Shia LaBeouf lands in hot water after releasing his new short film "HowardCantour.com". The "Nymphomaniac" actor is accused of being a copycat for allegedly ripping off Daniel Clowes' comic "Justin M. Damiano" without crediting the "Ghost World" artist.
Premiering at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the film takes a dig at online film critics and stars Jim Gaffigan as the titular character. It was released online on Monday, December 16 but has since become password-protected after the plagiarism allegation arose.
According to many who managed to view the film before it became unavailable, many scenes in the comic and the film are nearly identical. Both allegedly begin with a narration, "A critic is a warrior, and each of us on the battlefield have the means to glorify or demolish (whether a film, a career, or an entire philosophy) by influencing perception in ways that if heartfelt and truthful, can have far-reaching repercussions."
In response to the glaring similarities, Clowes told BuzzFeed, "The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I've never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I've never even seen one of his films that I can recall - and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can't imagine what was going through his mind."
Clowes' editor Eric Reynolds added, "My first reaction, before I even watched it, was basically that as much as the plot sounded like the 'Justin M. Damiano', I presumed that LaBeouf would be smart enough to change everything just enough to make it his own thing and shield himself from any legal liability, even if it didn't excuse him from being a weasel. Which is why, when I actually started watching it, I almost spit out my coffee when I realized he lifted the script, word for word."
LaBeouf remained silent on the matter, but he previously told Short of the Week about the film's inception, "I have been crushed by critics (especially during my 'Transformers' run), and in trying to come to terms with my feelings about critics, I needed to understand them. As I tried to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at me and the people I've worked with, a small script developed."
It's not the first time the actor is accused of being a copycat. Early this year, he was slammed by the media after being caught copy-pasting quotes from an Esquire article into an email he sent to Alec Baldwin following their creative differences in Broadway production "Orphan". The issue came to light after LaBeouf himself leaked the email online.