You know how your mom told you never to put anything in an e-mail that you didn’t want the whole world to read? Shia LaBeouf has proved her right by publishing e-mails to and from his former Orphans co-stars Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge and director Daniel Sullivan. As previously reported, LaBeouf departed the forthcoming Broadway revival of Lyle Kessler’s drama on February 20, with a press release citing “creative differences.” No replacement has been announced in a production that is set to begin previews on March 19 at the Schoenfeld Theatre.
The first stirrings of trouble may have been suggested by a LaBeouf tweet on February 18 saying that he had “put my hand thru the door at rehearsals. Then apologized to our playwright - this was his response. Lesson? PACE.” By February 20, news broke that LaBeouf was out. The actor then posted the text of a long and cryptic e-mail he sent on February 19 to Sullivan, Baldwin, Sturridge, Kessler and producers Fred Zollo and Robert Cole.
“My dad was a drug dealer,” LaBeouf began. “He was a shit human. But he was a man. He taught me how to be a man. What I know of men Alec is - A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job. A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, from your posture. A man infers." The note continues in this vein for eight more lines, ending, “He can tell you when he is lost. He can apologize, even if sometimes it’s just to put an end to the bickering. Alec, I’m sorry for my part of a disagreeable situation.” [LaBeouf's musings on what makes a man seem to be lifted from a 2009 Esquire essay]
Tony winner Sullivan, one of the theater’s most respected directors and someone with plenty of experience wrangling macho actors (see: Glengarry Glen Ross), replied to LaBeouf on February 19, “I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it. This one will haunt me. You tried to warn me. You said you were a different breed. I didn’t get it.”
LaBeouf returned to Twitter to post an e-mail he received from Baldwin on the afternoon of February 20: “SL. I’ve been through this before. It’s been a while. And perhaps some of the particulars are different. But it comes down to the fact that what we all do now is critical. Perhaps especially for you. When the change comes, how do we handle it, whether it be good or bad? What do we learn? I don’t have an unkind word to say about you. You have my word. AB.”
Nine minutes later, LaBeouf wrote back to Baldwin, “Same. Be well. Good luck on the play. You’ll be great.”
On the sidelines of all this rehearsal drama? Tom Sturridge, the rising British movie star who picked Orphans as his New York theatrical debut. LaBeouf posted an e-mail from him, too, written on the evening of February 20, which was both friendly and confused: “I don’t understand what has happened here. Maybe you have had a more enlightening conversation with someone by now. All I can say is that it was an honour to work with you even if it was only for a few days. I was stunned by the work you were doing, the performance you were giving. I think you lifted the play to a place higher than maybe it even deserved to be. I hope this isn’t the last time we work together and I especially hope it isn’t the last time we see each other. Hope you’re ok brother.”
LaBeouf, obviously touched by Sturridge’s note, posted on Twitter, “Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance. Tom = good dude – good actor.”
Both Baldwin and LaBeouf have been involved in anger-related incidents that have made headlines. Most recently, the 30 Rock star denied charges of racism resulting from a February 17 confrontation with photographers outside his Manhattan apartment. (His pregnant wife, Hilaria, defended him for facing down paparazzi while making a food run for her.) In 2006, Jan Maxwell abruptly departed an off-Broadway revival of Entertaining Mr. Sloane after an incident involving Baldwin's reponse to a faulty air conditioner. LaBeouf has also had run-ins with the law, most seriously after a 2008 car crash that resulted in serious hand surgery.
As part of his Broadway-related Twitter thread, LaBeouf posted the video below, which he called, "ORPHANS - AUDITION."