Shia LaBeouf’s Cannes Film Festival comeback confirms that if they lay low for long enough, the industry will forgive abusers

By Charlie Sawyer

Updated May 29, 2024 at 09:25 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Shia LaBeouf’s reputation in both Hollywood and wider society is no hidden secret. Characterised by his infamous bad attitude and extensive violent history, LaBeouf has arguably done more than enough to warrant expulsion from the bright lights of showbiz. And yet, just days ago, the actor received an incredibly warm welcome on the red carpet at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. So why does it seem like everyone forgot the fact that in only five months, LaBeouf will be on trial for alleged sexual battery and assault?

On 16 May, LaBeouf was in Cannes to promote his new film Megalopolis, an epic science-fiction film that stars the likes of Adam Driver and Laurence Fishburne (aka Morpheus) and was directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola.

A number of media outlets shared videos of the actor on their social media, pointing out the spectacle and noting how this was LaBeouf’s first industry outing in some time:

Understandably, most netizens weren’t exactly jumping for joy at this sight, rather, many of us felt a deep sense of outrage, wondering how on earth a man accused of such heinous things could be allowed to attend such a prestigious event.

And while it isn’t a rarity to be let down by the likes of Hollywood—and to be reminded on a daily basis that the film industry is content with supporting alleged abusers and is indeed permeated with sexism—LaBeouf’s supposed ‘comeback’ is definitely an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.

What happened to Shia LaBeouf?

The now 37-year-old started off his career as a child actor, most notably in his role as Louis Stevens in Even Stevens, an incredibly successful Disney Channel show.

Following this, back in the mid to late 2000s, LaBeouf was an incredibly successful big-budget actor. Star of blockbuster franchise Transformers and also dipping his toes into an indie film here and there, LaBeouf had a diversified portfolio that meant he was a staple in Hollywood and on course to rub shoulders with the greats.

Indeed, his co-starring role in the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with Harrison Ford was a massive turning point for the actor.

That being said, among other things that we will discuss later, LaBeouf has faced a plethora of legal issues and industry disputes over the years. For example, in 2014, LaBeouf got into a pretty tense plagiarism dispute with graphic novelist Daniel Clowes.

According to The Guardian, the issue first arose after LaBeouf published a short film, Howard Cantour.com, that was found to have lifted dialogue from a Clowes short story also about a world-weary film critic. While LaBeouf later apologised to Clowes, it was then revealed that the apology itself was also copied… Random move, but okay.

LaBeouf then went on to cause more chaos by sharing the subsequent cease-and-desist letters he received from Clowes’ lawyers.

In respect of ruffling other professionals’ feathers, LaBeouf notably quit (aka, was fired) from the set of Don’t Worry Darling after allegedly clashing with both director Olivia Wilde and starring lead Florence Pugh. The actor swore blind that it was his decision to leave the project, citing that he didn’t feel the actors were given adequate time to rehearse and even providing supposed text messages between himself and Wilde which showed the director imploring the actor to reconsider leaving.

However, Variety later revealed that these messages had been sent before the team were made aware of LaBeouf’s intense immersive acting process. Either way, it shows a lot that no one whatsoever was surprised that LaBeouf had been let go from the production. Evidently, everyone was already overtly familiar with his difficult nature.

@colbertlateshow

“He had to leave." @oliviawilde on Shia LaBeouf's sudden departure from #DontWorryDarling

♬ original sound - colbertlateshow

Shia LaBeouf and FKA Twigs

The most upsetting aspect of LaBeouf’s apparent Hollywood comeback is the fact that everyone is aware of all the ways in which he caused distress and harm to his ex-partner Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known by her stage name FKA Twigs.

Twigs and LaBeouf were first rumoured to be dating in September 2018, after first meeting on the set of Honey Boy. And while they were only together for approximately nine months, calling it quits in June 2019, their relationship quickly became serious.

Then, in 2020, Twigs sued LaBeouf for sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. The singer also alleged that the actor knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease. Regarding the reasoning behind pursuing the lawsuit, Twigs’ lawyer, Bryan Freedman, shared that the singer “tried to resolve this matter privately on the condition that LaBeouf agree to receive meaningful and consistent psychological treatment. Since he was unwilling to agree to get appropriate help, Barnett filed this suit to prevent others from unknowingly suffering similar abuse by him.”

Karolyn Pho, a stylist and another one of LaBeouf’s former girlfriends, also made claims against the actor in the filing. Pho has accused LaBeouf of physical and emotional abuse, including allegations that the actor once headbutted her after drunkenly pinning her to a bed.

Appearing on Jon Bernthal’s podcast Real Ones in 2022, LaBeouf—without naming FKA Twigs specifically—stated: “I hurt that woman. And in the process of doing that, I hurt many other people, and many other people before that woman. I was a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-centred, dishonest, inconsiderate, fearful human being.”

Once again, without naming the singer directly, LaBeouf stated that his accuser was “a saint” and “saved [his] f*cking life.”

Four years on from the initial lawsuit filing, Twigs spoke with British Vogue about the intense toll the abuse she suffered at the hands of LaBeouf has had on her life: “I think naively I thought it would be like any other break-up, that I’d be sad for six months to a year, and then one day I’d wake up and everything would be fine. But the fact is being abused changes the whole of your nervous system.”

It was announced in September 2023 that the trial had been postponed to October 2024. So, in case you were one of the few people who were unaware of Shia LaBeouf’s long list of abusive behaviour, what do you think now—is it okay for the film industry to welcome the actor back with open arms because he somewhat managed to ‘lay low’ for four years?

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