No stranger to controversy, Shia Labeouf sparked a media frenzy when – before Don’t worry darling’s World premiere on September 5 at the Venice Film Festival — he released a wealth of texts and a video by the director Olivia Wilde in a bid to refute Wilde’s claims that he fired him from the film. Wilde, meanwhile, stood by the he said, she said, doubling down on her assertion in a new vanity lounge interview.
On September 2, LaBeouf, 36, attended his own premiere in Venice – for Abel Ferarra Father Pio, a historical drama set at the dawn of fascism in Italy. LaBeouf plays the title character, a Franciscan Capuchin monk who has become a household name in Italy after allegedly suffering stigmata. Like LaBeouf, Padre Pio faced his own scandals: Pope John XXIII accused him of sleeping with women, based on secret recordings of his confessions.
The role was LaBeouf’s first since his ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs, chased him in December 2020 for sexual assault, assault and mental distress. (Among his accusations was that he strangled her and knowingly infected her with an STD.) In the open letter to Wilde that accompanied his leak, LaBeouf acknowledged that his “failures with Twigs are fundamental and real,” but that “they are not the narrative that was presented.”
On a recent podcast hosted by Jon Bernthal, he said, “I hurt that woman. …I was a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-absorbed, dishonest, inconsiderate and fearful human being. … When I look at this #MeToo environment, there aren’t a lot of guys taking responsibility.
Twigs’ trial led LaBeouf to recovery. He was, he says, looking for “an unidentified higher power” when Ferrara offered him the role. “I had a gun on the table. I was out of here,” LaBeouf revealed in a long interview with a bishop posted on YouTube. “I didn’t want to be alive when all this happened. A shame like I’ve never felt before – the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe.
Since the filming of Father Pio, LaBeouf – who was the product of an interfaith marriage and was raised both Jewish (he had a bar mitzvah) and Christian – converted to Catholicism. Mel Gibson took him under his wing and introduced him to things like the Latin Mass.
What was not reported, however, was that LaBeouf’s mother, Shayna Saide, died of heart failure on August 27 at the age of 80. Her son was at her bedside when she died in a Los Angeles hospital.
LaBeouf – who is raising a 5-month-old daughter with actress Mia Goth – did not do any interviews in Venice. But he agreed to an email exchange with The Hollywood Reporterin which he responds to Wilde’s final remarks, explains his friendship with Gibson, and addresses his mother’s death for the first time.
Where were you on your spiritual journey when the role of Padre Pio was offered to you?
I was praying to an indefinite higher power for a while. It started with me praying the waves. My 12 step upline took me to the beach, got me on my knees and told me to “stop the waves”. I could not. He said, “The waves are mightier than you, clearly, so pray to the waves until God shows up for you.” Waves became my higher power for a while: “Dear Waves”. Then I went camping for a few months in my truck, I was looking for other versions of waves. I was logging into my 12-step meetings on Zoom every night. At one of the meetings, I saw Abel [Ferrara]. He asked me in the chat box if I knew Pio. Pio drove me to a Franciscan seminary in Santa Ynez. These Brothers allowed me to park my truck in their parking lot and guided me through catechesis.
What else happened in this monastery?
They gave me a parking space and fed me. They guided me through the gospel. They made me discover my laughter, my smile. They invited me into their silence. They taught me to pray.
Padre Pio has reached great heights of stardom and has also faced serious allegations of wrongdoing. Did it bring you anything?
I was very deeply connected to the idea of being exiled from what you love.
Do you think Padre Pio really suffered the stigmata? Do you believe in miracles?
What kind of advice did Mel Gibson give you in terms of theology and personal growth?
He was careful with me. Many years ago I went to his house and told him to his face that his religious and political views were a hindrance to his art. He laughed gracefully and told me to read about the Maccabees. As I fell forward, he always supported me. Years later, this pio the preparation asked me to find a priest familiar with the extraordinary form [or Traditional Latin Mass].
I asked Mel for help knowing he was online, and he introduced me to a canon of the Order of Christ the King in Oakland. I reached out and drove with Brother Alex from San Lorenzo. Canon Norman took time after his daily Mass to teach me Latin and how to properly serve the traditional Mass in Latin.
How is your recovery going?
So far, so good.
What has fatherhood taught you about yourself?
That love is more important than art.
According to a new vanity lounge article, Olivia Wilde said your acting process was “not conducive to the ethics” she demands on set and that you display “a combative energy.” She also claims that Florence Pugh was not comfortable with this energy; that you gave Wilde an ultimatum; and that she ultimately chose to fire you and keep Pugh. Do you want to talk about it?
It is what it is – every blessing to her and her film.
I understand that you recently lost your mother. What can you tell us about your relationship and what you may have inherited or learned from it, in terms of creativity, morality or otherwise?
My mother was full of fear in her final moments: asking the doctor what that tube was and what that machine did. She was mad. She had been deeply interested in God and spirituality all her life, but she didn’t know him. Hence his last moments. His greatest gift to me was to promote, in his death, the need for a relationship with God. Not an interest, not just a belief, but a relationship based on evidence as hard as a hug. His final gift to me was the ultimate persuasion to faith. She was a good girl. She was loved by many and known to too few. God bless you, mom.