Should Shia LaBeouf keep his mouth shut about 'Indiana Jones'?
In recent days, Hollywood has been in a tizzy over one of those earth-shaking issues that frequently set off four-alarm fires all across the movie industry: Should actors who took a lot of dough to star in a cruddy sequel be punished if they turn around and talk openly about what a lousy experience it was?
The debate erupted the other day when news surfaced that Megan Fox had been dumped from the upcoming "Transformers 3" after she slammed the film's director, Michael Bay, having recently said of the director that "he wants to be like Hitler." Now Shia LaBeouf is getting heat for acknowledging that Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was a snooze, having said (in the course of promoting his new sequel, "Wall Street 2," in Cannes) that "when you drop the ball, you drop the ball. You can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven. I'll probably get a call. But he needs to hear this."
You'd think that LaBeouf (who was also in "Transformers 2" with Fox) would be deluged with e-mails and giant bouquets of flowers for having the temerity to tell the truth. As anyone who sat through "Indiana Jones" in a theater could tell you, it was a bust, not to mention one of the worst movies of Spielberg's career, an all-too-cynical attempt to go back to the well one more time to revive a franchise that should've been left in the deep freeze.
But only in Hollywood is truth telling considered heresy. Instead of being congratulated for his honesty, LaBeouf got a stern lecture from Michael Fleming at Nikki Finke's Deadline, who seems to have forgotten that he's now working for the supposedly fiercely independent Finke instead of the industry apologists at Variety (his former employer). Fleming hewed the studio party line, echoing the sentiments of the usual coterie of unnamed executives who complained that LaBeouf was being "disrespectful" for saying what audiences had learned long ago: The movie was a stinker.
Noting that actors like Fox and LaBeouf are overpaid to star in silly summer movies, Fleming wrote that "What they're not supposed to do in return for that all that moolah is trash those hits and their directors." He added that a host of Hollywood suits believe that "LaBeouf's comments could potentially hurt his career," adding that "violating Hollywood protocol is a dangerous game to play. Megan learned that today. Will Shia learn it tomorrow?"
So let's see if we can get this straight. Hollywood actors are celebrated when they oppose the war in Iraq or bash George Bush, they are encouraged to lobby Congress for a thousand different pet causes and given awards for supporting free speech, but when they dare to say that some lackluster sequel was a dud or that Michael Bay is a tyrant on his film set, they are sent to the woodshed, accused of being disrespectful and told their careers could be in jeopardy. And just to add to the hypocrisy, the criticism comes from Finke's Deadline website, which has made its living hurling tons of napalm-like inflammatory invective at many of those same titans of the industry.
Megan Fox may be an airhead and Shia LaBeouf may be a lightweight, but when it comes to speaking the truth, they deserve credit for having far more bracing honesty than most of the suck-ups who rule the business. Only in Hollywood is calling a lousy movie a lousy movie considered an act of sedition.
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Photo: Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf at the German premiere of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" last year. Credit: Maya Hitij / Associated Press