Shia LaBeouf could be making a comeback turn.
Legendary director Abel Ferrara has exclusively told Variety that LaBeouf has signed on to play the lead role in his next feature, which centers on the younger years of Italian Saint Padre Pio. Ferrara’s regular collaborator and close friend Willem Dafoe is also circling a role in the film, according to the director.
“We’re doing a film about Padre Pio, he’s a monk from Puglia. It’s set in Italy right after World War I. He’s now a saint, he had stigmata. He was also in the middle of a very heavy political period in world history,” Ferrara said. “He was very young before he became a saint, so Shia LaBeouf is going to play the monk.”
Ferrara plans to shoot the film on location in Puglia, located in Italy’s famous heel, in October of this year. He described the film as being “bigger” than many of his recent works, revealing that he has been working on it for quite some time, and that the addition of LaBeouf in the lead role meant the project is “all set” to shoot in the very near future.
It should be noted that independent films can often be precarious affairs. Despite Ferrara’s confidence, the project’s financing could collapse or other logistical hurdles could derail the film.
Variety has reached out to LaBeouf’s representatives for comment.
News of LaBeouf’s casting comes several months after the actor parted ways with CAA, following a lawsuit filed against him late last year by his former girlfriend FKA Twigs. The musician has accused LaBeouf of physical abuse during their relationship. At the time of the CAA break, two sources familiar with the matter told Variety that LaBeouf made the decision to take a break from acting.
LaBeouf is best known for his roles in the “Transformers” and “Indiana Jones” franchises. He recently starred in David Ayer’s action pic “The Tax Collector,” and was last seen opposite Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman.”
Born Francesco Forgione in southern Italy in the late 19th century, Padre Pio generated both devotion and controversy throughout his life. He rose to fame in the Catholic world for exhibiting stigmata, or crucifixion wounds corresponding to those on the body of Jesus Christ, before becoming a symbol of hope for the Italian people during the country’s difficult inter-war period. He died in 1968 at the age of 81, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999, and then canonized and 2002.
Ferrara, who previously made a short documentary on the monk, is currently at the Locarno Film Festival, where he is preparing to world premiere his new film “Zeros and Ones” starring Ethan Hawke. His recent releases include documentary “Sportin’ Life,” in which he documented the surreal experience of going straight from a film festival into lockdown, and Dafoe-led psychological drama “Siberia” on the feature front.