DUI charge may be blemish to LaBeouf's rising star

July 29, 2008 5:41:06 PM PDT
In a town overrun with young stars behaving badly, Shia LaBeouf has appeared as something of a Hollywood golden boy - one of the industry's few bona fide megastars in the making.

He's been a sought-after actor for almost half of his 22-year-old life and a Steven Spielberg favorite, carefully groomed for stardom.

But with his arrest Sunday in Los Angeles on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, LaBeouf's rising star earned its first significant blemish and cause for damage control.

LaBeouf was arrested 3 a.m. in West Hollywood after his pickup collided with another vehicle, rolling the truck over. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Wolf said it was "immediately apparent" to officers on the scene that LaBeouf was intoxicated.

With him was Isabel Lucas, a 23-year-old Australian actress who plays a supporting role in the "Transformers" sequel "Revenge of the Fallen," according to a person close to the movie's production who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to release that information. She was uninjured, as was the driver of the other car.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Tuesday that detectives have determined that the accident wasn't LaBeouf's fault and that the other driver apparently ran a red light.

Still, veteran Hollywood publicist David Brokaw said this is most certainly a time of crisis management for LaBeouf and his managers.

"The question becomes: Does he want to use this as a wake-up call or is he going to draw this out and really hurt what he's doing?" said Brokaw. "Given some of the other behavior of other people in the business right now, I think he's got a bit of a leash."

The most immediate effect may be the production schedule for the "Transformers" sequel. LeBeouf underwent surgery on his left hand and plans to return to work within a month, his publicist, Melissa Kates, said.

Shooting is continuing this week, but the production team was to meet Tuesday to discuss any necessary adjustments to the schedule.

The film, which is a joint effort between Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, was already crossing its fingers that stalled negotiations among the Screen Actors Guild and the studios would not lead to a strike and interrupt production. (Michael Bay is returning as director for the film, which is due out next June.)

It was the first "Transformers" that established LaBeouf as a young, charismatic star capable of carrying a summer blockbuster and holding his own next to giant robots. It grossed more than $700 million worldwide.

Spielberg was a producer on the first "Transformers" (and is again for the sequel), and he cast LaBeouf as Harrison Ford's son in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" - a role as sought after as any.

Spielberg's publicist Marvin Levy said late Monday that the director had no comment, but that he was just thankful the injury wasn't too serious.

LaBeouf has had brushes with the law before but they were relatively harmless incidents that only enhanced the perception of his playful edginess.

A drunken confrontation with guards at a Walgreens in Chicago late last year led to misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges. The charge was dropped because the drug store didn't want to pursue the matter.

In a lighthearted retelling of the incident to David Letterman on the "Late Show," LaBeouf said: "Drinking and driving is one thing, but drinking and shopping ... it's just as bad."

LaBeouf was separately cited in February for smoking where he shouldn't in Burbank, but a judge later dismissed the charge.

In an interview with Details magazine, planned for the cover of its September issue, LaBeouf spoke about his drinking.

"It's not something that is conducive to being a role model - no iconic actors that I know of have problems like that," LaBeouf told Details. "And I don't know how to do it like a gentleman. I don't know how to have one drink."

Whether a drinking problem becomes associated with LaBeouf - with fans, studios or investors - remains to be seen. He can expect to field plenty of questions about it when he promotes "Eagle Eye," a thriller due out Sept. 26 that reunites LaBeouf with "Disturbia" director D.J. Caruso.

"His deck of cards is not going to fall on one incident," said Brokaw. "But he would sure make the market and film companies and producers and the public feel a lot more comfortable if he said, `You know, this may or may not be a problem of some note, and I'm going to see about making sure it's not a problem.'"