It's got to be a little head-wrecking, when the most successful filmmaker in the world decides that you're his new best friend.
There is a physical similarity between Steven Spielberg and Shia LaBeouf, so, perhaps the former saw something of his younger self in the latter when he started casting the then-teenage actor in just about every movie he could.
Having broken through in 2003 with the acclaimed kiddies' film Holes, LaBeouf became a box-office star in 2007 when the Spielberg-produced Transformers and the Rear Window-for-teens outing Disturbia both hit the No1 spot around the world. Suddenly, Shia LaBeouf found himself an unlikely leading man.
"A lot of that had to do with Steven's faith in me," says the 22-year-old today. "It does a lot for your confidence, when you have someone like Steven Spielberg telling you that he wants you to lead his picture. It also makes the rest of Hollywood sit up and listen . . ."
And the tabloids weren't too far behind. Throw in a pivotal role in last year's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and now, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and you've got yourself a glittering career.
PAUL BYRNE: With every glittering career comes the danger of being blinded by the light -- there was a period where it looked like the LAPD might give you your own cell...
SHIA LABEOUF: That would have been handy, yeah -- I could have had a change of clothes there, some sounds, some books. Look, I don't think I was in any more trouble than a lot of young men get into. I got a little silly here and there, but it's just growing pains. I didn't rob a bank, I didn't set out to kidnap an heiress, or invade a small country...
All that comes later, when your career is really on the skids...
Yeah. For now, I think the media made mountains out of molehills because that's how you sell papers. You're talking about refusing to leave a store, about smoking where I shouldn't have smoked, about being in a collision where it was the other person's fault for running a red light. Don't think I'm on any FBI list just yet.
We should talk about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, of course. The first outing proved a major box-office hit. Do you feel the pressure to live up to that kind of success?
I think, if anything, having a major hit with the first outing made us all relax a little more on this one. We felt we got it right. There's a bunch of people out there ready and willing to come with us again. We felt good about what we'd done, and now, we can have a little more fun, we can turn it up a little. We don't have to introduce everyone again; we can just jump right in there, and get on with the action.
Michael Bay returns as director -- a man not known for his quiet, subtle ways when it comes to both the art of filmmaking and his films. Easy to work with?
Of course. You go into a Michael Bay movie because you want to come out with a Michael Bay movie, and that means you're going to have to do everything you can for the perfect shot. You don't mind going that extra mile when you know it's going to be up there on screen. For Michael, you're happy to keep on running, because you know it's going to make for a better movie.
You've been lucky with the people that you've worked with, in that some have become mentors. Spielberg, of course, but Jon Voight had a huge impact on you when you both worked on Holes...
Absolutely. Jon became like a father to me. He made me realise what's important in this life and how to become a better actor. I wasn't completely focused in life when I went to make Holes, and talking with Jon, it just put everything into perspective for me. I'll always be grateful for the sound advice, the friendship, the inspiration that Jon gave me. Hopefully, when I'm older and wiser, I can pass on the favour to someone else. Even if it is just my cellmate.
One of the writers on the new Transformers has said that the theme of the movie is "being away from home" -- you bought your own place at 18, suggesting you were keen to get away.
I think, like any teenager, the idea of having your own place is one of your main goals. It's not that I had a problem with my family, or anything like that -- it was just a natural move. I've always been fairly independent, and having my own place was always going to happen as soon as I had enough money.
Transformers put you firmly on the map, but the Indiana Jones reunion was something approaching cinema history -- how do you feel about the generally negative response it got from fans?
I don't think the response was generally negative. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did incredibly well at the box-office, but there was always going to be that impossible task of pleasing fans of the original Indiana Jones outings, because, that time has gone. You can never please someone who's got so much sense memory of how they felt when the first films hit, so, you know, I think it's going to take some time before people can really look at The Crystal Skull as being part of the series. I think it fits in perfectly, and it has all the same quirkiness and loving attention to detail as the others. That was a braver decision than trying to make it flashy and modern to please today's sensibilities.
You directed rapper Chris 'Cage' Palko's I Never Knew You video. You said of the experience: "This shit is better than riding unicorns" -- how do you know?
Because I've ridden unicorns, of course. Everyone in Hollywood has unicorns, but we keep them away from the rest of the world, as they're only for very, very special people. Like me. And Avril Lavigne.
Seriously though, getting to direct is a thrill, but getting to direct a video by one of my favourite musicians out there, that's something else entirely. My life is full of wonderful thrills, of course, but that one is particularly special to me.
You're right about your life being full of wonderful thrills -- ever get the feeling that you're a spoilt Hollywood brat?
All the time, all the time. Prison will be good for me...