You know how a few years ago Joaquin Phoenix went off the rails and abandoned acting for a rap career? And then it turned out it was all an elaborate piece of performance art for a doc/mockumentary with Casey Affleck? That’s what this Shia LaBeouf story reads like. Except I’m pretty sure LaBeouf legitimately plagiarized massively popular graphic novelist Daniel Clowes and Yahoo! Answers (Yahoo! Answers) and didn’t think anyone would notice or have a problem with it.
Here’s how it started: LaBeouf directed a short film, called HowardCantour.com, about a bitter film critic. It was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but it was only when it went up on the Internet yesterday that people noticed, hey, this is practically word-for-word the same as Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano. Apparently your average Cannes attendee doesn’t read graphic novels. Nerds.
Clowes didn’t receive a credit on HowardCantour.com, nor did LaBeouf ever ask him for permission to use his work. “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,” the author told BuzzFeed. “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.”
As things of this nature tend to do, the story spread like wildfire around the Internet. The film was password protected right away. Everyone was talking about how LaBeouf’s a scummy, inconsiderate plagiarist. The mob was assembling. LaBeouf has to act, and he has to act now. It’s not too late for him to turn this thing around. What graceful, heartfelt apology can he issue to rescue the situation?
If your answer to that question is “one partially copy-pasted form Yahoo! Answers,” congratulations, you are Shia LaBeouf and I wasn’t aware you read The Mary Sue.
LaBeouf’s apology, delivered over a series of several Tweets, reads as follows (emphasis mine):
“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. Im embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I fucked up.”
Andrew Hake on Twitter noticed that the bolded part of that statement is awwwwfully similar to what someone named “Lili” wrote on Yahoo! Answers four years ago in response to a high school student who’d been assigned an essay on Picasso. (I actually do not know whether that last part is true, but that’s the only thing Yahoo! Answers is used for, right?)
Take it away, Lili:
“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, and it may even revolutionalize the ‘stolen’ concept.”
I take it back. This is too hilarious not to be a hoax. Casey Affleck, where are you?