Shia LaBeouf Was Accused of Physical and Sexual Abuse. Now He’s Playing a Saint.
Director Abel Ferrara said LaBeouf was starring in his film about Italian Saint Padre Pio, even though FKA Twigs and others have accused him of physical and sexual abuse.
Months after Shia LaBeouf is said to have taken a break from acting following the disturbing physical and sexual abuse claims made against him by former girlfriends, including musician FKA Twigs, the actor is reportedly in talks to star in a film about, of all things, a saint.
Director Abel Ferrara told Variety of the controversial casting in an interview on Thursday, detailing how 35-year-old LaBeouf has agreed to take on the role of Italian Saint Padre Pio for his upcoming independent project, which he hopes to begin filming in late October.
“We’re doing a film about Padre Pio, he’s a monk from Puglia,” Ferrara said. “It’s set in Italy right after World War I. He’s now a saint, he had stigmata. He was also in the middle of a very heavy political period in world history. He was very young before he became a saint, so Shia LaBeouf is going to play the monk.”
Ferrara, of King Of New York and Bad Lieutenant fame, told the outlet the film is “all set” now that LaBeouf is on board and is slated to be on a bigger scale than some of his other recent films, although Variety stressed independent projects could often fall through due to shaky financing. Ferrara’s latest film Zeros and Ones starring Ethan Hawke is set to premiere this week at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival.
The Daily Beast has reached out to LaBeouf for comment. The Daily Beast could not reach Ferrara for additional comment.
News of LaBeouf’s apparent comeback follows reports that he voluntarily took a step back from acting, having been dropped by top Hollywood talent agency CAA. He entered rehab for unspecified treatment after he was sued by his former girlfriend FKA Twigs, real name Tahliah Barnett, in Dec. 2020.
The English musician, who dated LaBeouf for just under a year after meeting in 2018 on the set of his autobiographical film Honey Boy, told The New York Times that her relationship with the actor “was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in the whole of my life.”
Barnett described in her lawsuit how LaBeouf made her life a nightmare, alleging he knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease, as well as verbally, mentally, and physically abusing her. “On one horrific occasion, around Valentine’s Day 2019, LaBeouf forcibly slammed Tahliah against his car and then strangled her after she was trying to escape from one of his manic tirades,” the suit claims.
The singer further claimed that LaBeouf stashed firearms around his home and once told her that to prepare for his role in the movie The Tax Collector “he would drive around neighborhoods in Los Angeles and shoot stray dogs,” according to the lawsuit.
Stylist Karolyn Pho’s claims are also included in the suit, noting how her experience with LaBeouf was “disturbingly similar” to Barnett’s. She claimed in the suit that one night in Feb. 2012, she “awoke to LaBeouf on top of her drunk, naked, wet, and screaming.”
“He held her down by her arms, causing intense pain and leaving multiple bruises, and then headbutted her violently causing her to bleed on the hotel bed,” the lawsuit claims. Pho also claimed that LaBeouf threatened to kill her in early 2011.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, holds back no punches, with the opening statement boldly claiming the former Disney child star is “dangerous,” “hurts women,” and “abuses them, both physically and mentally.”
“For too long, LaBeouf has sought to excuse his reprehensible actions as the eccentricities of a free-thinking ‘artist,’” the lawsuit claims. “Even though his history of violent behavior was well documented, many in the media have treated LaBeouf as a harmless figure of fun, which has helped enable him to perpetuate his cycle of abuse of women over the years. There is nothing funny about the exploitation of and battering of women. This action has been brought not for personal gain, but to set the record straight, and to help ensure that no more women must undergo the abuse that Shia LaBeouf has inflicted on his prior romantic partners.”
While the suit marked the first time that LaBeouf’s former partners publicly alleged that he verbally and physically abused them, a 2015 video clip of LaBeouf fighting with his then-partner Mia Goth, to whom he was reportedly married from 2016 to 2018, sparked serious concern.
“This is the kind of thing that makes a person abusive,” he tells her in the video. Later he is filmed telling a group of men, “If I’d have stayed there, I would’ve killed her.”
He was also caught on video in 2017 hurling racist insults at Black police officers following his arrest in Savannah, Georgia, for public intoxication.
In response to the lawsuit and The New York Times article, LaBeouf wrote in an email, “I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel.”
“I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations,” he added. “I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”
In a separate email, LaBeouf claimed that many of Barnett and Pho’s allegations were not true, before mentioning that while he is “a sober member of a 12-step program” he was not “cured” of his PTSD and alcoholism. “I am committed to doing what I need to do to recover, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way,” he wrote in the email, adding that he was in therapy.
According to court documents filed in June, Barnett and LaBeouf have agreed to private mediation. They have until December to come to an agreement, otherwise a conference is scheduled to determine if they will go to trial. The Daily Beast has reached out to Barnett for comment.
In the months since the lawsuit was filed, LaBeouf has kept a low profile, his official Instagram and Twitter accounts dormant. The only update came in February when it was reported that he had parted ways with CAA and was taking a break from acting, having spent at least five weeks in rehab.
News of LaBeouf’s casting did not sit well with some. Netflix’s Selling Sunset star Chrishell Stause summed up her thoughts in a tweet to Variety’s story, writing, “Shoots dogs. Beats women. Ummmm I’m gonna pass. Glad he got a Comeback Role though.”