Though critics enjoyed Shia LaBeouf's 2012 directorial debutHowardCantour.com, after making the film available on Vimeo Monday, the tide quickly turned once viewers began to notice the nearly identical resemblance to Daniel Clowes' 2007 comic Justin M. Damiano.
LaBeouf doesn't even bother to hide the source material in the film, stealing Clowes' opening narration verbatim, along with several other lines of dialogue, but the actor failed to cite Clowes in the credits. Once the criticism began gathering speed, the video was taken offline (though it is still available on Buzzfeed).
Clowes, who's best known for Ghost World, said he's "shocked" and doesn't understand why LaBeouf would so shamelessly steal his work. "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," Clowes toldBuzzfeed. "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."
Early Tuesday morning, LaBeouf, who is a known fan of Clowes, owned up to his actions. "Copying isn't particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else's idea to produce something new and different IS creative work," he wrote. "In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation."
"Im [sic] embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration," he continued. 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. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work."
In summation: "I f---ed up."
This apology runs contrary to LaBeouf's previous claims that he developed the script for the film organically as a response to critics. "I know something about the gulf between critical acclaim and blockbuster business. I have been crushed by critics (especially during myTransformers run), and in trying to come to terms with my feelings about critics, I needed to understand them," LaBeouf told Short of the Week. "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."
To make matters worse, the first part of his apology is very similar to an entry on Yahoo! Answers written for years ago. "Merely copying isn't particularly creative work, though it's useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else's idea to produce something new and different IS creative work, and it may even revolutionalize the 'stolen" concept,' user Lili wrote.
This isn't the first time LaBeouf has been accused of plagiarism either. Earlier this year, he released a series of emails between him and his Orphans co-star Alec Baldwin, parts of which were taken directly from a 2009 Esquire article.