Shia LaBeouf decided, during his preteen years, to launch himself as an actor, and stories abound concerning how far he carried his own drive to establish himself. According to People Weekly magazine, LaBeouf auditioned for Even Stevens (2000), the Disney Channel series that delivered him into the spotlight, and subsequently told each of the youngsters who were waiting to audition that he had the part -- thus eliminating the competition. Such determination, coupled with raw ability and charisma, doubtless helped propel LaBeouf straight to the head of Hollywood's young stars.
Born on June 11, 1986, in Los Angeles, LaBeouf grew up in the neighborhood of Echo Park, and was raised in a decidedly colorful family of mixed ethnicity. His Cajun father, Jeffrey LaBeouf, was a Vietnam vet who held a series of odd jobs as a circus clown, a sno-cone salesman, and a stand-up comic. Shia's Jewish mother, Shayna, worked as a clothier and jewelry craftswoman. Upset about his mother's financial struggles after his parents split, Shia observed another boy of about the same age (a cast member of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) whose financial returns from Quinn gave him a posh lifestyle. LaBeouf suddenly understood the financial benefits of before-the-camera work, and -- though he had no formal dramatic training -- foresaw himself breaking into acting via comedy. He used a phone book to find an agent, then honed a stand-up comedy act over the course of two years, that found him (at age 12) delivering "blue" routines to adult audiences at a Pasadena comedy club, The Ice House. By his own admission, LaBeouf was booted out of every school he attended (for his notoriously profane mouth and for other reasons), but he more than compensated for this with his professional drive. By 2000, he auditioned for the Even Stevens series on Disney, and landed the part.
That sitcom concerned the relationship between Louis Stevens (LaBeouf), a silly and goofy teen, and his older sister, Ren (Christy Carlson Romano). The program quickly found an audience on Disney and lasted for several seasons; its popularity spawned a small-screen feature, The Even Stevens Movie, in 2003. The time span of 2002 to 2003 was a busy one for LaBeouf -- arguably his breakthrough period. In addition to The Even Stevens Movie, the actor signed on to participate in season two of the controversial Project Greenlight, the Damon and Affleck-created national contest for aspiring indie filmmakers, with its attached HBO reality series of the same name. Thus, at-home viewers had the opportunity to watch LaBeouf, Elden Hensen, Kathleen Quinlan, Amy Smart, and other actors endure the tumultuous production of Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin's quirky comedy drama The Battle of Shaker Heights, months prior to that film's release. When the finished film debuted in August of 2003, it did so to generally terrible reviews, but a number of journalists (Roger Ebert among them) singled out LaBeouf's lead performance as something special amid a decidedly flawed film.
That same year, LaBeouf starred in the Andrew Davis-directed Disney fantasy Holes, as a youngster sent to an oddball Texas detention center and forced to dig a series of 5-foot-deep pits in the desert sun for mysterious reasons; it scored with the public and press and became one of the sleeper hits of 2003. And indeed, its success doubtless spurred LaBeouf on to even greater heights, his dramatic ability honed even more sharply by his interaction with co-star Jon Voight (Coming Home), whom LaBeouf would later list as a key professional influence. In late 2004, LaBeouf signed on for the lead in another Disney film, The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) -- a biopic of golfer Francis Ouimet directed by Bill Paxton; the film itself divided critics rather sharply but provided an outstanding showcase for LaBeouf's talents.
The next several years found LaBeouf signing on for several of the most sought-after A-list roles in Hollywood -- from director Francis Lawrence's apocalyptic fantasy Constantine (2005), as a demon-slayer fighting alongside Keanu Reeves; to Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, as a young man struggling to find a different road out of the ghetto than crime and prison. In 2007, the actor voiced a surfing penguin in the CG-animated comedy Surf's Up, and geared up for his role as Sam Witwicky in one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year, the Michael Bay-directed Transformers -- based on the action figures that were rabidly popular in the mid-'80s. At the same time, audiences could catch LaBeouf in Salton Sea-director D.J. Caruso's thriller Disturbia -- the tale of a deeply depressed, homebound teen who teams up with a local girl to prove that their next door neighbor is a much sought-after serial killer.
LaBeouf would continue to ride his popularity surge in the realm of latter-day sequels, playing Harrison Ford's sidekick in 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and young financial exec Jake Moore in 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Neither film was well received by audiences or critics, but LaBeouf still had the Transformer's franchise in his pocket, and he'd continue with it for 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In 2012 he tried his hand at a period piece with the bootlegging drama Lawless. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi