No stranger to controversy, Shia LaBeouf kicked up a media frenzy when — ahead of Don’t Worry Darling’s Sept. 5 world premiere at the Venice Film Festival — he released a trove of texts and a video from director Olivia Wilde in an effort to disprove Wilde’s claims of having fired him from the film. Wilde, meanwhile, has kept the he-said, she-said going, doubling down on her assertion in a new Vanity Fair interview.
On Sept. 2, LaBeouf, 36, attended his own Venice premiere — for Abel Ferarra’s Padre Pio, a historical drama set at the dawn of fascism in Italy. LaBeouf plays the title character, a Franciscan Capuchin monk who became a household name in Italy after allegedly experiencing stigmata. Like LaBeouf, Padre Pio faced his own scandals: Pope John XXIII accused him of sleeping with women, based on secret recordings of his confessions.
The part was LaBeouf’s first since his ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs, sued him in December 2020 for sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. (Among her accusations was that he strangled her and knowingly infected her with an STD.) In the open letter to Wilde that accompanied his leak, LaBeouf acknowledged his “failings with Twigs are fundamental and real,” but that “they are not the narrative that has been presented.”
On a recent podcast hosted by Jon Bernthal, he said, “I hurt that woman. … I was a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-centered, dishonest, inconsiderate, fearful human being. … When I look at this #MeToo environment, there’s not a whole lot of dudes that are taking accountability.”
Twigs’ lawsuit led LaBeouf to check himself into recovery. He was, he said, searching for “an unidentified higher power” when Ferrara offered him the role. “I had a gun on the table. I was outta here,” LaBeouf revealed in a lengthy interview with a bishop posted to YouTube. “I didn’t want to be alive anymore when all of this happened. Shame like I had never experienced before — the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe.”
Since the filming of Padre Pio, LaBeouf — who was the product of an interfaith marriage and was raised both Jewish (he had a bar mitzvah) and Christian — has converted to Catholicism. Mel Gibson has taken him under his wing and introduced him to things like Latin Mass.
What has not been reported, however, is that LaBeouf’s mother, Shayna Saide, died of heart failure on Aug. 27 at age 80. Her son was at her bedside when she passed at a Los Angeles hospital.
LaBeouf — who raises a 5-month-old daughter with actress Mia Goth — did no interviews at Venice. But he agreed to an email exchange with The Hollywood Reporter, in which he responds to Wilde’s latest remarks, expounds on his friendship with Gibson and addresses his mother’s death for the first time.
Where were you in your spiritual journey when the role of Padre Pio was offered to you?
I was praying to an undefined higher power for a while. It started with me praying to the waves. My 12-step sponsor took me to the beach, put me on my knees, and told me to “stop the waves.” I could not. He said, “The waves are more powerful than you, clearly, so pray to the waves till God shows up for you.” Waves became my higher power for a while: “Dear waves.” Then I went camping for a few months in my truck, I was searching for more versions of waves. I would sign on to my 12-step meetings on Zoom every night. At one of the meetings, I saw Abel [Ferrara]. He asked me in the chat box if I knew about Pio. Pio led me to a Franciscan Seminary in Santa Ynez. Those Friars allowed me to park my truck in their parking lot and walked me through Catechesis.
What else happened in that monastery?
They gave me a parking spot and fed me. They walked me through the Gospel. They introduced me to my laugh, my smile. They invited me into their silence. They taught me how to pray.
Padre Pio reached great heights of celebrity and also faced serious allegations of wrongdoing. Did that bring up anything for you?
I related very profoundly to the idea of being exiled from that which you love.
Do you think Padre Pio really experienced stigmata? Do you believe in miracles?
What kind of advice has Mel Gibson given you in terms of theology and self-fulfillment?
He was cautious with me. Many years ago, I went to his house and told him to his face that his religious views and politics were a hindrance to his craft. He giggled with grace and told me to read about the Maccabees. As I fell forward he always remained supportive. Years later, this Pio prep required me to find a priest familiar with the Extraordinary Form [or Traditional Latin Mass].
I asked Mel to help me knowing he was connected, and he introduced me to a Canon in the Christ the King order in Oakland. I reached out and drove up with Brother Alex from San Lorenzo. Canon Norman took time after his daily mass to teach me Latin and how to properly serve Traditional Latin Mass.
How is your recovery going?
So far, so good.
What has fatherhood taught you about yourself?
That love is more important than art.
According to a new Vanity Fair article, Olivia Wilde said your acting process was “not conducive to the ethos” she demands on set and that you display “a combative energy.” She also claims Florence Pugh was uncomfortable with that energy; that you gave Wilde an ultimatum; and that she ultimately chose to fire you and keep Pugh. Do you want to speak to that?
It is what it is — every blessing to her and her film.
I understand you recently lost your mother. What can you tell us about your relationship and what you may have inherited or learned from her, in terms of creativity, morality or otherwise?
My mother was full of fear in her last moments: asking the doctor what this tube was and what that machine did. She was frantic. She was deeply interested in God and spirituality her whole life, but she didn’t know him. Hence her last moments. Her greatest gift to me was to promote, in her dying, the necessity of a relationship with God. Not an interest, not just a belief, but a relationship built on proof as tangible as a hug. Her last gift to me was the ultimate persuasion for faith. She was a good girl. She was loved by many and known by too few. God bless you, Momma.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.