×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Shia LaBeouf on His Next Big Acting Challenge: Playing John McEnroe

Before hitchhiking across the States as part of his #TakeMeAnywhere project, Shia LaBeouf was in Cannes to present Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” and spoke to Variety about his next challenging role as American tennis superstar and provocateur John McEnroe in “Borg vs. McEnroe,” to be directed by popular Danish helmer Janus Metz Pederson (“Armadillo,” “True Detective”).

Due to start shooting in August, the movie — penned by Ronnie Sandahl — centers on the relationship between McEnroe and Swedish tennis icon Bjorn Borg (played by up-and-comer Sverrir Gudnason) and chronicles the epic Wimbledon final they played against each other in 1980.

LaBeouf, who has been prepping for the role for two months, will star opposite Gudnason (“Monica Z”) and Stellan Skarsgård, his co-star in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac.” Tre Vanner and SF Studios are producing the project, while Svensk handles international sales.

How did this project fall on your lap? You had passed on another film about John McEnroe.

I received the script and read it when I came home – loved it. Chased it. It was a different script that I passed on. It was another movie called “Superbrat” about John McEnroe, and it was satirical, like a cartoon character like Happy Gilmore. And you know, I read it, it wasn’t very good and I initially thought it was the same project. But then I saw his name [Janus Metz Pederson] and I thought, “No, that doesn’t make any f—ing sense.” And I was a fan of his film. When we did “Fury,” we all just obsessed on his movie “Armadillo.” We sat in a room and watched his movie over and over again – steal a bunch of s— from his film. So we were obsessed, I found out who was doing it, what was going on and I chased him. That’s how we wind up here.

So it’s a darker take on John McEnroe?

No, not darker. Truthful, tangible, anchored, human.

The script is already written?

The script is brilliant. We are all here because of that. I cried the first time I read it. It’s not based on a book or a biography. It’s based on hard work.

So you’re working with Scandinavian directors now [after Lars von Trier with “Nymphomaniac” and Fredrik Bond with “Charlie Countryman”]?

Yes, they make better movies. Scandinavian filmmaking is different. It’s a different pace, a different relationship to the crew — the bonds are different.

Do you feel that you get more interesting roles in Scandinavian movies than in the U.S., for example?

Yes, by far. They make movies about people in Europe. In America, they make fewer films about people, more about plot. Those aren’t interesting to me.

Have you met John McEnroe during the rehearsal?

I haven’t met him yet, but I’m eager to meet him before we shoot. I got nothing but love and respect for him.

What’s your take when you’re trying to play a real character – do you try to imitate or make it your own?

Yes, you look for parallels in your life, and I’m lucky because there is a lot here.

What do you have in common?

Everything in common. Passionate. Perfectionist. Narcissistic. I’m a bit of a caricature also.

Will this film be bigger in scale than “American Honey,” for instance?

I think so, yes. This is epic. It’s f—ing epic. This is the biggest movie I’ve been in lately.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Samara Weaving and Adam Brody Big

    'Ready or Not': That Time Samara Weaving Hit Andie MacDowell in the Face

    Samara Weaving didn’t mean to hurt Andie MacDowell, but she did just that while they were rehearsing for their new horror dark comedy “Ready or Not.” “I hit Andie MacDowell in the face by accident,” Weaving says on this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “It was horrible. It was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content