In a moment of life imitating art, Shia LaBeouf found a higher power while preparing to play a Catholic saint.
LaBeouf, who’s set to portray Italian priest Francesco Forgione – aka Padre Pio – in the upcoming biopic “Padre Pio,” opened up about his newfound relationship with Catholicism during an interview with Bishop Robert Barron published Thursday. The actor said his “life was on fire” prior to familiarizing himself with the religion.
“I didn’t want to be an actor anymore, and my life was a complete mess,” LaBeouf told Barron. “I had hurt a lot of people, and I felt deep shame and deep guilt.”
LaBeouf has faced a bout of legal troubles in recent years, including charges of misdemeanor battery and petty theft stemming from an alleged altercation with a man in June 2020. In December of that same year, LaBeouf’s ex-girlfriend, British musician FKA twigs, sued him for repeated abuse and assaults – physical, emotional and mental – he allegedly inflicted in their nearly year-long relationship.
Background:FKA twigs speaks out after filing lawsuit against ex Shia LaBeouf for ‘relentless abuse,’ assaults
After connecting with “Padre Pio” director Abel Ferrara, LaBeouf shared he began staying at a seminary in San Lorenzo, California, living out of his car in the parking lot, to prepare for the role.
The Emmy-winning actor said while he was initially motivated by a desire to rehabilitate his career, he also looks back on the experience as a moment of divine intervention.
“I know now God was using my ego to draw me to Him, was drawing me away from worldly desires,” LaBeouf said. “It was all happening simultaneously. But there would have been no impetus for me to get in the car and drive up (to the monastery) if I didn’t think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna save my career.’ “
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LaBeouf said he’s found a sense of camaraderie in studying Catholicism that’s allowed him to reconcile with his own past.
“It was seeing other people who had sinned beyond anything I could even conceptualize also being found in Christ that made me feel like, ‘Okay, that gives me hope,'” LaBeouf explained. “I started hearing experiences of other depraved people who had found their way in this, and it made me feel like I had permission.”
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LaBeouf isn’t the only actor to step into the realm of the sacred for a role.
During his appearance on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast Monday, “Silence” star Andrew Garfield spoke about his acting process, including the lengths he went to in order to get into character as a 17th-century Jesuit priest.
Garfield said his preparation for this role included undergoing the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises — a series of prayers and meditations developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola — as well as limiting his consumption of food and sex. He also spent a year studying Catholicism with Fr. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest, in New York.
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Shia LaBeouf fired from ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ for ‘combative’ process
During a recent interview with Variety, “Don’t Worry Darling” star and director Olivia Wilde revealed she initially hired LaBeouf to play the role of Jack Chambers, which later went to Harry Styles. But as production for the film began, Wilde said she opted to fire LaBeouf because his creative process “was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions.”
“He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don’t personally believe that is conducive to the best performances,” Wilde explained. “I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job.”
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Wilde said the actor’s subsequent legal troubles reaffirmed her casting decision.
“A lot came to light after this happened that really troubled me, in terms of his behavior,” Wilde said. “I find myself just really wishing him health and evolution because I believe in restorative justice. But for our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive.
“Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence (Pugh) to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported.”
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Contributing: Maria Puente and Charles Trepany, USA TODAY; The Associated Press