Explained in a welter of emails that Shia LaBeouf posted on his Twitter account, the actor’s sudden departure from the Broadway revival of “Orphans” sent the producers scrambling for a last-minute replacement. They found one on Thursday in Ben Foster, the 32-year-old actor best known for playing the villain in the film, “3:10 to Yuma.” This will mark Foster’s Broadway debut. Indeed, he appears to have few, if any, stage credits. The official reason given to the press for LaBeouf leaving taking was “creative differences,” the oft-used term when actors are at loggerheads and somebody has to go. Apparently the clash of styles was between LaBeouf and his co-star Alec Baldwin in Lyle Kessler’s play about two brothers who kidnap a wealthy and corrupt businessman. The younger brother is played by Tom Sturridge, who remains with the production.
On Wednesday, LaBeouf posted a series of emails to his Twitter account, including this one, which he received from veteran director Daniel Sullivan: “I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of an actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it. This one will haunt me. You tried to warn me. You said you were a different breed. I didn’t get it.” LaBeouf also published an exchange of emails between him and Baldwin, with the younger actor apologizing “for my part of a dis-agreeable situation” and the older actor noting in his, “I don’t have an unkind word to say about you.”
LaBeouf, a film star in the “Transformer” series, was to have made his Broadway debut in the role of Treat, a brutal and violent petty thief who infantilizes his younger brother in a decrepit Philadelphia row house. According to theater executives speaking anonymously to the New York Times, Sullivan had become anxious about LaBeouf’s approach to the part and apparently those choices ran counter to Baldwin’s interpretation of the role of the kidnapped Harold.
Baldwin, no shrinking violet, has had run-ins with his co-stars in prior productions. In a 2006 revival of Joe Orton’s “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” in which he starred, Jan Maxwell left the production prematurely, stating in an email, which became public, to a friend that she feared for her safety due to Baldwin’s volatile temperament. The decision to let LaBeouf go was made on Tuesday, February 12, a week into rehearsals for the highly-anticipated drama. Foster must have been waiting in the wings and the producers in full damage control mode for the switch to have occurred so quickly. For now, previews are still scheduled to begin at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 19 and to open on April 7.
Since its world premiere in 1983 in Los Angeles, Kessler’s drama has been produced all over the world. In 2005, Al Pacino played Harold opposite Shawn Hatosy in another L.A. production. The 1987 film of “Orphans” starred Albert Finney and Matthew Modine.
Images: Top: Shia LaBeouf and Alec Baldwin Bottom: ben Foster/GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For AFI, Larry Busacca/Getty Images