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Shia LaBeouf is at the center of a plagiarism controversy after graphic novelist Daniel Clowes has accused the star of borrowing shamelessly from his 2007 comic, Justin M. Damiano, for a short film directed by the Charlie Countryman star.
That film, Howard Cantour — which follows the inner dialogue of a disgruntled film critic — debuted last May at the Cannes Film Festival, where no one in attendance seemed to notice that the characters and dialogue had been lifted directly from Clowes’ panels. But when the film debuted online on Monday, the Internet was quick to take notice.
Jacqueline Cohen, director of publicity and promotions for Fantagraphics Books, Inc., Clowes’ publisher, calls the film “a complete rip-off” of Justin M. Damiano, and says Clowes was never approached by LaBeouf to authorize the work’s adaptation. “He had no knowledge that he had been plagiarized until today when the film was posted on Vimeo,” Cohen tells The Hollywood Reporter.
As word quickly spread of LaBeouf’s alleged intellectual property theft, due in part to a story on BuzzFeed, the short film was quickly blocked from view on Vimeo, its hosting site. BuzzFeed is hosting Howard Cantour, which stars Jim Gaffigan as a self-loathing film critic, in its entirety.
The website HowardCantour.com, built to promote the short film, went off-line for a period; it later reappeared, this time featuring a trailer for the film. “Even the trailer uses words from the Justin M. Damiano comic,” Cohen says.
LaBeouf’s admiration of Clowes’ work, which has been adapted into films like Ghost World (1997) and Art School Confidential (2006), has been documented before. The star of the upcoming Nymphomaniac has been accused of plagiarism in the past, having pasted unattributed sections of an Esquire article into an email he sent Alec Baldwin when the two clashed during rehearsals on the Broadway play Orphans.
LaBeouf could not be reached for comment.
UPDATE: LaBeouf has apologized on Twitter for the controversy, writing in a series of tweets that his “excitement and naivete” led him to forget to “follow proper accreditation.”
His full statement follows:
“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.”
An excerpt from Justin M. Damiano, courtesy of Fantagraphics Books, Inc.:
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