It was only a matter of time before James Franco, the actor, writer and director who can sometimes treat his career as an ongoing performance piece, weighed in on the recent antics of Shia LaBeouf, who has recently taken a page out of Franco's playbook with a number of spectacles-cum-art-displays.
In an op-ed piece for the New York Times published on the paper's website Wednesday, Franco expresses concern for and support of the 27-year-actor, writing: "Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I'm inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct."
Franco recaps some of LaBeouf's eyebrow-raising actions, which include cribbing from graphic novelist Daniel Clowes and then apologizing with the words of others, wearing a paper bag that read "I am not famous anymore" to a red-carpet premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, and staging a Marina Abramovic-ish pop-up art show at a gallery in Los Angeles.
"This behavior," Franco writes, "could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. LaBeouf's sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona."
Franco enjoys toying with his own public persona, bouncing from mainstream films like "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Oz the Great and Powerful" to indie fare like "Spring Breakers" to obscure art house projects like "Interior. Leather Bar." and "As I Lay Dying." He even spoofed himself as a pretentious dilettante in "This Is the End" and played an artist/serial killer named Franco on the soap opera "General Hospital."
As he says in the op-ed, "Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona."
Of LaBeouf, he adds, without any nod to some of his own critics, "I think [his] project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist."