Born as Shia Saide LaBeouf on June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, CA, The stage gene was clearly passed from parents to son at birth, as LaBeouf began performing stand-up at local clubs while still in grade school – all in a means of assisting his cash-strapped family. The acting bug bit harder when LaBeouf saw a friend on an episode of the family series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (CBS, 1993-98) – a pivotal moment which strengthened his resolve to pursue acting as a means of satisfying both his need to financially help his family and his desire to perform.
According to LaBeouf, he landed an agent by simply picking one from the Yellow Pages, pretending to be an adult while raving about an up-and-coming young talent named Shia LaBeouf. The ruse clearly worked, as he was signed by the agency at the age of 12, and began making the rounds on network programs like The X-Files (Fox, 1993-2002) and Freaks and Geeks (NBC, 1999-2000). In 2003, he landed the role of Louis Stevens, the manic, nerdy counterpoint to perfect older sister Ren (Christy Carlson Romano) on Even Stevens. The series was a success with younger viewers and earned LaBeouf excellent notices, as well as a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for the show’s final season in 2003.
LaBeouf reunited with the Even Stevens cast for a Disney Channel original movie, The Even Stevens Movie (2003), before making the jump to theatrical features, starting with Disney’s adaptation of the popular young adult book Holes (2003). As Stanley Yelnats, the son of a family of New York eccentrics who finds himself incarcerated at a hard labor camp for young criminal offenders, LaBeouf brought both his comic chops and an effortless knack for drama, which allowed him to shine in a cast populated by heavyweights like Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson. Holes earned LaBeouf critical praise as well as the inevitable performer-to-watch buzz. For his performance in “Holes,” LaBeouf netted an MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Male Performer.
LaBeouf’s other big screen adventures in 2003 were somewhat less noteworthy – he had a cameo in the noisy Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and took the lead in The Battle of Shaker Heights, the second film to come from the dire Project Greenlight (HBO/Bravo, 2000-05) reality series. LaBeouf’s raw frustration with the ill-prepared directors of Shaker Heights and its hot-wired producers was the sole highlight of the show’s second season.
2005 saw LaBeouf back in the Disney fold for the historical drama The Greatest Game Ever Played, in which he played a real-life golf prodigy who squares off against the game’s top player in the 1913 U.S. Open. Few theatergoers saw his subdued performance, but it did help solidify the notion that LaBeouf could carry a film. That same year, LaBeouf made another canny career move that helped entrench him in Hollywood’s mind, following a small role in the Will Smith big-budget sci-fi film, I, Robot.
Following these movies, LaBeouf divided his time between major studio productions and smaller, independent projects. He played the wisecracking chauffeur to Keanu Reeves’ supernatural detective in Constantine, then lent his voice to the English-language dub of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (2005), an anime feature popular with devotees of the genre. He also made his directorial debut alongside Lorenzo Eduardo that year with the experimental short, Let’s Love Hate, which addressed racial intolerance. The film netted several awards at regional festivals.
In 2006, LaBeouf risked much and bared all as a waiter who strips nude during an LSD experience in Emilio Estevez’s pet project, Bobby, which chronicled the lives of various Robert Kennedy supports at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of his 1968 assassination. As part of the A-list cast, LaBeouf shared a Screen Actors’ Guild nomination with the sizable all-star lineup. Although they did not win that award, LaBeouf would go on to win the Special Jury Prize with his castmates for A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006), a gritty true-life drama about growing up in 1980s New York. Though neither film was a box-office success, they further bolstered LaBeouf’s profile as a young actor with mature skills and interests.
For 2007, LaBeouf remained strictly on the Hollywood side of the movie fence. He took the lead in Disturbia, a youth-oriented thriller inspired by Rear Window(1954), and voiced a hot-dogging penguin that surfed in the animated feature Surf’s Up. LaBeouf also signed on as one of the few human performers in Michael Bay’s summer offering, Transformers.
In April 2007 Spielberg cast LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. His next film was Eagle Eye, a thriller directed by D. J. Caruso. He has also signed on for two Transformers sequels.
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