Pop Culture

Shia LaBeouf apologizes after short film called 'complete rip-off' of comic

Stefania D'Alessandro / Today
Shia LaBeouf in Venice, Italy, in September 2012.

Shia LaBeouf is at the center of a plagiarism controversy after graphic novelist Daniel Clowes accused the star of borrowing shamelessly from his 2007 comic, "Justin M. Damiano," for a short film directed by the "Charlie Countryman" star.

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That film, "HowardCantour.com" — which follows the inner dialogue of a disgruntled film critic — debuted last May at the Cannes Film Festival, where no one in attendance seemed to notice that the characters and dialogue had been lifted directly from Clowes' panels. But when the film debuted online on Monday, the Internet was quick to take notice.

Jacqueline Cohen, director of publicity and promotions for Fantagraphics Books, Inc., Clowes' publisher, calls the film "a complete rip-off" of "Justin M. Damiano," and says Clowes was never approached by LaBeouf to authorize the work's adaptation. "He had no knowledge that he had been plagiarized until today when the film was posted on Vimeo," Cohen tells The Hollywood Reporter.

As word quickly spread of LaBeouf's alleged intellectual property theft, due in part to a story on BuzzFeed, the short film was quickly blocked from view on Vimeo, its hosting site. BuzzFeed is hosting "HowardCantour.com," which stars Jim Gaffigan as a self-loathing film critic, in its entirety.

LaBeouf has apologized on Twitter for the controversy, writing in a series of tweets that his "excitement and naivete" led him to forget to "follow proper accreditation."











(TODAY.com is not embedding LaBeouf's most recent tweet on the matter because of graphic language.)

The website HowardCantour.com, built to promote the short film, went off-line for a period; it later reappeared, this time featuring a trailer for the film. "Even the trailer uses words from the 'Justin M. Damiano' comic," Cohen says.

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LaBeouf's admiration of Clowes' work, which has been adapted into films like "Ghost World" (1997) and "Art School Confidential" (2006), has been documented before. The star of the upcoming "Nymphomaniac" has been accused of plagiarism in the past, having pasted unattributed sections of an Esquire article into an email he sent Alec Baldwin when the two clashed during rehearsals on the Broadway play Orphans.

LaBeouf could not be reached for comment.

An excerpt from "Justin M. Damiano," courtesy of Fantagraphics Books, Inc.: