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And Now For Something Completely Different

Shia LaBeouf Plagiarizes Graphic Novel, Gets Caught, Issues Plagiarized Apology


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?

(via: The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, The Beat)

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  • Anonymous
  • Samuel

    Maybe Shia Labeof -was- either Jesse or Lili four years ago?

  • Eric J. Baker

    Can I say that I am so glad that there was a reference to that song within the first couple comments? Thank you.

  • Eisen

    How is it that those people don’t know the meaning of inspiration? If you copy someone elses work word for word, it is NOT ‘inspiration’ – it is a copy, plain and simple.

  • Anonymous

    He’s clearly angling for a shot at playing Rand Paul.

  • HamsterMasterSamster

    ‘Credit’ is irrelevant when you do not have permission to create a derivative work to begin with. Ugh. Nothing gets my goat more than when people invent their own copyright rules to suit themselves.

  • http://www.lawlessgentile.com/ Ali Miller

    I have long found Shia to be one of the most self-congratulatory, presumptuous asshats in Hollywood. So (a) this doesn’t surprise me one bit, and (b) I am perhaps too amused.

  • Rob Payne

    The only way for Shia to save face now is to make another short film where all the dialogue is copy/pasted from Yahoo! Answers with direct attribution superimposed on the screen after each line delivery. I’d pay to see that before Nymphomaniac, anyway.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    You just cracked this story wide open.

  • Christy

    Hmmm. He gave the Short of the Week website an interview before it was known that he plagiarized. (The site has since issued an update.) His words:

    “As I tried to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at me and the people I’ve worked with, a small script developed.”

    He literally says he DEVELOPED THE FREAKIN’ SCRIPT.

    What a loser.

    The sad thing is, Clowes might have actually given permission to use the source material and the movie would have been awesome.

  • http://www.commonplacebook.com electrasteph

    This isn’t the first time he’s cut and pasted someone elses’ writing, either. He did it on the weird email response / feud he had with Alec Baldwin a while back when he dropped out of doing a play with him.

  • Anonymous

    This just staggers belief. No one as immersed as in the film industry as he is could ever try to use the “whoopsie I don’t fully understand copyright”-defense. Did he honestly think no one would find out sooner or later? And what would he have had to lose to acknowledge the source in the first place?
    The man must be completely and utterly deranged.

  • Anonymous

    I suggest we rename him Shithead LaBeouf

  • Jen Rock

    For whatever reason, when I read the news of this on Buzzfeed last night, the film was not password protected, and I watched it. It is literally word for word Clowes’ writing, with maybe a few “and”s and “um”s changed. This isn’t producing an idea as new and different at all. But then again, he copy/pasted that phrasing, so yeah.

    I’m pretty sure LaBeouf went full Amanda Bines, only instead of cheek piercings and wigs, he is pathologically lying.

  • Anonymous

    Why is it that whenever someone has a beef with a celebrity they feel the need to implicitly trash their entire career with comments like “I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall.”

    Really? I mean, I’m not saying it is impossible. But the guy’s movies have grossed billions. You probably HAVE seen at least one. But more importantly: SO WHAT? There is no relevance.

    The same thing happens whenever a celebrity is talked about by a famous tv show or news person, or radio host, or something. The angry celeb acts like they have never heard of the person.

    It gets really absurd when the celeb is angry at someone like Howard Stern or Bill O’Reilly or anyone with that level of fame. You’ve NEVER heard of them? You’ve NEVER listened to their show even for a minute? LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE.

    And more importantly, that’s not relevant. You don’t need to try and diminish the person and their career to make your point. You just look petty.

    Rant over.

    Shame on you, Shia LaBeouf.

  • Alex Pieske

    really? I want to hear more…

  • http://www.commonplacebook.com electrasteph
  • Anonymous

    The really terrible thing about this is that in the long run he’s probably going to get away with it because he’s famous. :/

  • Anonymous

    I think you might be misinterpretting Daniel Clowes meaning when he said “I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall.” It’s POSSIBLE he’s saying, as you interepretted it, “… because they’re forgettable”, but I think what he means is, “I’ve never even seen one of his films as far as I remember.”

    And I see no reason to doubt that assertion – it IS possible, indeed widespread, for people not to have the kind of cultural knowledge with includes knowing who Shia LeBouf is. I can think of many people in my personal life who would struggle to place LaBouf mentally.

    You’re right that sometimes public figures who consider themselves ‘above all that’ might smugly claim not to have heard of their detractors. With Howard Stern or Bill Reilly I can believe that their supposed ignorance of the celeb in question is disingenuous: it’s a way of dismissing the views of that person.

    But it’s a mistake to assume everyone everywhere has the same cultural knowledge, and that because someone claims not to have knowledge you yourself find obvious they must be lying. For instance, I consider myself pretty engaged with (esp. geeky) culture and yet name come up all the time on TMS that I’ve never heard and yet everyone else seems to know about.

  • Bear TheDad

    “A man copies. A man pastes.” Awesome.

  • Miss Cephalopod

    Eh, I don’t know – I’ve never heard of Howard Stern, for example, and I think Bill O’Reilly is that really sexist talkshow dude…? Maybe…? The thing is, a lot of people come and talk on here and we don’t all come from the same places. We have different cultural backgrounds.
    Yes, it can definitely be said in a derogatory background. But it can also mean that the person simply can’t remember having seen a movie with him in it. I certainly can’t. I know that he was in the fourth Indiana Jones movie… I think? The kid, right? Or something. But I’m just not very educated when it comes to actors.

  • Fisty

    BABABOOEY! BABABOOEY!

  • Anonymous

    Shia LaBeouf films I can think of off the top of my head: Holes, Transformers, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Wall Street 2. None of which I’ve seen. It seems perfectly reasonable that Daniel Clowes wouldn’t have seen them either. If he’s referring to ones he’s directed… well, I can’t think of any.

    LaBeouf is mainly famous for being kind of a pretentious jerk and having “beef” in his name, so…

  • Anonymous

    lmao he’s so creative, he had to plagiarize even his non apology. Way to go, dude. I’m all for a long career for him on the creative side if that means we won’t get to see him as much… but I doubt it will happen now. Oh rats.

  • Penny Dreadful

    what a doucheclown.

  • Zachary Middleton

    I was going to go all “Oh, really?” on the whole “His films have made billions” statement and then I saw on IMDB that he was in Transformers. I totally forgot he was in those movies.

  • Jake Mertz

    As a current film student, and future director, all I have to say is…someone remind me never to work with Shia La Beouf.