Did Shia LaBeouf rip off a Daniel Clowes comic for his short film? UPDATE: YEP

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.


and Clowes (reprinted with the author’s permission)
enhanced-buzz-3666-1387234512-12.jpg
LaBeouf’s film screened at the Cannes Film Festival and has been well received — but not in the Clowes household, as the cartoonist told Buzzfeed:

“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.

MORE TO COME STILL!

Comments

  1. Andrew Farago says:

    Is the headline a rhetorical question?

  2. Hardy Gilbert says:

    I’m totally making a Hippypants and Peace Bear movie….

  3. I watched the video (while it was still up) and read the comic pages along with it. Side-by-side as it played. I mean… it was to the letter. He ripped off the dialog and even the scene set up. It’s more than just taking the dialog when you also direct your camera, lighting and editing. Even if he claims he didn’t write it (since there’s no writer credit), he still took the story / concept / scene / and used the comic as a storyboard.

    Sorry, but that’s lame.

  4. The video without password protection (and comic pages — which are used by permission) are still up at Buzzfeed (as of the writing of this post):

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/shia-labeouf-rip-off-daniel-clowes-howard-cantour

  5. I see that Shia has been tweeting apologies since he was found out.

  6. Robin Scott says:

    Not good enough. Sue him. It’s outrageous what he did, and ubbelievable he thought he would get away with it.

  7. Kurt Busiek says:

    He’s claiming that copying isn’t creative but being inspired is, and the comic was merely his inspiration?

    That’s not inspiration, that’s (quite faithful) adaptation. And without licensing the rights, it’s plagiarism.

  8. LaBeouf is a thief, full stop. In his frankly stupefying “apology” he claims that he “got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation,” which is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard and probably a hastily conceived lie. “I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it.” What the hell did he think anyone would think? At the very end, it says “A film by,” presuming full auteurship. He takes full credit for the entirety of someone else’s work, and then blames everyone else for assuming that he was telling us the truth. What a scumbag. (My apologies for the ad hominemism, but this is pretty upsetting.)

  9. I imagine that Dan has all manners of recourse through the WGA. In the meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that my Needledick the Bugfucker play falls well within fair use.

  10. If there’s any good news from this it’ll be *example-A* to the rest of Hollywood that you can’t just take our ideas in the comic industry. Hopefully anyone else who was thinking of pulling a heist like this will think twice. I hope this ruins any chance of Shia’s attempt at being a director if he’s thinking of using this short as a “show reel” for future work. I hope it follows him through his career.

  11. He’s a young idiot. Now, the thing to do is for Dan to find a way to use use this incident to further his own career or financial goals. Maybe Hollywood will look at some of his other work and pay him the big bucks to do an adaptation. As for Shia… man, what an idiot.

  12. Khang says:

    The sad thing is he probably could have gotten the rights to the story for free. He would have just had written a contract for the writer to get a percentage of the profits. But short films hardly ever make money so there’s nothing to really sue over besides a cease and decease order. I made a film years ago based on a published short story as a student filmmaker and the writer was kind enough to grant me the rights to the story. I’m sure with Shia’s Hollywood pull, he could have done the same thing.

  13. Hardy Gilbert says:

    Remember when Dan used ot adveritise the hand-painted nudie ties in the back of LL? Well, silly me thought I could get one for $5.00 as opposed to the $100 asking price. No shit. Yeah, what the fuck was I thinkin’? Anyway, I sent him $5.00 CASH, and he he replied:
    “Hardy, m’boy! I’m keeping your five dollars to teach you a lesson about sending cash in the mail…”
    Karma, Danny! Karma!

    P.S. This was also back when Dan would sketch lil’ drawings on the postcards I’d get, so one could argue that I’m sittin’ on a fortune and have been suitably recompensed. But I still want that tie…

  14. Clowes needs to hire Harlan Ellison’s legal team that went after Cameron for the whole Outer Limits/Terminator thing and basically sue him into the stone age since I suspect the WGA will take little if any action (but here’s hoping they do so that others can be protected in the future).

  15. Snikt Snakt says:

    Shia isn’t the brightest of actors, is he? He makes a box of rocks or a bag of hammers look like a genius in comparison…

  16. Hardy Gilbert says:

    Seriously, while it’s well-known that Dan Clowes is an avaricious destroyer of souls who seeks only monetary gain and philistine pleasures, I doubt the lack of financial compensation is his primary source of umbrage. Dan is a True Success, in that he makes a comfortable living creating His Art on His Terms; that someone would think to claim that which is his as their own is surely the most upsetting…

  17. I truly don’t get how anyone can think they can get away with plagiarism in this day and age. Uncovering it is a simple Google search away. Especially when you’re someone as famous and as under scrutiny as LaBeouf, and when your source material is from the not-unknown Clowes, and you’re showing it Cannes? Did he really think no one would notice? I mean, if you were an unknown indy filmmaker ripping off some mini comic you got at SPX, and you were showing it at some backwater local film festival, MAYBE you could get away with it.

    Also, it’s amusing that LaBeouf thinks his mistake was simply not crediting Clowes. You don’t get to make a wholesale adaptation of someone’s copyrighted work without explicit permission, even if you put their name in the credits.

  18. Funny thing is that even his apology is plagiarized -> http://gawker.com/shia-labeouf-fucks-up-gets-caught-plagiarizing-again-1484814448

  19. Brian says:

    LeBeouf has tons of time, money, and access to talent and he resorts to pulling this kind of stunt? I hope Clowes takes him to the cleaners.

  20. Torsten Adair says:

    I wonder what Nick Simmons is up to nowadays?

  21. Weird Al 52 says:

    Dan Clowes should sue the gravy out of The Beef.

    ROAST THAT BEEF, DAN CLOWES, ROAST THAT BEEF.

  22. He is NOT an amateur film maker in any sense of the word. Poor Gaffigan.

  23. The Xenos says:

    It seems some lines from his comic were also plagiarized without credit.

    http://comicsalliance.com/shia-lebeouf-comic-book/
    “LaBeouf’s thoughts read a lot like tweets, ranging from aphorisms you might hear from your dad (“Only boring people get bored”) to religious statements you might have heard in your college dorm at 3 a.m. (“Belief is a graveyard”) to Seinfeldian observations about day-to-day life (“Why is it the pick-up truck carrying the loose washer/dryer is always driving between 80 and 90 mph”).”
    “A musing near the back compares love to a turkey, states that “every day is Thanksgivin’,” and comes with illustrations of two smiling people so terrifying that you should probably send me some flowers for omitting them here. Move over, H.R. Giger. You’ve been LaBeoufed.”

    “Only boring people get bored.”
    ― Ruth Burke
    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/12579-only-boring-people-get-bored

    “I wish to weep
    but sorrow is
    stupid.
    I wish to believe
    but belief is a
    graveyard.”
    ― Charles Bukowski
    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/242925-i-wish-to-weep-but-sorrow-is-stupid-i-wish

    “love iz a big fat turkey and every day iz thanksgiving”
    ― Charles Bukowski
    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/668495-love-iz-a-big-fat-turkey-and-every-day-iz

    (And I’m not giving credit to the guy who found this because he posted anonymously on another forum.)

  24. horatio weisfeld says:

    @Marc Arsenault :
    Re: Needledick the Bugfucker
    CEASE AND DESIST : I (just) organicized that first !

  25. horatio weisfeld says:

    CBrown says: I truly don’t get how anyone can think they can get away with plagiarism in this day and age.

    >>
    @CBrown: While, at this moment in time, it is (a little bit) eye-opening to see a celeb do such a thing, I don’t know why anyone should be so surprised to see more and more of this sort of thing happening — after all: We’ve come to tolerate a world where more and more content is free — and only the gateways, the links, the search engines, get paid + otherwise: digital copyright is only (slowly) being enforced by those who can afford to enforce it.

    So once we tolerate people getting the work free — why should we be surprised to see that they think they can do whatever they want with it?

  26. Calvin Reid says:

    Its hard to believe that professional screen actor–A Movie Star!!–can make a film, even a short film, that takes verbatim dialog from a well known artist’s work and somehow not realize that you should contact the original artist for permission, if not actually negotiate compensation for rights. This is either stupendous arrogance, mindblowing stupidity or a level of Michiavellian scheming that I can’t decipher. WTF!

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