MINNEAPOLIS-- --Before Shia LaBeouf starts talking about the thriller Disturbia, two things need to be cleared up:
People who insist on pronouncing words the way they are spelled will never come close to getting his name right. Reflecting his family's Cajun roots, his name is pronounced Shy-ah La-Buff.
And rumors that he's lined up to play Harrison Ford's son in the next Indiana Jones movie are just as far off the mark as people who insist on calling him She-ah Le-Bee-off.
"I tried to trace the rumor back to where it started, but I couldn't do it," he said during a recent visit. "As near as I can tell, it started in an Internet chat room because Steven Spielberg produced Disturbia and is producing Transformers [which comes out July 4]. People in the chat room thought that because we've worked together on two movies in a row, it makes sense that he would ask me to be in Indiana Jones. Well, it might make sense, but it hasn't happened. At least, not yet."
In fact, he admitted, he wouldn't mind taking a break. He has made three movies in a row - Bobby, Disturbia and Transformers - in the latter case getting only a single travel day to fly from one location to the other.
"I consider myself very fortunate to be making any movies at all, he said, revealing a modest side that surfaced often during the conversation. "And now I'm doing promotion for three movies in a row. As soon as we get back from Europe promoting this movie, we're going to start another tour for Transformers that's going to carry all the way into July. I'm not planning my whole life around the Fourth of July, but I'll definitely be ready for some time off."
Not that he regrets the whirlwind, city-a-day trip that filled the three weeks leading up to today's opening of Disturbia.
"I'm glad to do it because I'm really proud of this movie," said LaBeouf, who started his career as a 10-year-old stand-up comic before he landed the starring role in TV's Even Stevens. "It's got a lot more layers than the typical teen thriller."
It's a variation on Rear Window in which LaBeouf and two of his friends become convinced that his neighbor is a serial killer. The neighbor is played by character actor David Morse, who turned out to be almost as scary as the character he plays.
"He wouldn't talk to us on the set," LaBeouf said. "When we finished filming, he was very friendly. But he's a method actor, and as long as we were shooting, he wouldn't say a word to us."
His reticence even extended to director D.J. Caruso.
"While I was filming a scene with him, he slammed his hand into a wall and, we learned later, ended up breaking three fingers," LaBeouf said. "You could see that they were broken. They were all mangled. But he didn't say a word about it. Everybody's asking him what they can do to help, and he just says, 'I'm OK. I'm OK. Let's go again' [on another take]. It was intimidating, to say the least."
LaBeouf's showbiz roots are entrenched in comedy. His grandfather was a stand-up comic who worked the resorts in the Catskill Mountains, and his father worked his way through college on gigs as a clown. He decided to stick with the family business, but not everyone was smiling about it.
"There was a club with open-mike competitions," he said. "There was a rule that if you won three times, you would be booked into the main room. But there also was a state law that if a minor was working the club, they had to remove all the alcohol. So here I was, a 10-year-old taking the stage, and the waitresses were running around grabbing everyone's drinks. And keep in mind that a lot of these guys weren't there for the show; they'd come just to drink. Now, that was a tough audience."
Nonetheless, he did so well that he was invited back several times, eventually catching the eye of casting agents. A series of small supporting roles in some fairly big TV shows, including The X-Files and ER, was parlayed into starring billing on Even Stevens, the role for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award. He made the jump to movie theaters in 2003 with the starring role in Holes.
LaBeouf turns 21 in June. Unlike a lot of child actors who are in a hurry to leave their youthful image behind, he's patient.
"I am a kid," he said. "I can't change that. I'm in no rush to play a 30-year-old because there are lots of 30-year-olds who can do it better than I can. Besides, the roles I played in Bobby and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, those were grown-up movies."
The only odd part is bumping into fans who remember him in a younger version.
"They were kids, too, and we all grew up together, except they still think of me as a kid," he said. "When they see me now, it's kind of weird for them. But I understand their reaction. In fact, I'm proud of it."