A 3-year-old LaBeouf impersonates his father Jeffrey's drunken episodes. "My family loved it, because I was making light of these hard situations," he tells the Boston Globe in 2003. While his Jeffrey deals with his heroin addiction, his mother Shayna sells beads on the streets of L.A.'s gang-ridden Echo Park to pay the rent. At 12, LaBeouf begins performing standup for adults and finds an agent in the Yellow Pages. His first professional gig is an Oreos commercial.
After making his debut in the TV feature Breakfast with Einstein (1998), LaBeouf nabs his breakout role in the award-winning Disney series Even Stevens (left). After three seasons as the goofball younger brother Louis, LaBeouf earns an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. The series ends in June 2003. "I was scared out of my mind because I had been living on this set, creating and being free with the same people for three years," he tells Entertainment Weekly in 2003.
LaBeouf, 16, makes his feature debut in Holes, playing a boy sentenced to boot camp. "Everyone just thought I was a big goofball. Holes changed that. When your movie makes almost $ 70 million, it's a different ball game," LaBeouf tells EW. Costar Jon Voight (right), who gave him nightly acting assignments, says of the young star: "He has a God-given gift for truth and authenticity."
LaBeouf is featured in the Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (left) reality show, Project Greenlight, which documents the making of The Battle of Shaker Heights. In the film, LaBeouf stars as a love-struck outsider who reenacts war games. "Unlike his other stuff, this movie features a kid on his own, a kid with real dramatic moments," Chris Moore, executive producer of the reality show and movie, tells EW. "It's awesome for Shia because he gets to show that side of it."
LaBeouf's comedic chops prove profitable as he scores a number of sidekick roles in such hit action flicks as Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, the sci-fi thriller I, Robot with Will Smith (right), and 2005's Constantine with Keanu Reeves. "The coolest thing was going into Will's trailer. You've got to understand – this man's trailer has three levels," LaBeouf tells PEOPLE. "There's a studio where he makes his music. It's got marble floors. And his kids have a game room...My trailer had a toilet and three cans of Sprite."
LaBeouf portrays real-life amateur golfer Francis Ouimet, who defeated British champion Harry Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open, in The Greatest Game Ever Played. While onset, LaBeouf begins a three-year relationship with China Brezner, the daughter of one of the producers. "We were inseparable," LaBeouf tells PEOPLE. "She was my best friend and my love." The pair break up in the spring of 2007. "My focus became so work-related that I couldn't devote any time to a relationship," he adds. "It was unfair to her."
LaBeouf plays a young Robert Downey Jr. in the coming-of-age drama A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. The film earns a Sundance Film Festival award for Best Ensemble Cast with Rosario Dawson and Channing Tatum. He also appears in Emilio Estevez's directorial debut, Bobby, a drama centered around the night of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, with Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore and Elijah Wood.
LaBeouf stars in the thriller Disturbia, which opens at No. 1. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott calls LaBeouf "one of the most engaging young actors in movies today." He also signs on to star in the fourth installment of Indiana Jones. "It's a huge project and you treat it that way," LaBeouf tells PEOPLE of the film, which costars Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett. When it opens in May 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull makes an estimated $311 worldwide its first weekend.
LaBeouf tries to save the world from impending robocalypse in director Michael Bay's Transformers with Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox. In its first week, the film obliterates the competition, taking in $152.6 million domestically. Weeks later, LaBeouf lands on the cover of Vanity Fair (which dubs him the next Tom Hanks), and he's set to reprise his blockbuster role in a 2009 Transformers sequel.
LaBeouf, 21, is arrested for trespassing in a Chicago Walgreens after allegedly appearing intoxicated and refusing to leave the store. "I was an a--hole, and it was a mistake I'm still completely embarrassed about," LaBeouf tells Empire magazine. In December, the drugstore decides not to press charges. But in April 2008, the actor is fined $500 for illegally smoking in Burbank, Calif. in February.
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