– [Josh] I always gauge
how you’re doing buddy by the amount of facial
hair that you have. – Oh yeah? – [Josh] And by this standard, you’ve got it all together. – Yeah.
– You’re a clean cut Shia. – [Shia] No, not yet. I was gonna shave this morning but then I figured nah I can’t do it. – A little bit of– – Just wanted to add a little
texture to the interview. – Yeah.
– Just wanna add a little texture. (laughing) – [Josh] You know I love you. I love what you’ve
– Same. – Done with your life, buddy.
– Hey thank you for being here.
– No, it’s my pleasure man. – Yeah.
– Well where are we first of all, talk to us.
– Okay so we’re at the Slauson Rec Center. We’re in the pueblos or the low bottoms. You’re in the heart of
probably the most marginalized area in Los Angeles.
– Right. – [Shia] That’s part of
what brought us down here. You’ll meet my boy Bobby later but we were making a movie
called ‘Tax Collector.’ Shooting the shit, chopping it up, talking about what our
dreams were as little kids. He’d always dreamed of
having a theater program. We met some guys who were
from this neighborhood. A guy named Bone Sloan,
another guy named Bojangles. Bow Wow, a couple other people who sort of run this neighborhood
and are here every day. They said how can you be
a service to this area? I only really know how to do one thing. And so me and Bobby came down here, sort of built this thing up,
and it’s been flourishing for the last ten months. – Slauson Rec Theater Company. – Yes sir.
– And you’ve said somewhere all we’re trying to do
is just change the world. Basically, so how can something
like this change the planet? – Basically we’re trying
to extend the playground. It’s small, simple things
that’ll change the world, right? Around here you don’t have
a lot of existential time in general.
– Right. – Right, so what we’re trying to do–
– Life is simple in a way, right? – Yeah, it’s basically survival out here.
– Yeah, exactly. – There’s no time for how do I feel, what do I think, at all. So you don’t wind up with a lot of creative outlets, period. You have a lot of
meritocracy in the sports and what not but you don’t have a lot of, how do I feel, what do I think at all. – [Josh] So every Saturday you’re here. – [Shia] Yes. – [Josh] It’s a five-hour
class, anybody’s welcome? Non-actors welcome? – Everybody’s welcome. Bow Wow’s in our class,
nine-thirty to two thirty. – Yeah.
– You have actors, you have non-actors, you have,
it runs the gamut really. – Yeah.
– I mean we’re sitting on their domino table, right? So (laughing). We’re in their area. It’s his area, it’s his
area, it’s not my area. I’m a visitor here.
– Right. – [Shia] White people don’t
come down here in general. – Right.
– So in a way we’re tryna level the playing field a bit and bring people like James
Cameron into the class. – He’s been here?
– Yeah, Tim Robbins, people like that are like, they support our thing. They come in here, they teach a class, the head coach of the New
York Knicks was in here. We’ve been mixing it up.
– Right. – Celebrity chefs, Cash
was in here yesterday. Musicians, Thundercat, Cudi. Everybody’s been down here so it’s, we’re building, we’re trying
to build a cultural hub. – Right.
– A place that where we can sprout out from. And so we’ve been building devised theater in that rec center right there. And things have been
really beautiful so far. – Yeah, when I see on Twitter
people like James Cameron, and Kim Kardashian West both tweeting about it.
– Crazy. – You’re running the gamut efficiently.
– Yeah, yeah, high and low, low and high, in all ways. And I feel like that was always the goal. – Yeah.
– The fact that it’s coming to fruition and is
actualized now is insane. – So what are the tenets of
what you’re trying to teach in there and what does that derive from? A popular man in the neighborhood, I know. – Well people run this spot,
you gotta kiss the ring. – Yeah, yeah. – There’s a book called ‘Moment Work.’ – Right. – And Moisés Kaufman wrote
this book on devised theater. These are the guys who
wrote Laramie Project and other things. And the way they did it was they basically diverted wholly from
the way theater’s been being produced for generations. Which is old, white men
in a room writing a play for everyone else.
– Right. – And so we wanted to get away from that. That was where it started, really. And then we found a book
that sort of spoke to that sensibility, which
is this Moisés Kaufman ‘Moment Work’ book. Devised theater is essentially
where the players write the work instead of the
writer writing the work. You don’t have actors, directors, writers, you have moment makers.
– Right. – So it’s quite egalitarian. And it’s very democratic. And so in a way we’re trying to mimic some utopian society in here and that has it’s, you
know, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. – But everyone’s got a story to tell and everyone brings their story. – And everyone has a say. – Right.
– Yeah. So I don’t get to say, oh
it’s gonna be this way week, we all kind of vote. – Yeah.
– Which is why it’s taken so long for us to
build ten minutes of work. – Yeah.
– It’s taken us ten months to build ten minutes, a
month a minute pretty much. – [Josh] Where were you
at when this came around? Did you need this as much as you think the community needs this?
– I also need friends, man. I’m lonely as (bleep). So part of me was like, yes
I wanted to build this thing but it was also me and Bobby
fell in love with each other, the dude became my best friend. And then we sort of clicked up on, well what do we want to do
after this movie’s over? – Right.
– And both of us are in love with this craft and
wanted to share the craft with people who don’t have it. I’m from a different part
of Los Angeles than Bobby, Bobby’s from South
Central, I’m from Echo Park before it was cute. And we never had opportunities. Boys and Girls Club, YMCA was
the first outlets we ever had. – Right.
– We couldn’t afford to go to Strasberg Stanislavski school. There was no college on the agenda. – Right.
– I knew at ten years old I wasn’t going to school. That’s why I became an actor. ‘Cause you need to hustle
now ’cause we’re broke. And most everybody in my
class is from the same kind of upbringing.
– Yeah. – And we’re trying to
impart some of the luck and wisdom that we’ve
received over the time that we’ve been doing this on the people who were
involved in our group. – [Josh] June 29th is a
big day coming up for you. – Huge, yeah.
– ‘Cause you guys are gonna throw a little party.
– Uh huh. – To help the cause here.
– Yes. – Who’s gonna be there, what’s going down? – Okay so we’re having a big fundraiser. Sort of a benefit concert. It’s gonna be YG, Jaden Smith, Vic Mensa. Kamaiyah, Baby Keem, David Blaine. Baths, Kaash, Slayyyter. Nao Bustamante, these are
people who are in museums. We’re doing like a five minute preview. Elijah Daniel will be there. There’s gonna be, Shlohmo will be DJing. It’s gonna be a good
night for a good thing. – Where do you go back to
with, you worked with Will. Where do you go back to with Jaden? – Well I’ve known Jaden
since before he was ever doing the entertainment thing. – Yeah.
– I knew Jaden when we were playing ‘Sonic the Hedgehog.’ (Josh laughing) In his dad’s trailer. I didn’t even really give
a (bleep) about acting at that time.
– Right. – I was just grinding. I cared about Will Smith at that time. – Right.
– I didn’t care about acting, the craft. And then Will’s always been
a really good dude to me, calls me up every time a movie comes out, always wishes me well. He’s just always been a
shepard in my corner from afar without ever tootin’ the horn in public. – Right.
– He’s just always been there for me, every time I (bleep) up or get in trouble, he’s
always been there for me. – Right.
– Jaden’s just sort of always showed up every time that I’ve done something publicly. So all these public performance artists, things that I’ve done
with Luke and Nastja, he’s always showed up and supported. We’ve been in touch that way and then I’ve been watching him float and rise to the top and grab ahold of his craft and become some kind of little maestro. – Yeah.
– He knows a lot of the same people that I know and we just sort of been
piggybacking off each other for a while. He was the first artist in, and then from Jaden really came a lot of these other artists. – Yeah.
– ‘Cause he’s poppin’ right now and his album’s
coming out on the 28th. – I just wanna eavesdrop on
some of your conversations. I feel like that’s next
level that I’m not even ready for.
– It’s existential as this gets.
– Yeah. – Yeah but we’re blessed
in that we’re able to be existential ’cause
none of us are like, thinking about how am I gonna eat today. – Right.
– You know what I mean? – Right.
– Yeah. – Talk to me a little bit about, since we’ve been talking
for so many years, I wanna name a project or a person, you tell me sort of how that
has informed your process to where you are now in your life, okay? Let’s go all the way
back, ‘Evens Stevens.’ – Okay.
– Does anything in that apply to your life, your approach to the craft to the Shia I see sitting here today. – That’s when cameras disappear. That’s when, there’s like
a thing we doing here. You put your hand out, right? Do this with me.
– Okay. – Put your hand out, you’re
looking at your hand. – Yeah.
– And then make the background disappear. You can focus enough on the hand to where everything else sort of disappears. It’s supreme focus and then
you can zoom out on the hand and then I can see you. You start playing with
your focus that way. I don’t know if that’s a good analogy of what ‘Even Stevens’
gave me but it freed me up in front of cameras. – Yeah.
– It took away the fear of being in front of a camera. It made a camera my friend. It was like recess, it
was like a playground. It was really like a sandbox
and we had a great time. I had a really, I had a great time. – Nothing but love for–
– Nothing but love. Also I got to meet my father again. My dad was in jail, got out of jail. We weren’t spending a
lot of time together. And then when he got out of jail we moved in a motel in Playa del Rey next to the Fox Hills Mall. And we’re living there for four years, and that’s how I got to know my dad. – Wow.
– So it was like rent a dad, which is really
what ‘Honey Boy’ is about. – Well let’s jump to that
since you mention it. That one was very well received,
to say the least, recently. In Sundance. You wrote that one, you star in that one as a version of your own dad. – Yeah. – What do you get out of an
experience like that, man? That’s trippy, that’s (laughs)
– Yeah, it saved my life. They were throwing dirt on my back. – Yeah.
– Yeah. It saved me. – [Josh] You wrote it,
you were in therapy. You were in rehab.
– Yeah, yeah. Yeah and worse than that, yeah. That’s a cute way of
saying where I was at. I was totally bull(bleep) lost. And quite apathetic to my
whole craft and my life. – [Josh] Yeah. – And walked in to
therapy with Sam Shepard. Sam Shepard plays and Sam
Shepard had just died. I hadn’t talked to my dad
in somethin’ like six years. And I had no creative friends. Really, like, bottom barrel for me. Which is what I needed. – Yeah.
– I wasn’t gonna stop doing what I was doing
until that happened to me. Some people are just really stubborn. I’m one of those. – Would you let, if you
have kids, would you ever let your kids get into this business? – Aw man, no telling. I know that it’s been the
most consistent relationship I’ve had with anything in my whole life. It’s been nothing but blessings for me. You hear these horror stories
of people in Hollywood. It’s never been that way for me, Hollywood’s always saved
me from the other stuff. – That’s the way, yeah?
– Yeah. I never had none of the
weird tricky (bleep). – Right.
– Never. – It sounds insane to go back to this now, but let me go back to the
career really quickly. So we covered ‘Even Stevens,’ we did it. – Yeah.
– ‘Holes.’ What do you get out of ‘Holes?’ – Oh ‘Holes.’
– There’s so much love for ‘Holes’ still.
– Yeah. They all come into this
class, I’m still friends with these people. – They’ve been coming,
some of your costars from that one?
– Yeah Byron, Byron who’s in the movie
is from this neighborhood. He’s from the Pueblos. So he comes in here Saturdays. So I know a lot of them still. I still see all these people all the time. – What about the man
that’s ruling the universe right now, Keanu Reeves is taking over the planet right now.
– Yeah, yeah good man. – Did you learn something from Keanu? – That being a good dude pays off. – Yeah.
– Yeah, he’s one of the real good ones.
– He is. – He’s just a mensch.
– No one has ever had a bad word.
– Nah. And if they do you gotta question them. – Yeah.
– ‘Cause he’s really a sweet soul man.
– Right. – And he’s like due, for a while. – Yep.
– Yeah. – [Josh] The Spielberg
years, I’ll call ’em that. – Yes.
– You know ‘Transformers.’ – Yes.
– ‘Indiana Jones.’ – Yes.
– Dipping your toe into that world, well dipping
your toe, living that life for a few years.
– Yes. – [Josh] You’ve been
through it with that but you came out the other side.
– Yes! (laughs) – You survived.
– Yes. – So can you look back
on it with a smile now, I guess you can.
– Yeah definitely. I mean, it shapes you. It teaches you how to
be on a different kind of set, in front of a different kind of lens.
– Yeah. – Work with a different kind of director. Yeah and with a different kind of cast. That was just much bigger than me. I felt quite overwhelmed. – Yeah.
– Yeah. And really like working on
something where I was a fan of the material.
– Right. – ‘Transformers’ was my childhood. – Right.
– So it mattered more to me than anything really that first time was like, it mattered. It really mattered. And yeah I saw Megan this morning at a table read, I’m still
friends with these people. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – You haven’t been in a studio
film in about five years. – Right.
– Right? – Maybe longer. – How often do you see
a studio film and say I could see myself in that ’cause 80 percent of it, as
you know, is comic book films, some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. – Yes. – Do you feel like you
have to play in that arena to be a viable actor in
the marketplace today or do you care or what? – Listen, I’m not against any of it. – Yeah.
– I’m probably headed towards it. But no it’s not, I don’t
pick roles based on who’s producing the movie.
– Yeah. – [Shia] Nah, no way. I was doing studio films for a while, lost my sensibilities and my
connection to the material. Studio films in general,
when you have to make a movie for a big general audience,
you have to be less specific. – Right.
– And the less specific you are, the less meat
you have to chew on. – Right.
– The less meat you have to chew on the less interesting
it is for the actor. – Right.
– So I’m not gonna (bleep) on nothing but, but yeah. I just found my way to one, survive. – Yeah.
– And two, be able to flourish. – Yeah.
– I feel like my best stuff has come in the last five years and none of that was studio work. – Yeah, I mean I think
about the last five years and things like ‘American Honey.’ – Yeah.
– You have ‘Peanut Butter Falcon’
coming out later this year which got great reception at South By.
– Yeah. – Can you allow yourself
to take a little bit of pride in where you’re at today? – (bleep) yeah!
– Given how much you’ve been through.
– Of course! (laughs) Yeah of course. I’m blessed beyond all imagination. – Yeah.
– Not just the movies that I’ve been able to make, but the people I’ve been
able to make it with. – And how do you take care of yourself because as we know,
sometimes that’s been easier said than done.
– Yes. I have a good group around me now. – Yeah.
– Yeah, I’m closer to my family than I ever have been before. I got 250 people who’ll hold me down. It’s not like we just
come in here and dip. We’re very close.
– Right. – I’ve never had my feet as
firmly planted in the floor as I do now, I’ve never felt more human. All this has dissipated. You get in a movie with Spielberg, it’s like grabbing onto a rocket ship. – Yeah.
– Then you’re in outer space and you’re in orbit.
– Yep. – Yeah so, then you crash land. (Josh laughs) For some. – Some. – Or some have a parachute. – Eventually, yeah. – And then you find your footing again. And if you’re lucky,
you’re still making movies at that point.
– Right. – And I’m one of the lucky ones. And I know that, I’m very
aware of how lucky I am. I’m on my ninth life. – You said before earlier
in the conversation that I don’t know how
fictitious you were being, that you need friends. – Yes.
– Well what are you talking about?
– Nothing fictitious about that, we all do.
– Why? Did people abandon you? – Nah, I just, I don’t even
think it’s about quality of friends, I think it’s about quantity. – [Josh] You literally
didn’t have the numbers? – I didn’t have the numbers that I needed. Listen man, we’re tribal creatures. – Yeah.
– And if you look like domestic marriages, it’s
three people, four people. That’s not the way humans
were built to live. – Yeah.
– We were built to have groups of 60, 70. Yeah, so that’s how we’ve
survived since the caveman days and I don’t know what
happened since the 50s the nuclear family is quite poisonous. – Right.
– And so I’m, yes I’m building a theater group, but I’m also building that group of people that I need in my life, it’s a family. – I believe it because
again when I think back to our conversations, the
two words that come to mind that often come in our
conversations are truth and connection.
– Yeah. – I think.
– Yeah. – That sounds like what
you’re trying to get at in there.
– Big time. And in my work. To go back to studio film
or independent films, it feels like one is wary
of truth and connection. – Right.
– ‘Cause they have to be. Because films aren’t as, music is the last equalizer. It’s not movies. Movies are not equalizers
like music is anymore. So in that way, movies
have to play it safe on the connection tip and the truth tip. – Right.
– It can only go so far, connect so deeply.
– Yeah. – ‘Cause then you isolate other people. In theater it’s not that way anymore. Theater still is an equalizer. – [Josh] Yep. We’ve talked about the
extremes you’ve gone to for roles over the years. Where are you at in
that kind of philosophy? You beat yourself up, you
really put yourself through it. – Yeah.
– Things like ‘Fury,’ ‘Charlie Countryman.’
– Yeah. – Maybe to some unnecessarily so. – For sure.
– How do you look back on those kind of trips?
– Just a young actor trying to find his way, right? So again I never went to
Strasberg, Stanislavski, nothing. – Yeah.
– I just sort of read stories about the people that I loved and tried to mimic that. – Right.
– And– – You’ve got mensch.
– And so I come from looking at the Sean Penn’s. – Right.
– And, you do it until it doesn’t work, you find out where the boundaries are. I feel like at this
point I’m finding a way to make that stuff malleable. – Right.
– It wasn’t malleable before. – So if an opportunity like
those came up around again, tell me you’re not, for
“Charlie Countryman,” tell me at this point you’re not gonna. – Nah.
– You’re not gonna take a drug for a role.
– No, nah. – [Josh] Obviously with
what you’ve been through. – But I also wouldn’t take the role. – Yeah.
– Yeah. I’m in a different place where I actually, and this is crazy, even though I’ve been walking through mud, I do get
to be picky about my stuff and I have a place to
go when I’m not working. – Right.
– It’s not like I have nothing going on in my
life and I need to get to set. I’m not broke, I’m not strapped for cash, I’m not strapped for creativity. I have my little domain, yeah. – So it’s gratitude right now because you’ve found kind of like, you’re getting something out of this. – Yeah, I mean my dad was a heroin junkie. I didn’t touch heroin. – Yeah.
– So I’m finding my way. But if you had talked to that kid, I was 23, 24.
– Yeah. – I was a scared actor who
thought he was (bleep). The world thought I was (bleep). It was sort of like “Hey, he’s
the ‘Transformers’ kid trying to be a real actor over here.” – Right.
– So I was bucking against my insecurity, I was
desperate to prove myself. I’d be in the face of Mads Mikkelsen, having just watched ‘Valhalla
Rising’ thinking like, I’m not (bleep) to this man. – Right.
– And yeah, that’s me trying to find my confidence. – Yeah.
– Not even my skill set, just my confidence in the
same way that ‘Evens Stevens’ gave me a confidence in front of the lens, when you get in front of real G’s, when you start meeting the
Michael Jordan’s, the people you look up to.
– The Gary Oldman’s. – Gary Oldman’s, Mads
Mikkelsen’s, Tom Hardy’s, you start getting in
front of these people, insecurity washes like a wave. And unless you have a real
confidence in your own craft, you can’t meet a God as a human. – Right.
– They’ll just eat you. You gotta find the God in you. – Yeah.
– And I’m, I’ve worked my way into a confidence level that allows me to see eye
to eye with pretty much everybody at this point
except for a couple of the names we mentioned. (Josh laughs) – So what do you think we’re talking about in our next chat, three to five years, hopefully it’s not that long. It’s futile to chart out
a career as you well know. – Yes.
– We could of said that ten years ago but
especially now it seems like you’re at another interesting
point where anything can come.
– Mhm. – Are you setting goals or is it just sort of like living in the moment? – Yeah I have goals for this. – So what are the goals for this? – The goals for this is really
to change theater, right? We’re trying to build a
theater for people who don’t (bleep) with theater.
– Yeah. – If you look at people
who go to see theater now, they’re old and white.
– Yeah. – Yeah, Bow Wow! When’s the last time
you saw a play my dude? – [Bow Wow] Yesterday. – Oh!
– Our stuff! Not our (bleep) I’m
talking about any play. – Oh, no.
– See, never. – There you go.
– Right, so we’re trying to make a
theater for people who don’t (bleep) with theater at all. Not just people from this neighborhood, but I want people to line up for theater like they line up for cell phones. – Right.
– I’m trying to create connection between
people who don’t (bleep) with theater and people
who go to theater now. – Yeah.
– And that’s what we’re tryna build. – Was there a shift when
you were a kid where some of these ideas started to
percolate in your brain? Because we’ve talked before,
you were like, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon kid.
– Totally. Yeah.
– But, did this stuff happen
in the last ten years, or were you exposed to this stuff also when you were a kid? – (Bleep) ups have a way of introducing yourself to yourself.
– Uh huh. – And you hit the wall
enough you start reflecting. – Right. – And so I was–
– You had time to reflect. – [Shia] Yeah. When you’re on rocket,
and you’re in space, there’s no reflection. You’re in awe, I’m in space. – I’m a God, nothing can touch me. – There was all that too.
– Yeah. – Just no humility.
– Humility, right. – [Shia] The world had been handed to me on a silver platter.
– Right. – I did not know why. I could not sit back and go,
“Ooh it’s ’cause I had done all this work in school” or
in, it was just sort of handed to me.
– Right. – I had a hard time
coming to terms with that. It’s like being a trust fund baby. – Yeah.
– Yeah? You’re gonna (bleep) up. – Yeah, it’s funny ’cause
if you look back on it now, I would imagine one way to
interpret the past is like, if you hadn’t had a couple of the professional or personal (bleep) ups, you might not even be here. – [Shia] Correct. Nor would I have well as full as it is. My well is full.
– Yeah. – Yeah, and that comes from
a certain kind of life. I talk about looking up to the Sean Penn’s and the Gary Oldman’s. – Yeah.
– It’s not just their careers, they had to have a certain
kind of life experience to be able to pull some
of these roles off. – Yep.
– So in a way, I was reading these Easy
Riders, Raging Bull books and looking up to the Bukowski’s, but also trying to
desperately earn my seat. – Right.
– And that’s not just through the roles, you gotta
get arrested a few times. – Yeah.
– At least this was my thinking, my Daria,
post-modern (Josh laughs) view of acting. And so I chased a certain kind of thing. – Right.
– I’m not saying every (bleep) up was conscious. – Sure.
– But I wasn’t not conscious of it, yeah?
– Right. – And so I would get arrested
it’d be the times where my dad would be like,
apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh son? It wasn’t like ‘Transformers’
did that for me. – Right.
– It’s not like I made ‘Transformers’ and my
dad’s like yeah you and me, we’re the same, we’re
built the same, you know? It wasn’t like that. Sean Penn’s and the Gary
Oldman’s, they didn’t give a (bleep) about my ‘Transformers,’ they cared about my human.
– Right. – And now when I get around them, there is this connection
on a certain level that comes from a certain
kind of lifestyle. I’m not saying that this
is the way it needed to be. – No.
– I’m just saying, this is what it was.
– Ironically, you did live the life, your version of that life, that you
– Yes. – Kind of aspired to.
– Yes. – Okay, June 29th’s the day. – Yes.
– Gonna get the good word out on this one, right?
– Thank you. – [Josh] And this is just
gonna get bigger and better and we’re gonna find more
connection with people that aren’t exposed to crazy
theater and awesome theater. – Yeah.
– Right? – Arts in general! – Yeah.
– There’s no arts down here. – Me and him, me and Bobby
are public school kids. – Right.
– The first thing that they cut, arts programs. Arts programs have been cut completely. You still have sports
programs and this and that, but you don’t have arts programs
any more in public school. So if you’re a public school
kid and you were my age coming up before ‘Even Stevens,’ we at least had drama programs. – Right.
– They were on their way out, but you at least had them. You don’t have them anymore at all. – [Josh] Yeah. – Everything’s just
moving into trade school. From a very young age.
– Right. – Like six years old,
you’re gonna be a plumber. – Right.
– Period. No option for you. I don’t wanna sound as cheese
ball as like I’m trying to give back, but I’m actually trying to, this is a very selfish thing down here. I’m not on some altruistic,
– Yeah. – Save the world type shit in full. – Yeah.
– I’m down here trying to create good work. And I know that good work
comes from life experience. And I know that we have a
bunch of full wells in here. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – It’s awesome to see
you in this element, man. You’re obviously, as you
said, it’s altruistic but it’s also, it’s helping
you which I’m happy about too ’cause you deserve good things
man, you’ve been through it. – I appreciate you saying that. – You’ve been through the wringer, And go easy on yourself. – I have been.
– Okay, good. – Yeah.
– Good, good, good. I wanna see you always in a good place ’cause you’re too talented. – Not always in a good place, that’d be fictitious. – Yeah.
– But I’m in a good spot more now so than I ever have been. – That’s awesome.