As someone who has had a few head-scratching moments himself, James Franco feels qualified to weigh in on Shia LaBeouf's antics.
In an article published on NewYorkTimes.com Wednesday evening, Franco, 35, wrote about "the recent erratic behavior" of the 27-year-old "Transformers" star, citing his plagiarism of his short film Howard Cantour.com and subsequent apology (which was also lifted), wearing a bag on his head at the "Nymphomaniac" premiere, and, most recently, staging a peculiar art show in L.A. called "#IAmSorry." And while the "This Is the End" star had an admitted "empathic view" toward Shia in his piece, he also expressed concern.
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"This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness," Franco wrote. "For Mr. LaBeouf's sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — 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."
Franco, who turned his life into real art project, talked about how he too tried to "dissociate myself from my work and public image." Most notably, while working on "127 Hours," which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, he also randomly joined the cast of the soap opera "General Hospital." Then there was the time he hosted the Oscars with Anne Hathaway — and the heartthrob dressed in drag. There was the period he referred to himself in the third person, did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for "non-visible art," held an unusual art exhibit ("Psycho Nacirema") in the U.K., and started rumors about his own personal life, staging photos of himself being "caught" in scandalous acts, which he posted to Instagram with Perez Hilton-type doodles on them.
The "Spider-Man" star noted that he was in good company — the iconic Marlon Brando lashed out against the acting profession as well — and referenced Joaquin Phoenix's mockumentary about celebrity, "I'm Still Here." In his case, Franco said he's done it to "jar expectations of what a film actor does and to undermine the tacit — or not so tacit — hierarchy of entertainment."
"Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona," he wrote. "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."
Though he noted that this cycle can become almost too fun, writing, "Believe me, this game of peek-a-boo can be very addictive."
Franco concluded his piece by showing support for Shia, but warning him to tread carefully as it's a delicate line.
"Mr. 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. I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one," he wrote. "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."