[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Shia LaBeouf’s bad behavior has made headlines recently, but it’s not the first time.
The Even Stevens alum made a name for himself outside his Disney roots through controversy. At times he attempted to style himself as a tortured artist with strange stunts like the “I’m not famous anymore” bag over his head or penning the film Honey Boy explaining his difficult childhood.
But behind the “brooding genius” mask hid much more sinister and often painful impulses. While the 34-year-old has been open in recent years about his struggle with addiction, it doesn’t excuse all of his apparent misdeeds — both those that have occurred in public and those that have been alleged behind the scenes.
See below for a timeline of Shia’s bad behavior:
2007: First Arrest At Walgreens
In 2007, a young Shia was shedding the Disney image in a string of high profile projects like Disturbia and the Transformers series, and a Saturday Night Live hosting gig that will live on in history for his appearance in the iconic “Dear Sister” digital short.
This year also marked his first run-in with the law when he was arrested for refusing to leave a Walgreens. The security guard, who attempted to evict the rising star from the store, described him as drunk, and Shia was eventually charged with criminal trespassing.
The charges were later dropped, and he explained in an interview with David Letterman that the incident happened amidst his 21st birthday celebrations. Considering the context, the arrest could be written off as a “boys will be boys” moment.
The next time Shia’s bad behavior made news, it was less easy to explain away. In February 2013, he exited his first Broadway production, Orphans, after “creative differences” with co-star Alec Baldwin. (It wouldn’t be the last time butting heads with his collaborators would cost Shia a job.)
For whatever reason, the then-27-year-old decided to post his apology to Alec on Twitter. Even more strangely, some users noticed that the apology itself was lifted in part from a 2009 Esquire article “What Is A Man?”
creative differences pic.twitter.com/d8xvV2Hr
— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) February 20, 2013
The Esquire writer was gracious about it (“It actually makes me happy that my words were some succor to the kid”), but that wasn’t the last of Shia’s copycat ways. Months later, his short film HowardCantour.com hit the internet, and fans quickly realized it was essentially an unauthorized adaptation of a graphic novel by author Daniel Clowes. Shia then plagiarized another apology, this time cribbing from Yahoo Answers, of all places. He ended up in a legal back-and-forth with Clowes sending a cease and desist and the actor threatening to release a new film that also stole from the artist’s work.
This kerfuffle had some observers returning to Shia’s past work, and unsurprisingly, they found yet more instances of plagiarism. Specifically, his books Let’s F**king Party and Stale N Mate stole lines directly from writers like Charles Bukowski and Benoit Duteurtre. Afterwards, he apologized by… you guessed it… tweeting a bunch of plagiarized apology quotes, from the likes of Kanye West, Tiger Woods, Mark Zuckerberg and more.
2014: Second Arrest At Cabaret
Shia was arrested once again in 2014, and this time, he couldn’t hide behind the excuse of a birthday gone rowdy. He attended a performance of Cabaret starring Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming, where he reportedly made loud remarks during the production, began smoking inside the theater, and generally acted in a manner super inappropriate for the audience of a stage show. When the police were called over his drunken disruptions, his behavior escalated, allegedly even hurling slurs at the arresting officers. (This ends up being a pattern of Shia’s.)
Somehow, the artist managed to put a jovial spin on the story during a later appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. His explanation was, basically, that he was so drunk he didn’t even know where he was. (As far as excuses go, this is not a great one.) He was so confused, in fact, that he got up and even physically interacted with the actors, including Alan Cumming.
“I give him a slap on the ass, because I think he deserves it. He’s seducing me, he’s the sexiest man I’ve ever seen.”
Sooooo… yeah, not only was his behavior totally disruptive, that seems like an admission of sexual assault by today’s standards. Alan’s response, speaking to Conan O’Brien, was remarkably gracious:
“We’ve all done things where we’ve been out of it and messed up. Not everyone has to deal with it on such a worldwide scale.”
Shia spent the night in prison after his arrest and was later formally charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment.
2015: Violent Altercation With Mia Goth
In 2015, video leaked of an upsetting incident between Shia and his then-girlfriend Mia Goth in Germany where the actress was filming a movie. The clip captured a heated argument between the two that seemed like it could escalate dangerously before locals intervened.
He told the men:
“I don’t want to touch a woman, I don’t want to hit a woman, but I’m being pushed.”
Addressing Goth, he said:
“I don’t wanna touch you. I don’t wanna be aggressive. This is the kind of s**t that makes a person abusive.”
The upsetting admissions continued as Shia entered a car with the German men. He told them:
“If I’d have stayed there, I would have killed her.”
The video served as a frightening insight into the couple’s on-and-off relationship, as well as sobering foreshadowing to Shia’s future behaviors.
2017: More Arrests & Drunken Outbursts
By 2017, Shia was well known for his strange antics and performance art. In fact, his next arrest took place at one of his art installations called He Will Not Divide Us. Beginning on the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency in January, the installation involved a camera set up outside New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image. Passersby were encouraged to speak on the livestream and often chanted “he will not divide us” alongside LaBeouf.
Unfortunately, the exhibit also attracted the attention of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to troll the well-meaning crowd. Some of Shia���s altercations with these unsavory characters were captured on the livestream, including a face-off with a man who said “Hitler did nothing wrong” into the camera. One of these encounters led to the artist’s arrest and eventual charge for misdemeanor assault and harassment — but in this case, plenty of people were in support of Shia’s actions.
The same couldn’t be said for the star’s other public outbursts that year. In one instance in April, Shia verbally assaulted a bartender in a California bowling alley, calling him a “f**king racist bitch” in video obtained by TMZ. Security was forced to escort him out of the building.
Later that year, he was arrested once again while in Savannah, Georgia during filming of The Peanut Butter Falcon. The actor unwisely approached a police officer looking for a cigarette, and began verbally berating him. He was subsequently arrested for intoxication, disorderly conduct, and obstruction.
In bodycam footage of the arrest released by TMZ, Shia continued to verbally abuse the police, singling out the Black officer involved in the arrest. In a ridiculous tirade that oozed white privilege, he complained about having paid his taxes threatened that he would “blow [their] s**t up” if he had a gun. He ranted:
“And you put your own kind in a f**king pen, for nothing. You put a white man in a pen for what, you f**king bitch? For asking … a Black man for a cigarette?”
Shortly after his release, he apologized on Twitter (below):
— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) July 12, 2017
He later told Esquire:
“What went on in Georgia was mortifying. White privilege and desperation and disaster… It came from a place of self-centered delusion… It was me trying to absolve myself of guilt for getting arrested. … I f**ked up.”
2020: Sixth Arrest & Abuse Accusations
In September of 2020, news broke that Shia had been charged with misdemeanor battery and petty theft. As it turns out, he was involved in an altercation the previous June where he had gotten in a fight with another man and stolen his hat.
Still, the latest legal troubles flew somewhat under the radar as he enjoyed some viral attention, first for getting VERY in character as Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s resident stoner during a charity table read, then in a provocative music video where he danced nude with future GF Margaret Qualley. (A music vid which, BTW, courted its own controversy, serving as one of the reasons he was fired from Olivia Wilde‘s film Don’t Worry Darling.) Coming off the success of 2019’s Honey Boy, his image had been truly rehabilitated.
The positive press came to an abrupt halt in December of 2020 when ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs came forward to accuse him of abuse. In a lawsuit filed in conjunction with another Shia ex, Karolyn Pho. The allegations against him included physical violence, choking and head-butting his partners, as well as psychological torture like sleep deprivation and imposing “rules” for how often his partners had to show physical affection.
In a statement to the New York Times, which first published the allegations, Shia claimed “many of these allegations are not true.” But, he said that he owed his accusers “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”
“I am not cured of my PTSD and alcoholism, but I am committed to doing what I need to do to recover, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way.”
Shia eventually checked himself into an inpatient facility and “parted ways” with his agency, CAA. But in court documents obtained by People, he also denied “generally and specifically, each and every allegation contained” in the lawsuit against him.
We doubt we’ve heard the last on his current controversy — or the last of his controversial behavior in general.
[Image via Joseph Marzullo/WENN/FayesVision/Avalon/Instar]