As the star of '07 summer blockbuster Transformers, Shia LaBeouf has quite a few options when it comes to future projects. Already, he snagged a role in fourth Indiana Jones flick Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull alongside Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett, so what could be next? A movie with Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, or Hilary Swank? Maybe a stint on Broadway? Alas, no. Instead, it seems LaBeouf will travel down the tricky, so often indulgent road of the "pet project." And his pet project is... a Cage biopic.
Yep, you read right. LaBeouf is looking to play Def Jux rapper Cage, aka Chris Palko, in a forthcoming film about the MC's life, according to an article in the December issue of Spin. "I have been listening to Cage since I got into hip-hop when I was 12," LaBeouf said. "I grew up on the West Coast listening to a lot of 2Pac and Eazy-E, so when I found out that Cage was white, it was incredible. I'd never heard anything like that."
After having gained a measure of fame due to his roles in tween hits Holes and Disney Channel show "Even Stevens", LaBeouf contacted Cage about making a documentary about the rapper, and Cage allowed him to film his tour in 2006. (Whoa... could Shia LaBeouf have been at the Pitchfork Music Festival last year?) According to SPIN, at some point along the way, the prospect of drawing from Cage's history of drug abuse and psychiatric problems for a biopic became more enticing than a straight documentary. And thus, the idea was born.
As Tom Breihan wrote in the Pitchfork review of Cage's 2005 album Hell's Winter, "Cage has the kind of life story most aspiring new-schoolers just lie and make up. He was abused by his dishonorably-discharged junky father and his stepfather, kicked out of high school, overmedicated in a mental hospital, became a white-rap wunderkind in the early 90s, almost put out an album on Columbia, kicked around the major label system, got hooked on drugs, had a kid, got dissed on the first Eminem album, and found himself a home in underground rap." Sounds like a promising story arc to us.
Talking to SPIN, LaBeouf made it clear that this will be a chance for him to subvert Hollywood's expectations of him as a squeaky clean boy next door, saying, "It's kind of like how no matter what film De Niro was making, he was always ready to pull Raging Bull out of his back pocket. Cage is my Jake LaMotta." It seems the movie will also allow LaBeouf to explore themes of delusion and overstatement.
Despite all the talk, the movie is still very much in its beginning stages. LaBeouf is producing it (probably under the umbrella of his own Grassy Slope production company), according to a recent Cage interview with LAist.com, but the two are still looking for a writer and a director.
As for the specific content of the movie, Cage claims in the LAist.com interview that "it [covers] from birth to about '98 or so, after I dropped 'Agent Orange'." He also didn't rule out the possibility of making a cameo.
Today, Cage posted the following message on his MySpace page, referring to the SPIN article:
"By the way it's not.... Plus I be disturbed it's Plus happy disturbed in that Agent Orange quote no matter how many websites tell you different.That's right people I was an angry misogynistic angel dust smoking suicidal high school drop out former mental patient lashing out in music and stumbled into everything including the movie being made about it.
We are in development we can't get a writer until the strike is over and that is where we are.
I hope this answers some of your questions."
Cage is currently working on the follow-up to Hell's Winter, which he first talked to us about over a year ago. It's still titled Depart From Me, and it's due out summer 2008 on Def Jux. Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw/Head Automatica is serving as executive producer, Sean Martin of Hatebreed contributes production, and Phil Caivano of Monster Magnet is recording the album. According to Cage's publicist, "it's a very progressive record that is mostly sample-free and guitar-heavy, with beats ranging from 88 to 200 BPMs-- not a typical rap record by any means."