Shia LaBeouf is a Plagiarist

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Shia LaBeouf debuted a short film he wrote and directed at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival called “HowardCantour.com”. This week it launched online. Within 24 hours Jordan Zakarin at Buzzfeed found out that “wrote and directed” was secret Shia code for “blatantly ripped off”. The entire piece is 95% unaltered from a Daniel Clowes’ comic called “Justin M. Damiano”. The whole drama continued on Twitter where Shia said:

And:

And we can’t forget:

Assumptions:

Shia unexpectedly quit the play “Orphans” early in 2013. He released his email conversations with other actors and the director online. In his email he copied most of the content from “What Is a Man?” and represented it as his own. Shia Labeouf’s plagiarism was handled lightly by even the author of the piece.

So we have two documented cases of theft. What kind of person would steal so aggressively? How couldn’t it have been caught earlier? What else has he stolen without review? Here is what I found.

When leaving “Orphans” he said on Twitter:

 

 

 

 

 But these words didn’t come from LaBeouf, they’re stolen from David Mamet’s book “True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor” pages 6 and 7:

Acting is not a genteel profession. Actors used to be buried at a crossroads with a stake through the heart. Those people’s performances so troubled onlookers that they feared their ghosts. An awesome compliment. Those players moved the audience not such that they were admitted to graduate school, or received a complimentary review. but such that the audience feared for their soul. Now that seems to me something to aim for.

And the intro from page 107:

Well, propriety is fine in its place. But its place is not in the theatre. The theatre belongs not to the great but to the brash.

With the close from page 24:

Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.

Okay, so he borrowed some copy from Esquire and from David flipping Mamet right? So what? If you were in your mid-twenties, dating Megan Fox, and loaded beyond belief, you’d feel like you could creatively use some badass inner monologue as you wish. This was only on his private email and Twitter! It isn’t like he was making money from it, right?

In April 2012 Shia debuted graphic novels at C2E2, a Chicago comic expo. Below he is glowing, talking about how he “made this book all by himself.”. It is a really endearing video that is hard not to smile at:

One comic he created was called “Stale N Mate”. You can read the comic online here, alongside a series of (hilariously) glowing highlights. What I’d noticed by now is that Shia loves his stealing and is comically bad at hiding it. A quick Google search of the copy turned up that he’d stolen the story from a book by Benoît Duteurtre called “The Little Girl and the Cigarette”. Since it was originally published in French it was the perfect candidate for Shia’s creative *ahem* repurposing. For example, the “original” Stale N Mate says:

Seemingly indifferent to the fate that awaited him – Donal Thomas continued to look obstinate in the antechamber of the execution room. A silent exchange pitted the condemned man. Very calm in his demeaner. Against the director of the institution.

Meanwhile “The Little Girl and the Cigarette” says on page 10:

Seemingly indifferent to the fate that awaited him, Désiré Johnson continued to look obstinate. In the antechamber of the execution room, a silent exchange pitted the condemned man,a tall young black man, very calm under his dreadlocks, against the director of the institution, a Vietnamese law-school graduate, recently promoted to the directorship of this ultramodern prison to ensure that a dozen capital executions were smoothly carried out there every year.

Or later on in Shia’s “Stale N Mate” he says:

Donal Thomas followed the guards toward death row, in a direction that he was the first to take. As he was returning to the life all he did was whistle. As though people were trying to complicate his life. What was left of it anyways.

While “The Little Girl and the Cigarette” is very different in saying:

Désiré Johnson followed his guards towards death row, in a direction that he was the first to take. As he was returning to life, all he did was mumble, as if other people were trying as hard as they could to complicate his life:“I wasn’t asking for much.”

By Shia LaBeouf. No mention of Benoît Duteurtre or “The Little Girl and the Cigarette”. Odd. Well, what about his other comics? He has one called “Lets [sic] Fucking Party“.

Below is page 4 & 5 from the powerful mind of LaBeouf:

Poets don’t anger anyone. Poets don’t gamble.
Here, they don’t assassinate poets. Here, they don’t notice them.

Weirdly, here is a written piece called Assault by Charles Bukowski:

Lorca was shot down in the road but here
in America the poets never anger anybody.
the poets don’t gamble.

their poetry has the smell of clinics.
their poetry has the smell of clinics.
where people die rather then live.

here they don’t assassinate the poets

they don’t even notice the poets.

Now, I’m a huge Daniel Clowes fan. He is one of the reasons I make comics and he single-handedly defined a genre that thrives today. Stealing Clowes work, Mamet’s ideas, the prose of Duteurtre, or the prickly POV of Bukowski shows a consistent effort to defraud artists. Had they been flat thefts the crime would have been too easy to spot, so Shia LaBeouf made simple changes to names and grammar. He used the fact that his celebrity would overpower a search engine, making the originals very tough to find.

All this time Shia acted like he had something to say, and we believed him.

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Update – 12/28/13:

Here we are, ten full days after this article went live. Quite a bit has changed. My hope was to cap this piece off with a more satisfying conclusion.

After further research, Shia does acknowledge quoting Mamet on his Twitter feed a full day before the noted section above. But he never sources these items as quotes, he changes words, and he removes the quotations which he’d used previously. Is the below theft or implied quotation?

In response to this piece Shia LaBeouf posted a series of apologetic tweets, all which were quickly proved to be plagiarized as well. I’ll save you the drama, but you can read the messy details at The Film Stage. This has continued every day since this article went live.

It came out then that Mr. LaBeouf borrowed the ‘About’ page from The Campaign Book from another publisher, PictureBox.

Finally, after hearing about this plagiarism, Melville House (the publisher of Benoît Duteurtre‘s The Little Girl and the Cigarette) is now pursuing legal options against Shia LaBeouf. I’m really happy to see there may be consequences for Shia’s actions. Fingers crossed.

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