Shia LaBeouf is on a roll, and he's enjoying it while it lasts because he knows it never does. The Transformers actor co-stars with Michael Douglas in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a sequel to 1987's money-mad Wall Street, opening Friday. The bankable LaBeouf speaks about director Oliver Stone, hustling hot dogs, and booms that go bust.
What did you think of the movie?
I like it. I'm proud of it.
And the star-studded cast - Michael Douglas, Frank Langella, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon - was that intimidating?
It was daunting, sure. I felt outclassed. It was scary, especially with Oliver [Stone]who has a very specific grooming process for his leading actors.
He suggested, from what I understand, that you weren't much of an actor, but telling you not to worry because Tom Cruise wasn't much of an actor when he first worked with him.
He told me that, at our second meeting. He breaks you down and builds you up. That's his style. He'll do whatever he thinks he needs to do to get what he needs. And that's the director I wanted. He's a dangerous filmmaker. He'll make a film with bite, but there's also a mushy side.
Oliver Stone, mushy?
It's funny, in his maturation, he's softened. In the eighties and nineties, he was the most dangerous filmmaker alive. As he gets older, his sensibilities are changing.
Do we see that in Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps , compared to his original Wall Street ?
I think so. The film is cynical, but there's hope at the end. It would have been really easy to make a very nihilistic, cynical version.
Cutting out the last five minutes would have done it.
For sure, and it would have been that. But there's something in Oliver that propelled him to a different ending. It's also a different climate altogether. The landscape is different, as opposed to the 1980s. This movie, you're living through the twilight of the American economic dominance. It's a scary proposition for my generation.
You grew up poor. What's your relationship with money now?
I think one of two things can happen when you come from deprivation and you get a bunch of money all of a sudden. You either lose your mind and lose your life, or you really just don't care that much. For me, being an only child, with two parents who weren't necessarily nine-to-fivers who paid taxes and have social security coming, there are certain things that I want to accomplish for them. I think I started working very early on literally because of a fear for my family. I knew early on it wasn't a normal set-up.
What wasn't normal about it?
My family used to dress up like clowns and sell hot dogs. We were hustlers.
I have more money that I'll be able spend in my whole life. I don't buy hot-air balloons and hire strippers and fly to Belize. I'm not that kind of guy. I really don't spend much money, but it's a nice safety net.
Given the theme of the movie and your own success, do all bubbles eventually burst?
You're born to die, right? Everything has an end. There's no way to call it. I don't have another job lined up after this; this may be the last thing I'll ever do. If it ends, I was happy while I was in it. And I'll find something else to do.