In an interview with Bishop Robert Barron, actor Shia LaBeouf reveals that he has converted to Catholicism.
In the interview, the star of forty films admitted to Barron that, “My life was on fire. I was walking out of hell. … I didn’t want to be an actor anymore and my life was a complete mess. I’d hurt a lot of people … I’ve been abusive to women and have been shooting dogs and I’ve been willingly giving women STDs. It’s disgusting, it’s depraved, and my mother is embarrassed beyond all imagination.”
It had become so dismal for LeBeouf that he contemplated suicide. “I had a gun on the table.” LeBeouf told Bishop Barron. “I didn’t want to be alive anymore. … [There was] shame like I had never experienced before, the kind of shame where you forget how to breathe.” At this point, director Abel Ferrara, who was part of a self-help group to which LeBeouf also belonged, asked him if he had ever heard of Padre Pio. LeBeouf had not, and Ferrara asked him then if he would be interested in portraying the saint in a movie. LeBeouf said at this point in his career he was “nuclear,” meaning no one was willing to work with him, so he grabbed the opportunity.
To prepare for the role, LeBeouf spent time with the Capuchins at San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, California. He also took catechism classes from a religious sister. He became captivated by the Latin Mass, which Padre Pio celebrated, and which LeBeouf had to learn how to “celebrate” in order to portray Saint Pio. In all of this preparation for the movie and in the acting out of Saint Pio’s life, LeBeouf found a peace and also hope for forgiveness and reform of his life.
Shia LeBeouf has led a troubled life. According to an article in National Catholic Register LeBeouf “battled with alcohol addiction, plagiarized a script, was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, criminal trespass, public intoxication, obstruction, battery and theft, and was accused by one girlfriend of physical abuse and by another of sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.” He is being sued by his former girlfriend, FKA Twigs, an English singer-songwriter, for sexual battery, including knowingly infecting her with an STD. Discussing his abuse in a podcast, LeBeouf didn’t hold back on owning up to his destructive and hurtful behavior. “I hurt that woman,” LaBeouf said, “And in the process of doing that, I hurt many other people, and many other people before that woman. I was a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-centered, dishonest, inconsiderate, fearful human being.” LeBeouf actually credits FKA Twigs with saving his life. “Had she not intervened in my life,” he says, “and not created the avenue for me to experience ego death, I’d either have a really mediocre existence or I’d be dead in full.”
LeBeouf spoke in his interview with Bishop Barron of the example of Capuchin Brother Jim Townsend. Townsend was a con man who murdered his pregnant wife and spent 20 years in prison. He converted to Catholicism and spent 39 years as a Capuchin. LeBeouf said he felt that, if such a man could live a life of faith, then there was hope for him, too.
We can rejoice in LeBeouf’s conversion, in his newfound hope, and in his desire to live for Christ as well as his recognition of the hurt he has caused so many. At the same time, LeBeouf still needs to be held accountable for the abuse he has inflicted on others, abuse he admits too and seems ready to face the consequences for. If this means time incarcerated, LeBeouf can invest that time in learning more about the faith and living the faith under the most trying of circumstances. There is mercy for all. The world may not be willing to forgive LeBeouf. The world is too willing to divide society up into villains and victims, where there is no redemption for villains and no restoration for victims. But that is not the way of Christ. In Christ there is new life, for both villains and victims. In truth, we are all a bit of both.
Let’s pray for Shia LaBeouf that his newfound faith will continue to grow and bring him peace and comfort and a new outlook on life, as well as true redemption in Christ. Let’s pray for that for all of us.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.