To explain why he quit the Broadway play Orphans, problem child Shia LaBeouf decided to tweet his dramatic e-mails with the cast, including Alec Baldwin. The centerpiece of the exchange, which LaBeouf shared along with grandiose (attributed!) quotes from David Mamet and Mark Twain, are the 26-year-old’s musings on what it is to be a man: “My dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human. But he was a man,” LaBeouf begins. “He taught me how to be a man. What i know of men Alec is - A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job.” A man, apparently, also takes what he pleases, because the lines are lifted from Tom Chiarella’s “What Is a Man?” published by Esquire in 2009.
LaBeouf goes on in men’s magazine voice: “A man owns up. That’s why Mark McGwire is not a man. A man grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not. Some mistakes, though, he lets pass if no one notices. Like dropping the steak in the dirt.” The actor, playing editor, doesn’t use Chiarella’s entire piece, but the parts he does are taken word for word. Here’s the whole e-mail. (To sum up his exposition on the issue, LaBeouf wrote on Twitter, “invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.” Noted, man.)
Chiarella told Daily Intelligencer that his editor had read him part of LaBeouf’s message over the phone. “I said, ‘That sounds good,’ because I thought he had written it. Then he said, ‘They’re your words!’” Chiarella explained. “I’m assuming Shia Googled it.” The article does show up in searches for “what is a man” and “how to be a man.”
“I won’t pass judgement on the guy, but I will say this: It’s a very tough assignment. You’re giving people words they might lean on someday. This is not the type of leaning I had in mind,” he said. “I have to have a sense of humor. You write that and then everybody in the world either likes it or finds it the most pretentious piece of shit ever. So I hate having to look at the comments again.”
“I hate that it’s associated with his drug dealer father,” he added. “My father was a good guy!”
Asked what a real man would do in this situation, Chiarella thought about it for a quick moment. “A man who’s been plagiarized must be graceful and grateful that your words have power,” he said. “A man who plagiarized just owes an acknowledgment and a one-sentence apology. But I don’t expect it.”