Shia LaBeouf Accused of Plagiarism, Plagiarism of Plagiarism Apology

December 17, 2013


Ut oh, Mutt Williams, looks like you've found yourself in another scrap involving theft and a script's unfortunate faithfulness to someone else's ideas.

The whole thing began yesterday when Shia LaBeouf posted his 12-minute short,, online for the world to see how, just as the lowly car becomes a giant robot, a child star had become an auteur. Unfortunately, what was instead seen by some--most prominently, Buzzfeed--was a rip-off of indie comics star Daniel Clowes' Justin M. Damiano.

And it's not just that both and Justin M. Damiano tell near-identical tales of online film critics. Both open with the same shot of their chubby title star (in LaBeouf's case, Jim Gaffigan) in a darkened theater. More damningly, both also open with that star's voice-over saying, "A critic is a warrior, and each of us on the battlefield have the means to glorify or demolish (whether a film, a career, or an entire philosophy) by influencing perception in ways that if heartfelt and truthful, can have far-reaching repercussions." It's a pretty specific monologue to copy word-for-word by accident. Glaringly similar scenes continue on through the end.

Giving LaBeouf the benefit of the doubt--hey, maybe he, a self-confessed Clowes fan, somehow got permission to adapt Damiano without giving any credit at all to its author?--Buzzfeed contacted Clowes and his longtime editor, Eric Reynolds. But they didn't seem to know anything about LaBeouf's project. Reynolds called it "shameless theft," while Clowes elaborated:

"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. 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."

Of course, thanks to Twitter, it's no longer necessary to imagine what's going through a celebrity's mind. Now they'll just tell us, as ill-advised as that may be, and as such, we already have Even Stevens' apology spread across a handful of tweets.

"Copying isn't particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else's idea to produce something new and different IS creative work," wrote Holes. "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."

Seems a sincere apology, right? Except that apparently it might be a lifted monologue too.

They say that good artists copy, great artists steal, and it would appear that, having been caught copying, LaBeouf went searching for why he might not be a great artist. And by all evidence, what he found in his research was this Yahoo! Answers page on the subject, where someone named Lily says, "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." Which, hey, that's a lot like what Disturbia said!

Perhaps realizing he'd made yet another mistake, an hour later, LaBeouf added another thought on the matter, saying simply, "I fucked up."

Larry David was not credited.

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