LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism apology tour took to the sky Wednesday as the “Transformer” actor hired an airplane to sky-write “I’m sorry Daniel Clowes.”
Clowes is the author whose story LaBeouf admits he copied for his short film “HowardCantour.com” without crediting Clowes.
But it was a cloudy apology, raising suspicion that LaBeouf has moved on from saying he’s sorry to Clowes and is now taunting Clowes fans and LaBeouf critics who have attacked him online in the two weeks since he was busted.
The creativity shown by LaBeouf in more than two dozen Twitter postings of apology raises the question of why such a fertile mind needed to borrow ideas.
Those tweets included the words “naiveté,” “embarrassed,” “regret,” “terribly wrong,” “deeply sorry,” and “hurtful and thoughtless.”
The apology tweets started clearly enough on December 16: “Im embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it.”
But three days later, it appeared LaBeouf was frustrated that the online attacks against him continued. Sarcasm emerged in his tweets: “I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry.”
Even here, LaBeouf plagiarizes — maybe as a hidden treat for those obsessed with nailing him for plagiarism. It mirrors Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s landmark apology in 2006 for a failure in his then-fledgling social network: “Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you.”
Sincere-sounding apologies continued for another week, including this on December 28: “When you’ve made a mistake you should apologise. But more importantly — most important of all — you’ve got to learn from your mistakes.”
This was a cut-and-paste ripoff of UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s 2012 apology for his party’s breaking a pledge not to support a student tuition fee hike. It even included the British spelling of apologize.
By December 31, LaBeouf was mocking those who refused to accept that he was sorry for copying from Clowes: “I am sorry for all the plagiarized tweets, they all were unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful. You have my apologies for offending you for thinking I was being serious instead of accurately realizing I was mocking you.”
LaBeouf borrowed the phrase “unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful” directly from a 2011 apology by film director Lars von Trier after he was banned from the Cannes Film Festival for remarks about Adolf Hitler.
On New Year’s Day, LaBeouf went old school and used a predecessor to the 140-character Twitter forum. He hired a single-engine airplane to write through the blue skies of Los Angeles: “I AM SORRY DANIEL CLOWES.”
He then tweeted a photo of the airborne apology, because it was unlikely the author, who lives in San Francisco, would have seen it for the short time it was visible before the words were gone with the wind.
The text that accompanied the tweet posted Wednesday night read:
- vapor floating in the atmosphere
- remote servers used to SHARE DATA
- to make LESS CLEAR or TRANSPARENT
If LaBeouf is considering a sequel to his short but controversial film about an online film critic, perhaps he already has a script for a movie about an actor who finds his voice on Twitter.
Not everyone’s laughing
For Clowes’ editor, the plot of LaBeouf’s film sounded awfully familiar, even before he saw it.
“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,” said Eric Reynolds, associate publisher at Fantagraphics, in a statement.
“The more I think about this, the more I’m fairly convinced that LaBeouf at least subconsciously knew what he was doing,” Reynolds continued. “He never completely claims ownership of the script, as near as I can tell; the credits conspicuously do NOT credit a screenwriter or source material, stating simply, ‘A Film by Shia LaBeouf.’ When you look at that, coupled with the quote he gave ‘Short Film of the Week’ about how details in his own life informed the script, it’s clear he’s trying to claim authorship without ever stating outright, ‘I wrote this!’ Which makes it even more egregiously shameless, in my mind.”
And even if Clowes accepts the flurry of apologies, another publisher is considering legal action against LaBeouf.
Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson sent a statement to CNN on Thursday accusing LaBeouf of “extensive plagiarism of the Melville House book ‘The Little Girl and the Cigarette’ by Benoit Duteurtre.”
LaBeouf’s short graphic novel “Stale N Mate” allegedly mirrors passages from the book.
“We are puzzled by the fact that, considering the egregious plagiarism of our author’s work by Mr. Laboeuf, he has taken such a cavalier attitude with regard to this matter,” Johnson said. “We have been conferring with legal counsel over the holidays with the intention to pursue our legal remedies should we not hear from Mr. Laboeuf promptly to remedy this matter.”
By Alan Duke, CNN
CNN’s Sean Redlitz and Steve Forrest contributed to this report.
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