Shia LaBeouf recently posted a 10-minute short film starring Jim Gaffigan and Thomas Lennon, called “HowardCantour.com.” It starred Gaffigan as a sort of Ignatius J. Reilly character, an online film critic named Howard Cantour with a delusionally inflated sense of his own importance. Sure, it was sort of a diss against online film critics like myself, but I’ve often described my colleagues in similar terms, and overall it was pretty well done. I’d just finished watching it and was all set to say so – with the headline “Shia LaBeouf Made a Short Film about Film Critics… And It’s Kinda Good?” – when the LaBeouf video suddenly went offline.
It turns out the LaBeouf short was a beat-for-beat, almost word-for-word ripoff of a 2007 comic strip called “Justin M. Damiano” by Daniel Clowes (hat tip to Jen Yamato at Deadline for that find). And LaBeouf didn’t credit it.
Nowhere in the promotion for or credits of the film does LaBeouf mention the Clowes comic; Eric Reynolds, longtime editor of Daniel Clowes’ comics and associate publisher at Fantagraphics, called the film “shameless theft!”
“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,” Clowes 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.” [Buzzfeed]
There can be no doubt about the theft, unless you believe that two people could’ve independently dreamed up passages like “I believe in the transformative power of cinema. It is only through this shared dream-experience that we can transcend the oppressive minutiae of daily existence and find some spiritual connection in the deeper reality of our mutual desire.”
Since taking the video offline, Labeouf hasn’t said a word about the video via his website or verified Twitter account, this despite spending all day retweeting film sites’ coverage of it. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he took the video offline so that he could properly credit the source, and maybe just forgot in the first place, but his silence on the matter does make you wonder.
Was he really dumb enough to believe that he could just change the name in a comic strip and pass it off as his own and no one would notice? (It wouldn’t be the first time he was caught plagiarizing something). I’m expecting official comment from LaBeouf any minute now. All I know is that if he indeed made a professionally produced, 10-minute short as a diatribe against film writers, only to get caught in the act of plagiarizing by those same film writers on the day it was released, that would be a public relations f*ck up for the ages.
You can still watch the trailer for the film here. The Dan Clowes comic is here. It’s a real shame that LaBeouf seems to have chosen to plagiarize. Why bother, when we know LaBeouf himself is capable of such ruminations as:
“POETS BORE ME,
THEY ARE SLUTS.
SNIPPETS OF DUST
IN A CHEAP WIND.”
My God, if it came out that Shia LaBeouf’s own self-published comic book, Let’s F*cking Party, was plagiarized, I don’t know if I could ever believe again.
UPDATE 1: Shia has apologized, saying “I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation.”
UPDATE 2: Turns out he actually plagiarized part of his apology from Yahoo Answers. Guy’s having a pretty bad day, it seems.