×
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.

More Film

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Breaking for $47 Million Opening Weekend

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is heading for a solid opening of about $47 million at 3,841 North American locations during its first four days, early estimates showed Friday. The performance is slightly below Universal’s forecasts of $50 million for its supernatural thriller, which took in $3.7 million at 3,200 North American sites in Thursday night [...]

  • oscar nominee predictions 2019

    'Roma,' 'A Star Is Born' Poised to Lead Oscar Nominations

    Things got ugly this awards season, enough to give you pause about what might still lie ahead once Oscar nominations are announced next week. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” etc. But as the phase one dust finally begins to settle, what does the landscape look like? On the heels of [...]

  • Oscars Predictions 2018 Illustration

    Academy Awards: Final Oscar Predictions in All Categories

    Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Below are In Contention’s final predictions in all 24 categories. Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” lead the way with 10 expected nominations apiece, while we forecast eight for Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and seven each for Damien [...]

  • Zach Barack Spider-Man

    Transgender Actor Zach Barack Joins Sony's 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

    Newcomer and transgender actor Zach Barack appears in a ground-breaking supporting role in Sony/Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” sources confirm to Variety. Barack can be seen in the new trailer, which was released on Tuesday. Tom Holland is returning to play Peter Parker, with Zendaya and Marisa Tomei also coming back for the sequel. Jake [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content