In retrospect, this was kind of inevitable: James Franco has officially weighed in on Shia LaBeouf's weird behavior of late ... in the New York Times. Yes, in a Times column today, Franco informs us that though LaBeouf's behavior (from rampant plagiarism to wearing a bag over his head in public) could be a sign of something serious like a nervous breakdown, "as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of [LaBeouf's] conduct." Specifically, Franco hopes "that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona."
You see, actors have been doing just that ever since Marlon Brando "defied the studio system’s control over his image" by gaining weight, taking on the "wrong" roles, and turning down his best actor Oscar. "These were acts of rebellion against an industry that practically forces an actor to identify with his persona while at the same time repeatedly wresting it from him," Franco explains. In fact, Franco had similar reasons for acting in a soap opera in 2009, and he suspects Joaquin Phoenix had similar reasons for staging his pretend breakdown around the same time. "Often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult," Franco writes. "I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one." Click for his full column. (Read more Shia LaBeouf stories.)