Watching or hearing your own voice often leads to embarrassment. We don’t want to do either; the validity that we sound a certain way is too much for ourselves to handle, and we don’t want to see ourselves out of fear we look visually unappealing to others. Think about how hard it is for you to do either of these things then apply these rules to an actor.
Many are squeamish when it comes to surveying their own work, with the choices they make in role coming back to haunt them, their stiff style or bombastic delivery sticking out like a sore thumb. It is a blow to the egocentrism of most actors to look back, but some of the strongest actors, and people, can learn to laugh at themselves and treat the act as a fun look into the past.
Shia LeBeouf, one of Hollywood’s most sporadically deviant figures, did just that last week: He marathoned (nearly) every movie he’s been in with a camera pointed right at his gruff face surrounded by filled theater seats, live-streamed for all to see, albeit without sound and no view of the screen. Fans could come to the Angelika Film Center in New York City to sit with Shia for free, while he winced at every scene in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Shia positioned this stunt as another one of his performance art pieces; however, there is no performance except that on the screen we cannot see. It’s more of a raw experiment for Shia, one that allows to see something we don’t often get to see, which is an actor watching nearly every one of his movies, giving us his very real reactions to each of them. Starting with his newest film, “Man Down,” still yet to be publicly released, Shia looked back on his career in reverse chronological order, all ending with his early film, “Breakfast With Einstein.”
Throughout the event, Shia laughed heavily at the cheesiness of “The Even Stevens Movie,” cried during ‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” and displayed confusion prompting him to sleep in the corner after viewing “Transformers 2.” All these little moments, from him ordering pizza for the crowd to donning his parka from time to time, added up to an unexpectedly moving ordeal, especially for someone who has been largely unmoved by his past endeavors.
It all comes down to the intimacy Shia displays. I felt as if I was hanging out with him, conquering insomnia to catch “Disturbia.” It is the most accessible and widely accepted “art show” he has put on; something most people can click on and watch for a few minutes to pass the time and just see what it’s all about. I found myself checking in on the stream randomly during those three days, not really sure what to expect. It had turned from a slightly amusing happening to something I actually took the time to give attention. Maybe he would be asleep, or maybe he’d be sitting entranced. Soon enough, it began to feel like I was a part of his life for three days, an arduous feat given other actors’ amount of privacy and refusal to become this confidential.
This is the first time Shia has done something that makes us sympathize with him. It was a massively interesting concept that was executed better than it deserved to be. Whatever Shia does next is his prerogative, but this brief yet affecting adventure was something that should be remembered for its honesty and desire to put human nature at the center of great art.