A Brief History of Shia LaBeouf Copying the Work of Others

5 minute read

History tends to repeat itself, but actor Shia LaBeouf tends to repeat others: Even his apologies for plagiarism are plagiarized. The former Disney star claims that this is all a piece of performance art (sound familiar?), but that seems suspiciously meta.

Here are 14 times when LaBeouf has blatantly ripped someone off:

1. LaBeouf plagiarized an apology to Alec Baldwin

In February 2013, LaBeouf abruptly quit what would have been his first Broadway show, Orphans, due to “creative differences” (that is, he couldn’t get along with Alec Baldwin, according to reports). LaBeouf decided that the best way to explain his departure would be to tweet out a photo of his email apology to the cast and Baldwin by name. Unfortunately, parts of his prose — sample: “a man owns up… a man grasps his mistakes” — were ripped off verbatim from a 2009 Esquire article titled “What is a Man?” People, including the article’s author, noticed. Obviously.

2. To rationalize the plagiarism, LaBeouf lifted another quote from David Mamet

For what it’s worth, LaBeouf clearly does understand proper accrediting formats:

3. LaBeouf plagiarized his directorial debut

LaBeouf’s short film HowardCantour.com premiered at the May 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It wasn’t until it was posted online on Dec. 16, 2013 that viewers began to notice that the film was almost an exact adaptation of a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, best known for Ghost World.

Clowes told BuzzFeed, which brought much of this story to public light: “The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”

4. He then apologized for plagiarism by plagiarizing a Yahoo! Answers post from four years ago:


Random person on Yahoo! Answers:

Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work…

5. LaBeouf’s graphic novels pulled quotes from Charles Bukowski and French writer Benoit Duteurtre

In April 2012, LaBeouf announced his intention to become a comic book writer and artist at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. He said that the process was “like singing in the shower—it’s very free and without edit.” But it turns out there was a reason why the copy was so clean. On Dec. 18, 2013, news broke that many lines from his self-published 2012 books Let’s Fucking Party and Stale N Mate were lifted from Charles Bukowski and Benoit Duteurtre’s work.

6. LaBeouf apologized again. First, he did so in the voice of Tiger Woods…


Tiger: “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

7. Then in the words of Robert McNamara...


McNamara: “We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”

8. Kanye West…


Kanye: “It starts with this… I’m sorry Taylor.”

9. Poster artist Shepard Fairey…


Shepard: “I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine alone.”

10. And finally, Mark Zuckerberg


Zuck: “I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you.”

(LaBeouf also hired a skywriter to apologize to Clowes in the sky overlooking Los Angeles in January. Clowes lives in the Bay Area. He took legal action.)

11. LaBeouf ripped off copy for his website

The website description of LaBeouf’s Campaign Book project is almost identical to the online copy used by Comic’s Journal’s Daniel Nadel to describe his own project, PictureBox.

12. The whole thing is suspiciously Joaquin Phoenix-like

In late January, LaBeouf assured fans that what seemed like a downward spiral was actually premeditated performance art. Unfortunately Joaquin Phoenix beat LaBeouf to the punch five years ago, as part of Casey Affleck’s mockumentary I’m Still Here.

But alas — fans were naive to hope that this would be his last act of plagiarism.

13. Shia pulled a Sia

For those who missed LaBeouf’s 22 (and counting) Twitter assertions that he’s not famous anymore, the actor appeared on the red carpet for this weekend’s Berlin premiere of Nymphomaniac with his new favorite mantra written on a paper bag over his head.

François Berthier / Getty Images

This move is strangely familiar to singer Sia’s November cover of Billboard, in which she posed with a paper bag on her head explaining that she “doesn’t want to be famous.”

14. LaBeouf can’t get through a press conference without repeated others

Following the bag incident, LaBeouf appeared next to his Nymphomaniac costars during a press conference. When a reporter asked LaBeouf about the film’s numerous sex scenes, he replied, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” then abruptly stormed out.

“Obviously, the script is packed with a lot of sardines,” co-star Christian Slater said in an effort to make the moment slightly less awkward.

No one was surprised to find that the line was ripped from French soccer player Eric Cantona.

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