Venice: Shia LaBeouf Calls 'Man Down' Role a "Healing" Therapy

“I do much better with loving, familial environments,” said LaBeouf.

In Dito Montiel’s latest film Man Down, Shia LaBeouf plays a U.S. Marine, Gabriel Drummer, discharged after a catastrophic error in Afghanistan scars him with PTSD. Gary Oldman plays a military psychiatrist who helps him to unravel what went wrong. Upon his return to the U.S., he finds his country reduced to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and must find his wife (Kate Mara) and son (Charlie Shotwell) amongst the rubble.

Nearly a decade has passed since LaBeouf teamed up with Montiel for the autobiographical film A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and they were thrilled to find a project to reunite on. “My friend is the greatest actor out there, in my opinion,” said Montiel of LaBeouf, before joking, “This turns into a big kiss-ass festival. But I don't mean it to be. I wouldn’t be here feeling like this if it weren't honest.”

And on reteaming with Montiel, LaBeouf said, “We worked together 10 years ago, and that was my favorite thing that I had ever personally worked on in my life up until this film. He’s a great support structure and system. He knows how I work. He knows which buttons to push.”

“This script landed on his lap at just the right time, and he came to my house when I was at a really low place and offered it to me like therapy, like, 'Here’s a healing process where we can jump into together and get well,' " said LaBeouf. "It wasn’t like, 'Hey, jump on this job,' or 'Jump into this movie.' It felt like we were going to grow up."

“This is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever worked on, emotionally, with anyone, which is why I had to do it with him,” he continued. “I needed a friend — otherwise, you can’t get this vulnerable.”

And the lovefest was only beginning. “In my opinion, he’s the greatest actor alive,” said LaBeouf of his co-star Oldman, after working with him on Lawless. “He’s my hero. I love him. I’ll do anything he tells me. I follow him around like a weirdo. He’s kind of distant and murky, like a superhero figure. One of the greatest moments of my life was being in a room with him.”

Describing the film, Montiel said, “It felt like a little movie pretending to be a big movie, and that kind of really excited me. At the end of the day, it’s just a human story.”

“This film is far more Kramer vs. Kramer than it is a war film,” agreed LaBeouf. “I never read it like a war film.”

LaBeouf has been lauded in Venice for taking the role to such depths, expressing a huge range of emotions for the part. When asked how he felt going into the darker parts of the film role, and how he dealt with these emotions, he replied, “Suicidal. You try your hardest, you know? You jump onto some other train of thought, or some other passion, or fall in love with another creative process and sort of find yourself somewhere else.”

On how he’s changed since A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, La Beouf replied, “It’s the first and last time, every time I go to work. Not a whole lot has changed. I’ve calmed down a little bit.”

He was quite tightlipped about discussing his next project, American Honey, directed by Academy Award winner Andrea Arnold: “I just finished with Andrea and, yup.”

“I think for a while I was chasing the ‘10 List’ — the 10 directors you want to work with,” he said. “That didn’t fare well for me. I do much better with loving, familial environments, where you feel like you can fail, and the dude will get you on the other side.”

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