Actor Shia LaBeouf said he converted to Christianity while filming his upcoming movie “Padre Pio” and became a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
LaBeouf revealed his conversion in an interview published Thursday with Bishop Robert Barron of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
The actor first became involved with the church while living with a monastery of Franciscan Capuchin friars in order to better understand the late mystic St. Padre Pio, whom LaBeouf portrays in the upcoming film.
Heading into the project, LaBeouf said he was at the darkest point of his life after a series of public scandals. He was drawn to spirituality and joined various religious groups to find meaning, combat thoughts of helplessness and suicide.
“I had a gun on the table. I was out of here,” Shia recalled in the nearly 90-minute interview. “I didn’t want to be alive when all this happened. A shame like I’ve never felt before – the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe. You don’t know where to go. You can’t go out and eat a taco.
“But I was also in this deep desire to hold on,” he added.
The actor described finding faith during his search by surprise, saying his mindset before the movie was career-focused, not God-focused.
“The contact had taken place. I was already there, I had nowhere to go. It was the last stop of the train. There was nowhere to go – in any way,” LaBeouf said in the interview.
He continued, “I know now that God was using my ego to draw me to Him. Moving away from worldly desires. Everything was happening simultaneously. But there would’ve been no impetus for me to get in my car, drive [to the monastery] if I didn’t think, ‘Oh, I’m going to save my career.’
However, while researching and playing the role, LaBeouf said he felt “deceived” by God.
“And when I came here, a change happened. It was like Three-Card Monte. It was as if someone had cheated on me, it was as if,” the actor shared. “Not in a bad way. In a way I couldn’t see. I was so close to him that I couldn’t see him. I see it differently now that time has passed.
LaBeouf described talking about his feelings and learning the Christian understanding of sin and forgiveness as the key to pulling him out of a dark time in his life.
The actor said he didn’t feel worthy of pursuing godliness of any kind until he met others who had struggled morally in ways he had never seen before and felt safe.
Last year, LaBeouf was charged with two misdemeanors – petty theft and battery – after he stole a man’s hat in a fight that turned physical. A few months later, his ex-girlfriend and pop star FKA Twigs sued him for his alleged abusive behavior.
Another ex-girlfriend was listed in the lawsuit who also claimed that LaBeouf was violent towards her.
“It was seeing other people who have sinned beyond anything I could conceptualize being also found in Christ that I thought, ‘Oh, this gives me hope,'” LaBeouf said. to the bishop. “I started hearing the experiences of other depraved people who had found their way into it, and it made me feel like I had permission.”
LaBeouf plays the title character in “Padre Pio,” a film directed by Abel Ferrara exploring the life of the Capuchin Franciscan mystic.
Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in southern Italy in 1887. He became famous for showing stigmata or crucifixion wounds like those on the body of Jesus Christ. He died in 1968 at the age of 81, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999 and then canonized in 2002. Ferrare had previously made a short documentary on the religious figure.
Despite careful scrutiny by skeptics and members of the medical community, no conclusive explanation has been given for Pio’s stigmata, which are said to have appeared and healed throughout his life.
LaBeouf felt immense pressure as he learned more about Pio and spoke to other Capuchin Franciscan friars, who he said pleaded with him, “Don’t get me wrong. He’s the only one we have.
The actor emphasized throughout the interview that despite his intense immersion, he is still very new to the faith and not an expert on different aspects of the religion. When his conversion began, LaBeouf and the brothers didn’t even know if he had ever been baptized.
“I didn’t know I had been baptized. I had been baptized earlier in my life and I didn’t even remember it. My uncle had baptized me in the [Trinitarian formula],” he explained.
LaBeouf told Barron that the traditional form of the Catholic Mass — celebrated in Latin — was key to his conversion and performance as the actor playing Pio.
When Ferrara asked LaBeouf to use an Italian accent while performing, he refused. The film had become too personal and important to wear a “mask” as LaBeouf described to Barron.
“While we practiced the Mass in Latin, I had real emotional experiences, and apart from the fact that as a Neapolitan speaker, [Pio’s] the accent wouldn’t have matched Italian anyway, but I felt like it would have taken me out of this thing that felt very personal,” LaBeouf explained.
Barron, of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, 62, is the most followed online Catholic cleric in the country, aside from Pope Francis himself.
“It was a pleasure to sit down for an in-depth conversation with Shia LaBeouf, one of the most compelling actors of his generation,” Barron said of his time with LaBeouf. “Shia is also a man with a fascinating story to tell regarding his spiritual journey. I think anyone struggling to find the way to God will be interested in what they have to say.
While his episcopal office extends to his parishes in Minnesota – where he is already widely known – Barron’s public influence extends worldwide through his books, videos, radio shows and documentaries with his Word on Fire ministries.
Fox News contacted LaBeouf’s management and public relations representatives but did not receive a response.