Shia LaBeouf refutes "Don't Worry Darling" firing claims, says he "quit" – and found God

The actor, who stars as a saint in "Padre Pio," denies Olivia Wilde's narrative about why he exited her film

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published August 26, 2022 6:05PM (EDT)

Shia LaBeouf (Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images)
Shia LaBeouf (Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images)

The behind-the-scenes "Don't Worry Darling" buzz continues apace, and this time Shia LaBeouf is weighing in.

The "Transformers" actor has refuted claims that he was fired from "Don't Worry Darling" and allegedly he has the receipts. LaBeouf was originally going to play the role of Jack, before it was recast with musician-turned-actor Harry Styles.

In the upcoming Olivia Wilde-directed psychological thriller, set in the 1950s, Jack and his wife Alice (Florence Pugh) move to company town Victory, California – a picture-perfect place full of Jack's peers and their wives. When Alice becomes curious about Jack's project and begins to snoop around, tensions rise as she realizes that their idyllic life is not what it seems.

The rather challenging material – both physical and emotional – that Pugh would have to tackle is why Wilde intimated that she had decided to let LaBeouf go in the first place.

In a Variety cover interview to promote the film, Wilde said, "I say this as someone who is such an admirer of [LaBeouf's] work. His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions. He has a process that, in some ways, seems to require a combative energy, and I don't personally believe that is conducive to the best performances. I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work."

Wilde added, "For our film, what we really needed was an energy that was incredibly supportive. Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported."

Variety categorized the dismissal of LaBeouf as Wilde's decision.

LaBeouf's side of the story

It's that narrative that prompted LaBeouf to speak up. He emailed Variety Thursday and claimed he was not fired from "Don't Worry Darling" but instead on August 17, 2020 he "quit the film due to lack of rehearsal time." LaBeouf also reportedly forwarded the trade publication two emails that he had sent Wilde after the cover story came out, in which he writes, "You and I both know the reasons for my exit. I quit your film because your actors and I couldn't find time to rehearse."

LaBeouf also sent Variety a series of screenshots of text messages he allegedly sent to Wilde and ones he claims to have received from the director. In the text messages, the two appear to be going back and forth as to whether or not he is going to take the film role. According to Variety, in one text message allegedly sent by the director after the two had met in person to discuss the film, Wilde wrote, "I'm gutted because it could have been something special. I want to make clear how much it means to me that you trust me. That's a gift I'll take with me."

In his letter allegedly sent to Wilde, which Variety published in full, LaBeouf wrote, "Firing me never took place, Olivia. And while I fully understand the attractiveness of pushing that story because of the current social landscape, the social currency that brings. It is not the truth. So I am humbly asking, as a person with an eye toward making things right, that you correct the narrative as best you can."

Meanwhile, LaBeouf is currently involved in a lawsuit. His former partner, musician FKA twigs, is suing him over claims of sexual battery, assault and inflicting emotional distress. The trial date is set for the spring of 2023. 

News of the lawsuit came out shortly after LaBeouf departed "Don't Worry Darling." The following month, LaBeouf left his agency and entered an inpatient facility for treatment of an unknown origin, though he later alluded to alcohol abuse issues.

The actor has a history of emailing news publications; when the lawsuit became public, LaBeouf emailed The New York Times, who broke the lawsuit story, and wrote, "I'm not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel. I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I'm ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt."

It appears that these developments may have affected Wilde, who told Variety, "A lot came to light after this happened that really troubled me, in terms of his behavior. I find myself just really wishing him health and evolution because I believe in restorative justice."

LaBeouf finds God

After taking a hiatus from acting in 2020, LaBeouf is acting again. He's been making the rounds promoting his upcoming film, the Italian-German biographical drama "Padre Pio" by Abel Ferrara ("The Bad Lieutenant"). The actor stars as the real-life priest who was known for exhibiting stigmata and was subsequently beatified and canonized by Pope John Paul II. Watch an exclusive trailer, via Variety.

During the course of filming the movie, LaBeouf converted to Catholicism, as he explained to Bishop Robert Barron in a lengthy YouTube interview. LaBeouf described his recent experiences, including the lawsuit, as a wake-up call.

"I didn't want to be alive anymore when all of this happened," he said. "Shame like I had never experienced before — the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe. You don't know where to go. You can't go outside and get like, a taco, you don't want to go anywhere. But I was also in this deep desire to hold on."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

For the film, LaBeouf — who famously claims to have an intense, possibly destructive acting process — was asked by the director to research, including spending time at a Catholic seminary, where he started to read the Bible. "I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him," LaBeouf said. "Drawing me away from worldly desires."

Both "Don't Worry Darling" and "Padre Pio" will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

MORE FROM Alison Stine

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abuse Aggregate Don't Worry Darling Movies Olivia Wilde Padre Pio Shia Labeouf