“Actors have been lashing out against their profession and its grip on their public images since at least Marlon Brando,” James Franco remarks in a 2.19 N.Y. Times Op-Ed. “Brando’s performances revolutionized American acting precisely because he didn’t seem to be ‘performing,’ in the sense that he wasn’t putting something on as much as he was being,” he states. This is precisely what Brando seems to be doing during this lightly absurd 1965 press conference for Bernhard Wicki‘s Morituri, a World War II thriller made during Brando’s ten-year stinker phase (which wouldn’t end until The Godfather). Brando has obviously decided not to sell but to “be.”
The point of Franco’s piece is to empathize with Shia LaBeouf, or to find a certain rhyme and reason behind LaBeouf’s recent meltdown that happened due to his admitted plagiarism re HowardCantour.com. “This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness,” Franco states. “For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope…that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.”
Brando’s “I’m not playing this phony game” attitude and LaBeouf’s “I Am Not Famous Anymore” paper-bag performance at the Berlinale were attempts to break through the bullshit. The difference is that Brando was expressing a vague sense of self-loathing over his taking part in a charade while LaBeouf has been performing a kind of public penance over his admission that his short film having was liberally borrowed from Daniel Clowes‘ Justin M. Damiano.