If you look at the plot of Shia La Bouef’s short film Howard Cantour, it sounds exactly like Daniel Clowes’s short comic Justin M. Damiano, which appeared in Zadie Smith’s Anthology of Short FIction, The Book of Other People. La Beouf:
Jim Gaffigan gives a perfect deadpan performance as movie critic “Howard Cantour”, spending his time flirting with freelancer cutie Dakota, played by Portia Doubleday. The film actually says some great things about cinema, but also does a nice job making fun of the movie critic world. That said, it’s actually quite well done without being too condescending and an enjoyable watch. Have fun.
“The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf,” Clowes told BuzzFeed. “I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visual LaBeoufs from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”
According to sources close to the situation, everyone at Fantagraphics is hopping mad at what seems to be outright idea theft.
LaBeouf’s camp hasn’t responded, although the film has been made pass-word protected for now. It isn’t the first time LaBeouf has been accused of plagiarism—an angry letter to Alec Baldwin over their Broadway appearance in Orphans LaBeouf leaked to the press was found to have been lifted from Esquire.
LaBeouf is a known indie comics fan, who has been flirting with the medium over the last few years.
Update: Howard Cantour is apparently a word for word adaptation of the comic, with the same opening monolog, and the blonde woman’s same observations to the critic:
Both stories then switch to a scene wherein the titular critic discusses a film with a freelance critic he dislikes, who asks whether he’s attending a junket where the director will be present. In Clowes’, the freelance critic explains that the director “so perfectly gets how we’re really all like these aliens who can never have any meaningful contact with each other because we’re all so caught up in our own little self-made realities, you know?” In LaBeouf’s short, she says the director “so perfectly gets how we’re all like these aliens to one another, who never have any meaningful contact with one another because we’re all so caught up in our little self-made realities, you know?”
The film, which has been generally praised as a strong directorial debut for LaBeouf, doesn’t have a listed screenwriter. However, in past interviews, the actor claims he came up with it “organically.”
However, late tonight, Labeouf tweeted a mea culpa and an apology:
Some might call it naivete hthat gripped Labeouf, but there might be some financial restitution coming, as well.
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Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.