Okay, this is a bit of a hold over from the press junket that I went on for the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, since the movie opens wide this week, I thought the timing is still okay. I put the interview with the writer, Mark Frost, and the director, Bill Paxton, over on my Hollywood Jesus blog, but I thought that I’d put excerpts from our conversation with Shia LaBeouf over here. The full interview can be found on my message board.

Jodie Foster once noted that there are some people who just have the personality where they can be child actors and not flame out and become adult actors.. Shia LaBeouf has one of those personalities. Frankly, unlike his co-star, Josh Flitter whom we had just interviewed right before him. I could see Josh having some Gary Coleman/Macaulay Culkin type issues in the not too distant future. I wasn’t real familiar with Shia’s resume before this film. He had a part in Constantine (and I, Robot was forgettable as a whole), but I never saw Holes or any of his other Disney grooming that is the bulk of his career.

I was immediately impressed with him, not because of his Hollywood charm (he bounded into the room, shook each one of us with the patented Bill Clinton double clasp hand shake, and got each of our names) but because he was so self-aware about the process. And, yes, he does possess an inherent amiability.

What do you think that (transition) personality is? You seem to have it, since you haven’t flamed out yet.

I haven’t sold out yet either and I think that’s a big reason people flame out, having cashed in. I don’t know what it is. If I could bottle it up I would probably sell it. I don’t know what it quite is. I know what it isn’t: it isn’t making films you know are bad. It isn’t making a movie with a plotline that’s garbage just so you can get a four million dollar paycheck and live really nice. If you’re making art, make art. If you’re going to be an actor, be an actor. If you’re going to make an album, make an album. If you’re going to do everything at once, you’re going to be terrible at all of them. I stick to my guns. I’m trying to make art. I’m not trying to cash in. I always say, if I cashed in I would probably have a really nice bed but I wouldn’t be able to sleep in it, because I wouldn’t respect myself and I would hate myself. It would be terrible, I would be depressed. It would cost me more money with psychiatrists than if I never went in.

All of these steps – Constantine, I, Robot – stuff like that that were these money films, slightly sell out kinds of things, brought me here. I wouldn’t be able to helm this film if I didn’t do that type of stuff. Nobody gets to just jump in and helm a film like that. You got to pay dues. So mostly everything after Holes has been kind of paying dues, and brought me here so now I’m able to do this.

Do you have a grand plan for your career?

After Dustin Hoffman became famous with The Graduate he flipped it and then played like a 90 year old woman in a movie. I’m just trying to flip things as much as possible, but in today’s film world you have independents that aren’t quite independents. You have big huge production companies making small movies with big actors. It’s hard to navigate this puzzle right now. It’s a tough business, this film business.

Now you’ve got this 2929 situation where they’re going to change distribution completely, where they’re going to release the film and the DVD and put it on cable all at once. That changes filmmaking completely. There’s going to be less money made by these studios, which means less movies are going to be made by these studios, which means there’s less opportunity to make great film. It’s all changing, man. I’m just trying to catch it right now, but I’m not going to make Cody Banks 5 or any garbage like that. It’s not what I’m trying to do.

How do you go about choosing your projects?

I read it and sometimes I go, ‘That’s not me, I can’t do that!’ So I have to go do it. It’s challenging yourself, it’s getting to a place you don’t feel comfortable. The minute you feel comfortable on a set, you’re working on a piece of crap. You know it right away. You can feel it. The minute you’re not struggling to get through the film, you’re not doing anything. There’s no work being done. They call it phoning it in. That’s fine, lots of actors do that. There’s nothing wrong with it. Robert DeNiro – amazing actor. What’s going on with the last couple films, you know? [Shia puts his hand to his face to make the phone call.] That’s what happens. But he’s still Robert DeNiro; Raging Bull is still the best performance put on film. But everybody does it. It just goes to show you that it happens to everyone. The goal is to never do it, but that goal is rarely reached. Daniel Day Lewis does it, but does he live a happy life? I don’t know. It depends on what you want. I’m OK with being happy and doing things I love.

[Another thing that struck me about Shia was that so often what he says sounds like he could be speaking for Francis Ouimet, his character in The Greatest Game Ever Played, as well as himself. After awhile, even he starts mixing his pronouns, saying “I” when referring to Francis. He goes on to discuss the movie, working with Bill Paxton and other famous actors. You know, the usual Hollywood marketing stuff that boils down to “we made a good movie. Please go see it.”]

What do you think the public perception of you is, and do you think it’s correct?

It’s never correct. It’s never accurate. You guys are meeting a representative. This isn’t Shia, this is the guy I’m presenting to you.

What is Shia like? Can the rep tell us?

So not Disney, I guess. I’m not Disney. Sometimes it does come out, but I’m not Disney. And I think Disney is kind of like that; they’re trying to reinvent themselves as well. They realize that old Disney doesn’t work. Ice Princess? Come on, get out of here. You’re going to make Ice Princess and try to market that to a bunch of 13 year olds who all play Grand Theft Auto? They don’t want to see Ice Princess. They want to see Pulp Fiction. Kids are growing up so fast now.

Why do you think people don’t support art? Why do you think Into the Blue might kick your ass?

Because I don’t look like Jessica Alba.

That’s true.

And I don’t look like Paul Walker. People know these are not the best actors in the bunch, but it’s not about that, I guess. Some people want to see that, that’s respectable. I mean I respect that. You can’t hate on that. I respect it. But it’s not what I’m trying to do and I don’t know if that would be my audience necessarily, or this movie’s audience necessarily. It’s not like they’re stealing our audience, it’s that we don’t know if our audience is going to show up. They might just look at the movie and go, ‘Aw, it’s a golf movie.’ We have a story not many people know about, we have a cast that not many people know about and a sport that – a lot of people don’t like the sport. But the movie is insane. The movie is really good. And it’s hard to do that.

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Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.