Horror Show: Watching Shia LaBeouf Watch All His Movies

Shia LeBeouf
Shia LaBeouf watches himself on screen at New York City's Angelika Film Center. #ALLMYMOVIES

As you read this, Shia LaBeouf is probably still in there, watching himself on screen. If it's Wednesday afternoon, he might be in the middle of Transformers or Surf's Up; if it's Thursday morning, he's closing in on his career as a child star, maybe with The Even Stevens Movie, which screens at 10:20 a.m. LaBeouf has appeared in 29 movies, the most recent of which, Man Down, was screened Tuesday at noon.

The 29-year-old actor is watching all of his films, in reverse chronological order, without interruption, and he has invited you to join him. He's sitting on the aisle of the fifth row of New York City's Angelika Film Center. Around him are 55 to 60 other people, watching silently in the dark like they would during any normal trip to the theater that didn't feature the film's star sitting a few feet away. In front of LaBeouf, in the fourth row, a camera is trained on his face, watching him watch himself. You can view a live feed of what that camera is recording online, right now, at the #AllMyMovies website.

I was one of the people who made the trip to watch him in the theater. When I arrived Tuesday afternoon, there were about 20 people waiting to get into the packed house. Most of them were students in their early 20s, and none of them said they were big fans of LaBeouf. They were only curious, which is how most people approach the actor's colorful, often volatile career as a celebrity. People watch him the way they watch NASCAR races. There's an expectation that something bad might happen, and though no one would wish it to happen, when it does—the huge, flaming, multicar wreck—it's thoroughly satisfying. As long as no one gets hurt, of course.

LaBeouf has crashed before. And been hurt before. The Internet rejoiced when he was arrested outside of a performance of Cabaret in the summer of 2014, and was delighted when he put himself up on display as an art exhibit in Los Angeles earlier that year. Some of the curious people in line at the Angelika were aware of his antics and came down for the chance to be a part of his latest stunt, just in case something were to happen. Others worked down the block and decided to come by only because it was close to their building. One 19-year-old came because he had just moved to New York for college and this seemed like a very "New York" thing to do. "He's cracked out," the student said of LaBeouf.

Mostly, though, the event was simply something interesting to do, just as it was for LaBeouf. He has been famous since he was 10 years old and is probably—and understandably—a little bored with his celebrity. It's all he has ever known, and because it's something he cannot escape—even with a brown paper bag over his head—he's decided to toy with the people whose attention has imprisoned him. #AllMyMovies is a way to mock that attention, which has to be satisfying. And yes, it's possible he is seeking some sort of strange catharsis that might come after watching his entire career rewound before his eyes, but LaBeouf could very well be numb to himself. The event felt designed to allow people to imagine the effect it would have on LaBeouf, rather than for it to actually elicit any real change in how the actor perceives himself.

In the end—of my LaBeouf experience, anyway—there was nothing controversial about #AllMyMovies. If anything, it was charming. As I was let in and descended the escalator to the theater just in time for Nymphomaniac, Volume 1, LaBeouf dashed in front me into the theater with a box of Sour Patch Kids. Inside, he sat attentive and engaged. He often laughed at lines of dialogue that weren't particularly funny, and I wondered what behind-the-scenes significance these onscreen moments may have held for those involved in the film's production. If someone needed to get to their seat on the other side of him, he'd draw his knees to the side so they could squeeze through. It was very casual. We were just hanging out and watching movies with Shia LaBeouf. NBD. He was in his element as the center of attention, his face on the screen and a camera pointed at his face, and the rest of us were in our element as moviegoers, as noncelebrities. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.