Shia LaBeouf is easy to find, at least for the next three days. The embattled actor is sitting at the Angelika Film Center in New York, watching his entire filmography alongside anyone who wishes to join him.
The project, called #ALLMYMOVIES, is one of multiple art installations LaBeouf has made with artists Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö since teaming up in 2014. The three first collaborated when the Transformers star “performed” in the Los Angeles-based project #IAMSORRY, which centered on LaBeouf wearing a paper bag on his head and letting attendees do whatever they pleased in his presence while he sat before them, completely silent.
#ALLMYMOVIES is similar, in a way. As soon as the first movie in the marathon, the unreleased Man Down, came to an end, one theatergoer sitting right behind LaBeouf called it “sh–ty.” He didn’t whisper; he didn’t express regret after saying the proclamation. He just plainly stated that he just watched a “sh–ty movie.” The comment started a conversation among a group of people, all of whom went on to talk about LaBeouf as if he wasn’t even there. It was jarring, this invisibility they forced on him, but also understandable: 30 minutes before Man Down ended, I took the empty seat next to LaBeouf. Not long after, I entertained the idea of reaching into the bag of popcorn he’d been noshing on and grabbing some for myself. It’d make a good story, I thought. Then I realized I had, like the group behind me, momentarily ignored that LaBeouf is real.
This dehumanization is very likely part of why LaBeouf wanted to do this, and part of why he is apparently remaining completely mute for the entirety of the three days. After sitting right next to him for a few hours, I extended my hand during one of the intermissions to introduce myself, thinking it could launch a conversation. It didn’t, though he did shake my hand and look me in the eye. He had a similar response when some fans approached to compliment his work, only solemnly glancing up at them in silence.
Which isn’t to say he was constantly silent: LaBeouf let out hearty laughs multiple times throughout the screening of Fury, the World War II drama that was released last fall. (LaBeouf got a tooth removed as part of his Method preparation for the role.) During Man Down’s tragic conclusion, he openly bawled.
I tried not to look at him during the films, an attempt to respect his personal space (and, to be honest, an attempt to battle back the already-inherent awkwardness of the event), but hearing these emotions flow out of him inspired a sense of relief. And as I squeezed past LaBeouf — who let his legs spill out into the main aisle anytime someone from our row needed to leave — on my way out, I wished him a good day. Despite knowing he wouldn’t vocally return the sentiment, I felt a responsibility to tell him this, to engage with him on a human level. But maybe I failed his test by treating him like an actual person. Maybe I should have stolen his popcorn. Maybe I should have told him his movie was bad.
Or maybe I was overthinking it all. LaBeouf lifted his head and nodded in my general direction as I said goodbye. Then he went back to sitting in silence, waiting for the start of Nymphomaniac.