By Clark Collis
August 15, 2014 at 03:50 PM EDT
Giles Keyte
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Shia LaBeouf has not had the best of times since shooting David Ayer’s World War II movie Fury in the U.K. last year. In December, artist Daniel Clowes claimed the actor’s short film plagiarized his 2007 comic Justin M. Damiano, and in June, police led LaBeouf away in handcuffs from a Broadway performance of Cabaret because of his allegedly disruptive behavior.

But Fury writer-director David Ayer has nothing but nice things to say about the Transformers star, who voluntarily sought treatment for alcohol addiction following the Cabaret incident “He’s amazing, a freakin’ gifted guy,” says Ayer. “He’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. People are going to be shocked by how strong his performance is.”

The Germany-set Fury, which opens Oct. 17, concerns a Sherman tank crew rolling towards a desperate but still dangerous Nazi army near the end of the war. The crew members are played by LaBeouf, Brad Pitt, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, and Logan Lerman. The latter tells EW that he too was impressed by LaBeouf during the film’s shoot. “Shia is a brother to me,” says the Percy Jackson star. “I love that guy. I’ve had a ton of respect for him, ever since I started acting. He was always someone I looked up to and always admired. He can create a performance out of nothing and it’s amazing, he’s incredible. I loved working with him.”

Find out more about Fury and 87 new movies in this week’s Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly.

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