By Ariana Bacle
Updated September 06, 2016 at 05:56 PM EDT
Pool/Getty Images

At this point, Shia LaBeouf‘s apology tour — the one he went on after plagiarizing a Daniel Clowes comic for a short film that premiered at Cannes — is as well-known as the movies he’s starred in. And in a new interview, it’s revealed that Suicide Squad director David Ayer is who encouraged LaBeouf to “lean into” the controversy.

“The guy was getting beat up,” Ayer, who was directing LaBeouf in Fury at the time, told Variety. “I was like, ‘Lean into it, go on the journey, and have it be about that.'”

Now, LaBeouf doesn’t skirt around the issue of his plagiarism. “It was straight theft, dude,” he told Variety. “I just took the dude’s idea and make a movie. I truly f—ed up and apologized.”

The actor, who’s next starring in American Honey, is all about putting his recent, tumultuous past behind him, judging by the Variety cover story. For one, he’s been attending AA meetings and says he’s been sober for almost a year. “You don’t touch it,” LaBeouf, who has previously been arrested for alcohol-related offenses, says. “Alcohol or any of that s— will send you haywire. I can’t f— with none of it. I’ve got to keep my head low.”

In June 2014, he was arrested after interrupting a performance of Broadway’s Cabaret. “People I respected — dudes I wanted to work with — just looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Life’s too short for this s—,'” he recalls. “I’m still earning my way back. I’m happy working.”

Aside from American Honey, out Sept. 30, LaBeouf is next set to play tennis star John McEnroe in upcoming biopic Borg/McEnroe. Read more from his Variety interview here.