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Q&A with Star of Tomorrow Shia LaBeouf

It’s good to be Shia LaBeouf right now.

Best known as the kid from the Disney Channel’s Even Stevens and Holes, LaBeouf has steadily been making his way into more adult films, playing sidekicks in films such as Constantine and I, Robot. But he’s finally hit pay dirt: His latest film Disturbia just topped the box office in its opening weekend. It’s a Hitchcockian thriller about a troubled high schooler, Kale, who finds himself under house arrest. While spying on his neighbors via binoculars and video cameras, including the winsome girl-next-door (Sarah Roemer), Kale begins to suspect his other neighbor (David Morse) may be a serial killer.

That’s not all on the young actor’s resume. Hollywood.com caught up with LaBeouf to talk about his big year, which, besides Disturbia, also includes the animated penguin mockumentary Surf’s Up, the live-actioner Transformers–and of course, the whole Indiana Jones 4 buzz.

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Hollywood.com: What was it about Disturbia that made you want to do it?
Shia LaBeouf:
That it’s character driven, which is an actor’s priority. You get to have a lot of freedom when the whole movie rests on whether or not your performance works that’s pretty secure. Because as actors, you always feel insecure about what you are doing. Knowing that the movie hinges on your performance and whether or not you work, you know that you have 50 to 60 people all making your performance as good as it can be. Signing onto movies in which you feel that secure is fantastic. Also I wanted to do a thriller for awhile, just didn’t want to do a gore-fest. Psychological thrillers have always been more interesting, in my opinion.

HW: Were you a little nervous shouldering an entire movie?
SL:
I have done it a little in the past, just not at this level. And not THIS on me, you know? It’s nerve wracking, yeah, but like I said, the security aspect where you know you’ve got people who are passionate about making you good, that’s a real secure feeling, so the nervousness goes away.

HW: Working with director D.J. Caruso was a contributing factor, I bet.
SL:
Absolutely. For me, it was like, I get to work with the dude who made The Salton Sea. In my lexicon of films, that’s in my top 10. So the fact he was making a movie targeting to my age group was really interesting to me. He’d never made a movie that wasn’t rated R, so there wasn’t going to be any pussyfooting around. This was going to be a real insane movie.

HW: What was the most difficult part in making the movie?
SL:
Working with David Morse. He actually broke his hand, four of his fingers, during one scene and he didn’t even mention it. I mean, I saw him break his hand, look at it and asked, “OK, how many more takes, D.J.?” That’s scary. He was a scary dude. He wouldn’t talk to me for the first two months. He’s like way into his thing, a Method actor, such a strong character actor. I didn’t really get to meet David until the movie was over.

HW: You and the other young actors, Aaron Yoo and Sarah Roemer, seem to have a lot of fun. Was there a lot of improvisation going on? A rehearsal process?
SL:
Yeah, we did a bit of that. It was fun to mess with that and the other two were both very good at it. I also read with Carrie-Anne [Moss, who plays Kale’s mother] to see how far we could push that relationship. How violent can you get, how wild, you know? They also had me meet with kids under house arrest, researched that a bit.

HW: Oh yeah? How’d that go?
SL:
It’s wild, man. It’s worse than being in jail. I’ve met people in jail and it seems house arrest is worse. It’s like dangling meat in front of a dog. Everything is there, everything is available, yet you can’t touch it. It’s torture.

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HW: Have you ever been cooped up for an extended period of time?
SL:
Yeah, right now, as a matter of fact. They’ve locked me in the coffee locker, and I’m talking to you from the coffee locker right now. That’s how Paramount treats its people. They lock them in the coffee locker and tell them to do interviews all day [Laughs]. After this, I have an interview with Univision in a microwave.

HW: And you’ll have to speak Spanish as well.
SL:
That’s right. A real task.

HW: It’s true, though. I go down there to Miami Beach to do these interviews and we are sitting in this room, looking out at the beautiful day and the beach, wishing we could just go outside…
SL:
I know. You’re killin’ me right now with this. You’re narrating my life right now.

HW: OK, OK, let’s change the subject. You’re having quite a year. Your next film, coming out in June, is Surf’s Up. Was that a fun experience?
SL:
Oh yeah. It’s the first-ever mockumentary animation. You’re a penguin, it’s fun. You get to go all over the place. Nothing is too big.

HW: How did you channel your inner penguin?
SL:
Um, I don’t know. Speak Spanish in a microwave? [Laughs]. I just wanted to make him as human as possible. I’ve never seen animation where it felt like, this is a human being. That was our goal. How do we make the cadence of our speech as normal as possible? How do we make two people who happen to be penguins have a normal conversation? So, the comedy is way different. It’s more like a Spinal Tap.

HW: We’ve sure seen a lot of penguin movies lately, but penguins who surf is definitely something different.
SL:
I agree with you, but there’s different types of movies. For instance, Happy Feet is a different genre than Surf’s Up. Comparing us to Happy Feet is like comparing Rent to Spinal Tap, you know?

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HW: Then there’s Transformers. I’ve got about six people I get think of right now who are very excited about this movie.
SL:
Do they have Transformers tattoos?

HW: No, not yet, I don’t think.
SL:
Not yet? They should.

HW: Kinda your action movie of the year, then?
SL:
Yeah, just kinda. Kinda sorta. Physically, it was tough. You never get to experience anything like that. It’s like the flight up to skydive is a tough flight but once you’re skydiving, it’s insane. That was the whole Transformer experience. A constant free fall.

HW: Were you a fan of Transformers as a kid?
SL:
Of course. It was the male Barbie of my generation. The ‘80s babies.

HW: And I’m sure you can’t really comment on the whole Indiana Jones thing.
SL:
It’s a rumor. It’s better to be rumored to be in Indiana Jones 4 than to be in Kangaroo Jack 4. Actually, I started the rumor myself on MySpace and flooded the Internet. [Note: The rumor is now official. Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg confirmed last Friday LaBeouf is indeed cast in the movie.]

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