As part of our ‘Indy Week’, the new Indy kid talks to us about Harisson Ford, Indy sequels and more..
With his rugged good looks and twinkling eyes Shia LaBoeuf could be mistaken for a young Harrison Ford. And that’s exactly what he’s aiming for. In his latest big-screen outing Shia takes on the role of archaeologist’s apprentice Mutt Williams in the fourth instalment of the Indy chronicles -‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. Shia, 21, admits the all-action adventure left him battered and bruised and when it came to swashbuckling and whip-cracking he was no match for his hero Harrison Ford – despite a 44-year age gap. In fact the whole experience seems almost too much for the young actor who admits he was totally star struck by Hollywood great Harrison and the chronicle’s creators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
But the rising young star is sure he will have the trio to thank when his career really takes off after the release of Indy. Spielberg plucked Shia from virtual obscurity but he is now one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors and is part of the new brat pack taking Tinseltown by storm. Despite a couple of brushes with the law, Shia says he is trying not to turn into a bad boy and has his family, friends and blossoming career to thankmfor keeping him on the straight and narrow. But his hectic lifestyle hasn’t been without a few sacrifices. Shia broke up with long-term girlfriend China Brezner due to work commitments and he insists he is still far too busy to hold down a relationship.
Here he talks to Movies.ie about growing up on-screen, working with his childhood hero and his mum’s major crush on his co-star . . .
Q: How was it working with a movie great like Steven Spielberg? A: “He’s a perfectionist who can perfect things… he’s an ultimate planner, he knows how to describe his thoughts very well. He has a very strong connection between his mouth and his brain and it’s very easy to understand him and he trusts his actors, more so than any other director I’ve worked with. He doesn’t over direct, he doesn’t under direct, he’s perfect and a perfectionist.”
Q: How about Harrison? A: “The same. They’re both consummate professionals; he’s very professional, never late, he’s never hurt, never sick, never tired… he’s a superhero.”
Q: Does he do the whip himself or is it a stuntman? A: “Nobody can do the whip like Harrison, not even the stunt guys. We had the best stunt guys in the world but nobody can do the whip like him. He’s the only one who touches the whip.”
Q: How is it for you just being in there, working with him? A: “It was like a dream – constantly. It was very scary at first, and then I got into the feel of it. One of the biggest things I learned from Harrison was that it’s not just the acting aspect of being the lead in a film, you set the tone. He would do things where he would pick up his chair at the end of a take and move it to the next location – pretty soon you have every actor on the set picking up their chair. It’s a way of humbling yourself and not feeling this grandiose…. he is Indiana Jones, he is Harrison Ford, but he’s Harrison. He’s not what you would expect. He’s the quintessential movie star, one of the biggest movie stars we’ve ever had in the world, and he’s also one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Q: How was it the first time you went on the set of Indy? A: “Scary but it was much easier than I envisioned. It was supremely enjoyable and a lot of the stress and pressure was alleviated by Harrison. Before each take Harrison would say ‘let’s shoot this piece of sh*t Steven’, and he didn’t mean it literally but as a way of alleviating the pressure.”
Q: How does it feel in the Indy leather jacket? A: “The jacket’s great. I feel like an action hero. But it’s very hot. Me and Harrison used to say in the mornings ‘Welcome to leather land again’. It was very hot, we were doing a lot of aggressive stuff and you go 12, 13 hours in leathers. You’d come away with leather stains all over your arms and back and your neck.” Q: What’s the tone of the film like – is it old school, or more Bourne-style? A: “No no no… it’s very Indiana Jones. There were no updates – we tried to make an extension of the first three. It was never supposed to be changed for the masses – we wanted to make it classic Indiana Jones, an experience father and son could go and enjoy together.” Q: What kind of action is it in the movie? A: “There’s a level of camp that’s in the action. It’s not quite Bourne Identity, and it’s not quite slip-on-a-banana-peel, but it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s a very specific certain kind of tone. The haphazard hero. There’s never been a movie like Indiana Jones – it’s like the highest quality B-movie Hollywood can bring to you.”
Q: What about the bad guys? What about the Russian? A: “She’s badass. She’s really a scary person who’s trying to kill people and take over things. Classic Indy enemy.”
Q: How did you first hear about being involved? A: “Towards the end of Transformers, I got a call – ‘Steven would like to meet with you’. In my head he’s going to tell me he’s going to kick me out of Transformers or I messed up – I thought I was going to the principal’s office. I get there, I’m really dressed up and I’m sitting there like it’s my bar mitzvah, and he goes ‘have you ever seen any of the Indiana Jones movies?’ It felt like an out of body experience, and I didn’t breathe…. he told me to breathe. I was close to tears when he said it. I didn’t know what to say, I was smiling. It kind of got him all riled up about it because he saw how passionate I was about it.”
Q: It’s been quite a transition for you, going from Even Stevens to this, without going via something like High School Musical. A: “I’m very blessed. Though High School Musical is very successful and people enjoy that, it is very different from what I’m doing, but I’m very fortunate. It’s not to say I’m more talented than anybody who’s on that, I’m just blessed. There are a lot of talented actors in my age group, some more talented than I, and not as fortunate. I’m in a peculiar, lucky spot.”
Q: What do you think you bring to the ‘action hero’ genre – you’re not a traditional one in the Bruce/Arnie way? A: “Right. I think I bring humanity to it. I’m a pretty normal guy and normal guys watch normal guys go through some crazy stuff and it touches a different part of them. But I also like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies; I just know that I’m not that. You feel disconnected, but when there’s somebody that you feel you can beat up and he’s going through it, it humanises the entire thing.” Q: Could this be the beginning of another trilogy? A: “No. It’s Indiana Jones – it’s all about what Harrison wants to do. I would do any movie with Steven…. I would be a grip or an extra, anything. I just like hanging out with him and he’s not a brain leach – he likes to listen. Every time I’m with Steven I feel like I’ve grown. I don’t have many people in my life like that.”
Q: Is he a father figure to you? A: “He sure is that. Anybody who’s ever worked with Steven has felt that way – he’s a very loving person. Most of the time the back of the director’s chair says your name or the movie – his says ‘Dad’.”
Q: Do you think you’ll always work together? A: “I don’t think we’re attached at the hip. We’re both interested in other things: I like darker things.”
Q: Indiana Jones is action-packed. Did you get hurt at all while you were filming? A: “Yes, this was the first movie I got injured. I pulled a rotator cuff on my hip, which was not fun, and that was with me for three or four months after. We were doing a sword fight in the jungle and I did something I wasn’t supposed to do and it was very wet and everything was moving – it’s not a conventional sword fight – and I hurt myself. I had to do Electronic Stimulation Therapy where you strap a box to your leg and shock your muscle to where you couldn’t feel it any more. Every three hours you have to go back and do it again.”
Q: Yet 60-year-old Harrison never got hurt… A: “I know! It sucks, doesn’t it?”
Q: Which is your favourite Indy film? A: “The third one, Last Crusade. Me and my father would watch these movies together, and that movie and the cadence is kind of what I have with my father, and to see it on screen was a very personalised viewing. We used a lot of those jokes as inside jokes in our life.”
Q: How are you preparing yourself for all the exposure? A: “By creating a really enjoyable representative of myself. You’ve got to create a detached person to answer crazy questions or to answer things that come up in your normal life. I’m finding ways to take a light-hearted approach to it all. It’s not rocket science, I’m not coming up with a cure for anything – I make movies. I don’t think it’s that serious, and as long as I keep my head that way, and find a way to not care, I’ll be in really good shape.”
Q: Are you still the same normal guy? A: “Yeah, I still mess up, I still do stupid stuff, I’m still just a normal 21-year-old trying to live my life and I’m growing up in the public.”
Q: What about the plans you had after Disturbia to go back to school… A: “Yeah, and I thoroughly thought I was going to go. I really planned on going after Transformers, I had set up my life to where I was going to go to school. And then you get the call and plans change. The way I look at it is there’s no acting school on the planet that could put me on the stage with Cate Blanchett, or film school that’s going to put me in the cage with Steven Spielberg. I’d rather work with the greats that the teachers would talk about than hear about it through a third party.” Q: How do you see yourself in the future? A: “I cannot answer that. I thought I could before and I really can’t, because where my life is at now I could never have envisioned.”
Q: What do your parents think of how it’s going so far? A: “They’re in a state of shock. My mum has a huge crush on Harrison and I brought her to set and he was very nice to her, but she couldn’t believe that this was going on. And my dad – Harrison is a cowboy and my dad is so into that, that machismo, cowboy thing, and they got along famously. My dad doesn’t get along with actors, he doesn’t like Hollywood, but Harrison’s not an ‘actor’ or ‘Hollywood’ – he’s a stand-up dude. My dad, a veteran, a Cajun man – him and Harrison… it was amazing, very real.” Q: How has your life changed over the last 12 months? A: “I’m learning to be more careful about my life and be authentic in my approach to the public rather than defending things. And I’m learning. It’s hard to perfect something right out of the gate, but I’m 21 and I feel this has all been sort of an introduction. My career is very new, in its birth phase.”
Q: Does fame isolate you? A: “I am isolated a lot, but I have a good group of friends who help me to get out of that. I have a tight knit circle.”
Q: You’re not a big partier like a lot of other young Hollywood stars, are you? A: “No I’m not, not at all. It seems stupid. I could have a much better party at my house with a barbecue and football or at a hotel. You don’t have to be in the public with everything. There’s ways to have fun and still not jeopardize your situation. I just stay away from the paparazzi.” Q: Do you have much time for yourself? A: “Tons. Well, not tons, but I have a few weeks off. I’m reading John Fante a lot, Charles Bukowski, Oscar Wilde lately. Lately I’ve been into skeet shooting a lot, and football and baseball. Steven Spielberg’s a big skeet shooter and he got me into it – he’s an incredible shot by the way, he could be an Olympian.”
Q: Have you got any other projects lined up? A: “No. They’re preparing to shoot Transformers in June, and there are a couple of other scripts I’m very interested in.”
Q: Do you want to get back to doing smaller movies too? A: “Sure. You keep doing a certain thing too long and people get tired of it and you’re done. But I just started doing this – this is the second version of something this massive. I’d love to do smaller things, but to force them would be wrong as well.”
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ is in Irish cinemas Friday.