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A Compliment (We Think)
Andrew Davis, the director of Holes, calls the 16-year-old "a cross between Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Wilder."

The Dirt
Holes, based on the novel for teens by Louis Sachar, is a hit. And LaBeouf is basking in the warm glow of stardom for his lead role as a kid who does time in a correctional facility. He was less warmed by the sight of his "flirtatious hippie" dad, Jeffrey, 55, an artist in L.A., hitting on costar Sigourney Weaver on the set, says LaBeouf: "That's the most embarrassed you'll ever be as a human."

Digging His Way Out
LaBeouf did his first acting at age 3 as a way to entertain his Cajun father and Jewish mom Shayna, 60, a clothing and jewelry designer. (They separated in 1992.) "I'd do five minutes on how crazy our life was, like how at Thanksgiving we'd have matzo gumbo or spicy gefilte," he says. He was doing stand-up comedy at Pasadena's Ice House at 12, scoring laughs from adults with "really dirty, gross" material, he says. "Definitely not Disneyesque." He soon found an agent in the Yellow Pages and got his first big gig—on the Disney Channel's Even Stevens—after telling other kids waiting to audition that he already got the part. "Thirteen-year-olds, man, when they go for a job, they get down and dirty."

Cleaning Up Good
He is typically attracted to skateboarding and pretty girls—including his costars in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, due in June. (He also costars in June's comedy prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.) But don't expect LaBeouf, who lives with his mom in L.A., to be the next Cody Banks. "I'm trying to bring to life characters that are interesting to me."