James Franco Defends Shia LaBeouf in NYT Op-Ed: He’s Like Marlon Brando

Truth rating: 10
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By Michael Lewittes

(Getty Images)

James Franco has written an op-ed for the New York Times in which he weighs in on Shia LaBeoufs plagiarism apology tour and subsequent “I am not famous anymore” performance art schtick.

In the piece, titled “Why Actors Act Out,” Franco takes an empathetic view towards LaBeouf, and says he thinks there’s more to the star’s behavior than just another celebrity publicly going bonkers. Franco writes, “I hope… that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.”

The actor goes on to compare LaBeouf to Marlon Brando, who famously rejected a Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather and “defied the studio system’s control over his image.” Franco reveals that he himself appeared on “General Hospital” while he was up for a Best Actor Academy Awards for 127 Hours in order to “undermine” Hollywood’s “hierarchy of entertainment.”

The Spring Breakers star further compares LaBeouf’s “performance art” to Joaquin Phoenixs 2010 movie I’m Still Here, which purported to document Phoenix retiring from acting to become a rapper.

Franco offers, “Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona. 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 explains, “Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d’être.” Franco reasons that “LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult,” sharing, “I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one.”

“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,” concludes the star.

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