After carving out a career in big budget action movies like Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Shia LaBeouf is shifting his focus to indie flicks.
The first is Lawless, a Prohibition-era drama nominated for the Palme d’Or award at Cannes.
LaBeouf, who has made jokes about the Transformers films being “rubbish” and will not be returning for the fourth instalment, was the first actor to join the cast of Lawless three years ago, after the Australian director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave, better known for his musical projects with The Bad Seeds and Grinderman.
“I was the first person in,” he declares proudly.
“That’s my squad – if I could work with them for the rest of my life, I would. I’d seen all of John’s work and I loved it, and I really wanted to work with him because I think he’s one of the very best.”
The deal was agreed over burgers. “He took me to Hamburger Hamlet and said let’s make Goodfellas in the woods. And I was like, ‘Word! Let’s do that’,” LaBeouf recalls.
Despite two years of setbacks and near-starts, the actor remained committed to the project, even when his star status rose with the Transformers series.
“Lawless is closer to my own sensibility but I’ve been working on things that you can’t say no to, because they’re incredible opportunities, and help to make films like this possible,” LaBeouf explains.
“Had Transformers not been a success then I don’t think Lawless would have happened. So every step is linked and I don’t regret any of it.”
Californian-born LaBeouf plays youngest brother Jack Bondurant, alongside Tom Hardy and newcomer Jason Clarke, in Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County In The World.
“I hadn’t been given a lot of opportunity to make a film like this. This is a boy becoming a man in many ways,” he says.
“He has his first drink of moonshine, his first kiss. Jack finds an appetite for violence and this gangster life and it’s like he’s transformed from a teddy bear into a rock star and outlaw.
“I loved working on something so character driven.”
It was LaBeouf who took it upon himself to get Hardy on board. The pair became friends after LaBeouf sent the British actor a fan email about his performance in crime biopic Bronson, and they later forwarded scripts to each other. LaBeouf sent Bondurant’s novel and Cave’s screenplay to Hardy, who loved them both.
“I love him, he’s incredible. I look at Hardy like a hero, he’s one of the best actors around,” he says.
In fact, for LeBeouf, it was a dream cast all round.
“When you have actors of the calibre of Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce in there, it does something for your confidence levels,” he says.