James Franco Takes “Empathetic View” of Shia LaBeouf in New York Times Op-Ed: “I Hope That His Actions Are Performance Art”

James Franco and Shia Labeouf
James Franco writes an op-ed piece in the New York Times defending Shia LaBeouf. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images; Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Shia LaBeouf may have made a lot of enemies over the past few months, but the actor's public acts of plagiarism, apology, and #art have earned him at least one loyal follower. James Franco, who is known for his own eccentric projects on and off screen, wrote a New York Times op-ed about LaBeouf's recent "erratic behavior" on Feb. 19, mostly supporting and defending his Hollywood peer. 

"Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct," Franco, 35, wrote of LaBeouf's antics, which have included plagiarizing a graphic novelist, skywriting an apology, wearing a bag over his head on the red carpet, and opening an exhibit in Los Angeles called "#IAmSorry." 

"This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness," Franco continued. "For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious."

Shia LaBeouf wears a paper bag on his head at the Nymphomaniac premiere on Feb. 9, 2014. Luca Teuchmann/WireImage

Franco never firmly concludes that LaBeouf's antics are strictly performance art, but rather hopes that they are merely a form of artistic expression in which "a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona."

The 127 Hours star went on to explain the struggles actors face coming to grips with their stardom and the toll that can take. 

"Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona," Franco said. "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."

He continued to support the former child star's recent work, but also sent out a final warning.

"I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one," Franco concluded. "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."

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