn’t really care but if you say, “I really respected your performance, that one scene in Dracula you were spot on.” He is a totally different person. He becomes so bright and full of energy and so happy. That’s Keanu; he is all about getting respect as an actor.

Another thing about Keanu is that he is an actor, not a performer, which is a big difference. He is not a performer so he is not outlandish, he’s just an actor. When I first met him the reason my whole notion changed was that I’ve never seen anyone prepare like Keanu in my life. Jon Voight is my mentor and doesn’t prepare like Keanu. Keanu really, really, really prepares. We sat down at rehearsals and there were four or five journals and your thinking they are Akiva (the writer’s) journals, and then Keanu sits there and opens them all up and each one is labeled, Cancer Book, Latin Philosophy, Spirituality. He researches everything and he is so prepared. Also very hard on himself and a really intense actor. He’s so un-jaded for a person who is in so many films he still works on films like it’s his first movie.

Q: Did you play ping pong with him?

SL: Nah that’s a Djimon thing (laughs).

Q: Did you pick up anything from watching Keanu work?

SL: Everybody has their own methods. I took a couple a things away from him in just the way he prepares. The movie I did after Constantine took a lot of preparation and a lot of that I think came from the fact that I watched Keanu prepare and I used a lot of his methods in that.

Q: What is that project?

SL: The Greatest Game Ever Played, which is the true story of Francis Ouimet who was the first immigrant to come to the U.S. and win any sporting event here. He was the creation of a sports hero. He made sports an iconic thing. Before that, in 1913, professional athletes were looked at as janitors. Rich people would pay them money like “teach me basketball Michael Jordan, here’s five bucks.” Now they’re Lebron James and have shoe deals and Escalades on spinners. It’s a completely different world. Back then it wasn’t that way and Francis Ouimet changed that. Also back then in 1913, the year before the Titanic; America was forming itself and they never had a hero, so Francis Ouimet was the first American hero for a lot of people. He became the first sports icon of all time; the first American to ever win a U.S. Open and the first and only amateur to win a U.S. Open.

Q: How do you feel you were portrayed on Project Greenlight (in Battle of Shaker Heights)?

SL: (Laughs). They did me justice. They treated me pretty good. They treated those directors like crap. They got the short end of the stick. I mean I understand what the show is about but I don’t think it was right to just end somebody’s career like that. Those directors are not that bad. I’ve worked with worse who still make movies. I just don’t think it was right, but you know that’s a whole other thing. They treated me nice and the cool thing about that was I was coming out of the Disney Channel and I won that day time Emmy or what ever that thing was. I had that came from Even Stevens. I was the Disney kid, with Hilary and Lindsay, and we were all running down the street with candy canes (laughs). I think when I did Project Greenlight it just kind of separated me. People got to know who I am and heard me curse a lot and just learned who I was. That opened up a lot of doors. Also I’m really proud of my performance in that movie. It was like you were performing in two roles because I consciously did curse to remove myself from the stigma of the Disney Channel kid which has helped. Hilary Duff can’t be in Constantine, you know what I mean? It’s just doesn’t seem right. I’m not saying anything about her. There’s nothing wrong with her career it’s just not what I want.

Q: So do you think they ruined the outcome of their film?

SL: That movie was made to not make. It was a show. We weren’t making a movie, we were making a television show and that’s understandable. The show did big numbers and the movie did whatever, but I’m still proud of my performance in it. I still got respect for it and I’m happy about it. They purposely tanked that film. It’s just the eventual thing of that show and now they’re not on HBO anymore, now they’re on Bravo. Maybe next year they’ll be on TNT and then maybe the next year they’ll be on the Disney Channel. If they are going to keep making movies that are going to bomb there’s no reason to make the movie. I understand why Miramax did it and I don’t hate them for it, but I don’t think it’s right to purposely hurt people for the public, which is what they did. That’s okay, I came out okay.

Q: Do you want to come back as an angel?

SL: Who knows? It sure seemed that way (laughs).

Q: Were your wings added digitally?

SL: No those were my wings. I really do have wings. I brought that to set (laughs). No those were completely digital.

Q: Did you get to do any of your own stunts or did you have a stunt double?

SL: That’s all me, all that stuff was 100% me. In fact there was no stunt guy for me. I feel like if you’re going to do a stunt and your in the movie and its your last day…I’m eighteen, I’m not going to get permanently injured by hitting a foam wall, why not? It was cool and it’s fun and I got to mess with the Matrix stunt guys which was a dream for me.

Q: All of that slamming up and down on the floor was you?

SL: Yeah.

Q: Really?

SL: Yeah. It’s funny because they did it on the last day, very smart move (laughs).

Q: Can you describe how the stunts were done in that scene?

SL: They had a foam ceiling and it was rubber tile, all of the tile on the floor. The only thing that was tile was when you see a cracked tile when my head hits, that was actual tile but again, last day (laughs). It was all safe. It was like pre-cracked and everything so it was done the best way it could have been. I got slightly bruised on my face because of the speed and velocity that I was hitting that foam wall. They call it a tug mallet or a tug…I forget what it’s called but it’s a wire controlled by a computer. They input a speed and press start and you go from zero to thirty miles per hour in a second; hit a wall, fall and your good.

Q: So you were on a tether?

SL: Yeah. I had on a full body suit and had a cord from my chest up and I had padding on my back. So the cord would go through the ceiling and I would fly up against the ceiling and they would drop me and that was it.

Q: Did they give you the choice to have a stunt person do it for you?

SL: Of course. The way Francis would shoot a lot of the action, which is why it looks so good, is he was right there. He would be right there with the action where as any other director would pull back into like a master or something so you didn’t really see it, but Francis didn’t do that. So he asked me, he said “you know this would benefit the film and it would be fun if you wanted to do it. It’s your last day why not, lets go out with a bang,” so I did.

Q: You mentioned earlier about what kids do and don’t want to see in film. What do you think kids want to see?

SL: I don’t know what kids want to see. I know what I want to see. I don’t want to talk shit about movies that I didn’t like but a lot of these movies suck. They’re just terrible; Son of the Mask, honestly? Honestly? I mean honestly? Who’s making these movies? What ever, I don’t want to talk shit about movies I understand they’ve got to make their money.

Q: What was the last film you really liked?

SL: Hotel Rwanda was really good. Don Cheadle was really good but also I liked White Noise. I walked away from that like, whoa I didn’t know about that. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there, and I like pop films sometimes. I liked Fast and the Furious. There’s a marketplace for that. It’s not wrong to make that movie I just think there is a limit to how much of that crap you need to make. How much do you really need to feed into their heads? Of course they’re going to see any movie that their favorite star is in, but why don’t you put their favorite star in a movie that is going to make them think? Why not?

Q: Would you ever make a movie like that? Would you want to direct or write something like that?

SL: What, a Son of the Mask (laughs)?

Q: These movies you are talking about.

SL: I directed a movie and won an award in Chicago but I’m not a director, I’m an actor. But I love films so I mess around with it.

Big thanks again to Warner Bros. for allowing us to take part in the Constantine junket! The film opens February 18th in theaters nationwide; make sure you check out its official site right here for more cool stuff!

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Jon Condit

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