James Franco has been known to make some dubious professional choices, from acting on General Hospital at the height of his career to his ill-received gig co-hosting the Oscars alongside Anne Hathaway. So it’s no surprise that he can relate to Shia LaBeouf’s recent string of bizarre behavior — ever since the Transformers star was accused of plagiarizing his short film HowardCantour.com back in December — and Franco put that empathy into a New York Times essay that went online Wednesday night.
“This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness,” Franco writes. “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.”
The latest in the LaBeouf saga was a Los Angeles art installation last week, during which he sat across from visitors while wearing a bag on his head that read “I am not famous anymore.” Franco draws parallels between the young actor and Joaquin Phoenix’s I’m Still Here documentary, though Phoenix later said his bit of performance art was all a put-on for the movie. He also mentions Marlon Brando’s struggle with fame and control of his public persona.
Franco’s point? If this whole thing is, indeed, art, he hopes LaBeouf doesn’t throw his career away for a stunt. “I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one,” Franco concludes. “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.”