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James Franco is seen in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2011. (JENNIFER ROBERTS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
James Franco is seen in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2011. (JENNIFER ROBERTS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Why James Franco is defending Shia LaBeouf’s weird behaviour Add to ...

Why is Shia LaBeouf acting so strangely in recent weeks? James Franco believes he has the answer.

In an essay published in The New York Times, Franco mounts an impassioned defence of LaBeouf’s recent off-screen activity that has many people questioning his mental state.

Best known for his continuing role in the Transformers film franchise, LaBeouf caused a stir at the Berlin Film Festival in early February when he showed up in a dishevelled state for the Nymphomaniac press conference, from which he departed after one question.

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That same evening, LaBeouf appeared on the red carpet wearing a tuxedo and a brown paper bag over his head that included the words: “I am not famous anymore.”

And just last week, LaBeouf staged an L.A. art installation titled #IAMSORRY in consort with Finnish performance artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö and painter Luke Turner.

LaBeouf’s participation in the installation consisted primarily of him sitting in a room with a paper bag on his head and staring at visitors through cutout eye holes.

But in his New York Times essay titled “Why Actors Act Out,” Franco – whose own erratic behaviour has seen him taking an acting role on the daytime soap General Hospital at the peak of his career and his ill-advised decision to co-host the Oscars with Anne Hathaway – likens LaBeouf’s eclectic behaviour to that of fellow actor Joaquin Phoenix, who spent nearly a year acting weirdly in order to film the documentary I’m Not Here.

In the case of LaBeouf, Franco writes: “This behaviour could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake, I hope it is nothing serious.”

Franco’s well-organized defence also suggests that LaBeouf may simply be trying new artistic avenues.

In Franco’s own words: “Indeed I hope – and yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones – that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.”

In the same essay, Franco references the tribulations endured by the late Marlon Brando in the fame game and his lifelong struggle to control his public image.

And while Franco seems fully supportive of LaBeouf’s creative pursuits, he also delivers the cautionary suggestion that the younger thespian (Franco is 35, LaBeouf is 27) not burn any bridges.

“I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one,” Franco writes in his conclusion. “I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show that he is an artist.”

Are you listening, Shia?

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