With the release of this month's American Honey, Shia LaBeouf is garnering arguably the best reviews of his career. The film, directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), stars LaBeouf as the makeshift leader of a band of magazine hawkers on a cross-country road trip. In a fresh cover story interview with Variety, LaBeouf opened up about the loose creative process behind American Honey, the well-publicized string of headlines-crashing incidents that inspired him to give up drinking for good, and being approached about hopping aboard the Suicide Squad train.
"One of the things we'd do as a group, we'd all go to the fucking tattoo shop," LaBeouf said of the shoot, which consisted of a 7-week road trip and daily pages of dialogue from Arnold. By the time production wrapped, LaBeouf was 12 tattoos richer. "I don't love Missy Elliott like I wanna get two Missy Elliott tattoos," LaBeouf said. "But you're in a tattoo parlor, and… peer pressure."
But LaBeouf isn't keen on the Oscar buzz surrounding his performance. "The Oscars are about politics," LaBeouf told Variety. "I gotta earn my way back. It's not about who is the best. I'm not that guy for a long time—for a long, long time. I'm good with that, though. Sometimes that shit is a curse."
Though LaBeouf is still less-than-thrilled about his work with Steven Spielberg, he's not entirely opposed to doing another movie with Transformers mastermind Michael Bay. "People don't realize how dope that dude is," LaBeouf said. "He's got to get a little ballsier with his movies. He's trying to toe the line and be James Cameron, but James Camerons are dying."
LaBeouf also revealed that he was approached about joining this year's ill-received Suicide Squad in a role that eventually went to Scott Eastwood, thus dodging the bullet:
"The character was different initially," LaBeouf says. "Then Will [Smith] came in, and the script changed a bit. That character and Tom [Hardy's] character [later played by Joel Kinnaman] got written down to build Will up." LaBeouf says the studio vetoed his casting. "I don't think Warner Bros. wanted me. I went in to meet, and they were like, 'Nah, you're crazy. You're a good actor, but not this one.' It was a big investment for them."
LaBeouf noted that he's been drink-free for nearly a year now and has attended AA meetings. "You don't touch it," LaBeouf said, noting that his initial attraction to drinking was spurred by a "post-modern fascination" with the embattled actors of generations gone by. "Alcohol or any of that shit will send you haywire. I can't fuck with none of it. I've got to keep my head low."