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Friday, February 11, 2005

CONSTANTINE'S SHIA LABEOUF

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The Continuum continues its series of interviews from the Constantine press junket with Shia LaBeouf, the 18-year-old who plays Chas, John Constantine's sidekick.

Following is an edited transcription of the roundtable interview:

Question: Are all your scenes in the movie or were some taken out?

LaBeouf: No, no, they're all there. In fact, they added a lot of scenes. At the end of the film, we had finished the film, and they looked at the film and said, "This story's not answered yet. There's no period on this sentence." So we did re-shoots and added more scenes. That end scene at the end of the credits was never in this film until we had finished the film.

When you kill off a character and you're dealing with the afterlife, you have to show where they went. So I think that's why it was added. It just felt unfinished.

Question: Did you enjoy working with Keanu?

LaBeouf: Has anybody come in here and said no? (laughs)

Keanu is a joy to work with, and a pleasure and real learning experience. I've never seen anybody prepare quite like Keanu in my life. I have extreme respect for him.

And I didn't at the outset. When we first started, I was just like, "Oh, it's Keanu Reeves. He's not a great actor." Like a lot of people think. "He's just the 'Whoa' guy." Or, "He's just the guy from Speed." But that completely changed. And I wouldn't lie to you. He is just turning into an excellent actor.

I think the reason is, look at why he's making movies. He has the fame, so it can't be that. He has more money than he knows what to do with I don't think he's even bought a house yet. That's not what it's about for him. It's not fame. It's not money.

It's completely for respect. That's it. Inside of Keanu -- and that's the reason why he's so quiet and shy he doesn't feel like he has respect yet. He's all about that. All he wants is respect, and he's going to get it eventually.

He gets it here. This is his best performance thus far, I think, in his career. And every move he makes, he's getting better and better and better. I respect that a lot.

And I think we've become friends in making this film. We're friends on set and we're friends in the film. And I learned a lot from him, just the way he prepares and the devotion he has. He's so unjaded. He works on this movie like it was hi first movie, and that's beautiful to see.

Question: What about the way he prepares?

LaBeouf: Here's an instance. We came into rehearsals. Akiva (Goldsman) the writer's there, Francis (Lawrence, director) is there, I'm there, Djimon (Hounsou) is there and Keanu's there. And we sit down at the table, and it's like the first rehearsal for the entire film we've ever had. And we sit there and we still have three months to go before we start filming. And there's a stack of black journals, four or five journals, and they're ridiculously thick.

And I'm thinking it's Akiva's writings. I'm thinking, "Oh, it's the writer. So, course, that's his stuff." And Akiva sits down in a completely different chair. And Keanu sits by the journals, opens them all up and they're all labeled. One's for lung cancer, one's for Latin, one's for spirituality, one's for the emotional arc for his character. Ridiculously prepared.

I've never seen anybody like that. Jon Voight's my mentor and he doesn't prepare like that, and he's a legend, an Academy Award winner. Keanu takes it so serious. It's his whole life. He doesn't have hobbies. There's nothing he does on the side. He wakes up in the morning, goes to work and then takes his work home with him. If he had a bad at work, he has a bad day at home.

And that's beautiful to see. It makes you feel like your job is important.

Question: How did you get interested in acting?

LaBeouf: I started out as a standup comic like when I was 11 or 12 when I was out in Los Angeles.

Question: Seriously?

LaBeouf: Yeah.

Question: I didn't know they had kid stand-up comics.

LaBeouf: No, they don't have kid stand-up comics. That's the thing. I was poor. I was from a neighborhood called Echo Park. I went to an all-black school and I was the only white kid, so my security blanket was humor. That is what kept me out of troubles and out of fights a lot of the time. I would make fun of myself.

I felt like the only thing that I could do to separate myself was to show up with a sick-ass backpack or new Filas. And I didn't have that money. So I would go this open house at the Ice House in Pasadena and they would pay me 20 dollars and I would go for five minutes and I would do my jokes. And then it turned into me getting a good routine and they would start doing it more and more. And that's how it blossomed into something I was doing.

And then Even Stevens came and I got an Emmy and that transformed into Holes all building blocks.

Question: How did Jon Voight become your mentor?

LaBeouf: Through Holes. He saw something in me that he felt reminded him of himself. And I'm extremely intrigued and I soak up stuff like a sponge. I'm always asking him questions which can get annoying but it's sort of like a psychiatrist type of thing for him. He likes to talk. And not a lot of people honestly want to listen.

He teaches me a lot of things and he says I teach him a lot of things, which is cool. It's a relationship I really cherish. Few people get a mentor like Jon Voight. It's out of control.

Question: What does that entail? Does he come with you to sets?

LaBeouf: It's not like that. It's like any friend. You call him when you want to talk to him. You don't call him when you don't want to talk to him. It's not like Jon Voight's on my back or I'm on his. If I'm thinking about a role and I'm not sure, I'll call him and talk to him. Or if there's a script I really want and I don't know how to go about it, and I'll go over there and scene study. It's a cool little relationship, man.

Question: How much did you research for this role?

LaBeouf: The thing is, and Djimon says it a lot, you don't really want to do too much research because of the subject matter and how deep it is and how dark it is. You might have permanent effects to your life.

Who's to say that this is a comic-book film? Why isn't this a real film? Who knows? This could be a real, actual event and nobody knows it. It's that real to me at least. It's a real question. Nobody knows if heaven or hell is real. So that's what I think is different about this film, definitely. It's not some guy in a spider-spandex flying across, building to building. This can be real. It seems real. And it's shot real.

As far as my preparation for the role, it wasn't that elaborate. Because I'm so human in the film. The only thing I did do was that I studied how to do perform exorcism with a priest. I learned a little bit of Latin and I read Satanic bibles and learned a lot about religion. You learn about that kind of stuff, but you don't get too in depth.

Question: Do you have any religious beliefs?

LaBeouf: I'm up in the air, man. I come from a hippy household. I'm still on a search.

Question: What does your name mean?

LaBeouf: Shia means a gift from God, which is Hebrew, and my Mom's a Jew from New York. And LaBeouf is Cajun, French my dad is from Louisiana and it means the beef. So my name means thank God for beef.

Question: Are you a vegetarian?

LaBeouf: No. Wouldn't that suck?

Question: Are you going to go to school?

LaBeouf: I got scouted by Yale. I'm not really interested in going to school, man. Everything I want to learn about is there for me. Plus, do I look like a kid who's going to go to Yale, honestly? No.

The only reason I would have went to Yale is because their drama classes teach technique, the kind of technique that John Turturro has. It's a more technical form of acting, where I'm more instinctual and it's a realistic thing. But I need that technique, if there's a role out there I want to play that not's me physically or in any way.

Question: If you're instinctual, do you not like a lot of direction then?

LaBeouf: Look, you need direction. Because sometimes you might get loss.

And that's the beauty of Francis. He has these guidelines. He knows where he wants his film to go, but he promotes freedom and wants you take on the role as you envisioned. It's a lot of collaborating, a lot of creativity. And that's what's great about Francis.

Of course, you have some directors you have to fight with sometimes. It's like, "This is my job. Shut up and let me do my thing." Not that blunt, obviously, or else you wouldn't have a job. Sometimes you have to fight for your freedom and I didn't have to fight at all with Francis for my freedom. He promoted it.

But I love direction. I need somebody else's input. It's hard for me to watch myself on screen just because the smallest thing will drive me crazy. The whole performance will be terrible if there's one lip movement that seems false.

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