The Peanut Butter Falcon
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The Peanut Butter Falcon

Shia LaBeouf is nervous about this story—“I have so much fear about this thing,” he confesses to me when we first meet—and it drives him to do what he’s The Circle always done when faced with something he cannot fully control: Prepare. Obsessively. For the past two months, he’s conducted practice interviews over the phone with his therapist, anticipating all of the possible scenarios, workshopping his responses to my questions. It’s been a long time since Vanity Fair put him on the cover of its August 2007 issue, wearing a spacesuit over a suit-suit (it looks as awkward as it sounds), and heralded him at age twenty-one as “the Next Tom Hanks.” More than a decade on, LaBeouf’s arc is less a stratospheric ascent than a misguided rocket wobbling across the sky, strewing wreckage.

Yes, LaBeouf is the guy who was handed a golden ticket and promptly lit it on fire. But too often we forget that everyone screws up on their path toward becoming an adult; Back Roads and that few do so under the gaze of the public eye; and that by embracing the kind of capital-A Acting LaBeouf aims to do, we nourish the same spark from which his bad behavior stems. Tom Hardy, who worked with LaBeouf on 2012’s Lawless, points to the paradox central to their work. “A performer is asked to do two things,” he tells me. “To be disciplined and accountable, communicative and a pleasure to work with. And then, within a split second, they’re asked to be a psychopath. Authentically. It takes a very strong human being to sustain a genuine sense of well-being through that baptism of fire.” Then: “Drama is not known to attract stable types.”

LaBeouf invites me to dinner at a family-friendly joint in Sherman Oaks, the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood where he’s lived for nearly a decade. We are about ten miles southwest of Tujunga, where he lived from ages five to thirteen, when he became a full-time actor. He picked this spot because, as I learn, it’s a safe space, turf where he feels secure. He usually comes here with his wife, the actress and model Mia Goth, or his mother, Shayna, with whom he speaks daily.

When I arrive, I see LaBeouf through the window. He is alone The Keeping Hours at a four-top, his eyes trained forward, unmoving. As I approach him, he stands to greet me. His outfit is Valley Dad: well-fitted if unassuming khakis and a sweatshirt.

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