The scandal-ridden 36-year-old, who was raised Jewish, is set to portray Catholic saint Padre Pio — a 20th Century Franciscan Capuchin friar and mystic alleged to have the ability to communicate with angels and could heal the sick, among other claims — in an eponymous upcoming biopic directed by Abel Ferrara.
LaBeouf spoke of his newfound spiritual beliefs in an interview with Bishop Robert Barron — who himself has drawn scrutiny from both conservative and liberal Catholics for his controversial opinions, and whose Word on Fire Catholic Ministries was the subject of major scandal earlier this summer when former employees revealed the organization harbored a misogynistic environment and ignored numerous claims of sexual assault.
Noting that his actions, which span accusations of sexual assault and abuse against at least three women to arrests for battery and disorderly conduct, “led to serious infliction of pain and damage on other people,” LaBeouf stated he was thrown into a deep depression in recent years — particularly after his ex-girlfriend FKA Twigs filed a lawsuit against him for “relentless abuse.” (That case will go to trial next spring.) “I didn’t want to be alive anymore when all this happened,” he said of the lawsuit. “Shame like I had never experienced before — the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe. You don’t know where to go. You can’t go outside and get like, a taco.”
To prepare for his role as the titular Padre Pio, LaBeouf spent time at a Capuchin monastery, where he ultimately had his literal come-to-Jesus moment. “I started hearing experiences of other depraved people who had found their way in this, and it made me feel like I had permission,” the actor said of the Catholic faith. “I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him. Drawing me away from worldly desires.”
To those familiar with Catholicism, however, it’s unsurprising why the notably eccentric and troubled LaBeouf would find himself drawn to a religion built upon the foundations of shame, redemption, and elaborate rituals. The actor was raised primarily by his artist mother and has spent the last decade of his career constructing a variety of esoteric and ceremonial performance art pieces — many of which deal with the extremely Catholic virtues of humility, guilt and penance. But while Catholicism teaches that believers can find redemption for their misdeeds by saying a handful of Hail Marys and attending confession, it’s unlikely LaBeouf’s reputation and history of denying the physical abuse he cause will be absolved so easily by the general public.
News of LaBeouf’s conversion comes days after actress and director Olivia Wilde revealed the actor’s “combative energy” ultimately prompted her to fire LaBeouf from the lead role of her upcoming psychological thriller, Don’t Worry Darling. “His process was not conducive to the ethos that I demand in my productions,” Wilde told Variety in a recent interview. “I believe that creating a safe, trusting environment is the best way to get people to do their best work. Ultimately, my responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them. That was my job.” (Pop superstar — and Wilde’s now-boyfriend — Harry Styles would ultimately land the part.)