Steven was also the executive producer of Shia’s new film Eagle Eye, in which Shia plays a young man who ends up having to follow the orders of a mysterious woman on the phone (Julianne Moore, in an uncredited voice performance).
Next, the 22-year-old Los Angeles native will be back in the role of Sam Witwicky for the Transformers sequel, Revenge of the Fallen. It has so far been another adventure for Shia, who damaged his hand in a car crash in July of this year during filming.
His injury has been written into the film, which looks set to be just as successful as its predecessor when it’s released next year.
Q: Eagle Eye is non-stop action. It’s fun to watch, but was it fun to shoot?
A: Yeah. It was like going to summer camp with your best friends. I love DJ Caruso (Eagle Eye’s director, who also directed Disturbia). I love working with him because we have so much fun. We're big sports freaks – we went to the Super Bowl in the middle of the shoot. It's like working with one of your best friends.
Q: Is it true that Steven Spielberg wanted the audience to be reluctant to turn on their mobile phones and Blackberrys when they left the theatre after seeing Eagle Eye?
A: Steven wanted people to feel the same way they felt when they came out of Jaws. Nobody went to the beach boogie boarding after seeing Jaws. He wanted people to walk out of the theatre with that same type of fear with their cell phones. I live out of a bag. I'm a travelling circus. My only permanent address is my cell phone. I travelled for this interview in LA from the New Mexico set of Transformers 2 with my phone, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Q: Do you think we're all a little too reliant on technology?
A: Yeah, I think we're at an age where we are dependent on technology. It's advanced to the point where one in five phone calls is recorded and documented. It's a lot of power, so I think there is fear attached to technology. I remember the CIA guy we had on the film [as an advisor] told me one in five calls are documented. I laughed at him. Then he played back a phone call I had two years prior. It was terrifying. It scared the hell out of me.
It's very real. But that's not all. Security boxes people have in their homes have microphones in them that can be used against you at any point to listen in on you if they feel they have probable cause. What's probable cause? Who determines what probable cause is? The technology is at the point where Eagle Eye could happen. It's about the people behind the technology that can allow it to happen. It's now drones that go to war. It's not people against people.
We are at the point now where technology can do a complete profile of you. This is coming in the near-future: a psychological profile can be created for you so when you walk down the street advertisements will be created to cater for your tastes. If you hate oranges, you will never see a billboard for oranges. You'll only see billboards for apples.
A movie like Eagle Eye is rooted in truth. There are programmes in the movie that exist, they may not be on the same level with the same amount of power, but they do exist. The advisers are vital. The government doesn't tell the public everything for our own protection, so the advisers tell us what to say and what not to say for the safety of us and them. These advisers knew stuff that we don't know and they can scare the hell out of us.
Q: So it’s not only well-known people like yourself who are in the public eye?
A: That's right. I'm in the public eye. It's something I've willingly done to myself. I have no problem with it. But, I think it's scarier for the average Joe who isn't in that world and who thinks they do have privacy. I know for a fact I have no privacy so it's not that big of a jump to go into a film like Eagle Eye and say 'Yeah, that's how it is'. It's a bigger jump for someone who thinks they have privacy, because they live off the grid. What they don't realize is there isn't a square inch of land on the planet that isn't on the grid. That's terrifying.
Q: Was it a privilege to be allowed to shoot at the Pentagon?
A: We had great access. When you have Steven Spielberg involved, you get great access. That's the beauty of Steven. Eagle Eye was a sci-fi idea Steven came up with 10 years ago. The future has caught up with it. It's no longer a sci-fi fantasy. It's a very real sphere.
Q: There's a great scene in Eagle Eye where your character is broke and walks up to an ATM and discovers he has $750,000 in the bank. Have you ever had that situation?
A: I started acting early so I never had an ATM card or anything like that for a long time. When I hit 16 and could have an ATM card, I had no idea. My parents were never money orientated. We don't have financial advisers. (Eagle Eye co-star) Michael Chiklis was just telling me about how the financial markets are crashing. My first thought was 'I better call my mother'. I've never been money orientated. I know we have enough to survive. My parents don't have to work, which is the best thing I've ever been able to do. It's quite a feeling being able to say to you Mom: 'You're retired now. You never have to work a day in your life again'. That's cool, but the amount of money you earn in this business is outrageous. I don't want to live a lifestyle that's bigger than my means. I'm 22. I don't deserve to live in a mansion. I live in a two bedroom house.
Q: You're a rare breed in Hollywood, then!
A: I don't think I'm a rare breed. I've been poor before. It's not fun growing up in poverty. The type of poverty I grew up in is not a fun deal. I don't ever want to go back there. I have everything I need.
Q: You've had hit movie after hit movie and worked with the greats of the industry. Eagle Eye is shaping up as another hit. Where do you see your future?
A: If you would have asked me during Disturbia if I would be sitting here today talking about Eagle Eye and having just been in Indiana Jones and Transformers, I would say no way would it happen. I wanted to go to college back then. I still do. It's hard to say no to Steven – we love working with each other. There's ideas floating around. There's things me and DJ want to do together. There's things I want to do with Steven. I'm just going to play it by ear.
Q: I notice when you talk about Steven Spielberg you refer to him as 'Steven'…
A: It was during Transformers, I remember he said 'Just call me Steven'. Then Steven became just 'Steve'. Then just Steve became 'SS'. It's very strange. It's wild. He's the resident genius. Then on Indiana Jones he directed me. That was a whole new experience. I had never dealt with him on that level because a director-actor relationship is a much more personal thing. As an actor you are vulnerable and he is the captain of the ship. Things changed in our relationship dramatically during Indiana Jones.
I remember saying to him: 'What does it feel like to wake up and be a genius? What's it like to look in the mirror and know that you're one of the most forward thinkers that this world has ever had?' He said 'I don't think of myself in that way'. I said 'Really? How could you not be informed by other people's opinions and he said 'I don't validate myself on other people's opinions of me. If I did I'd be crazy'. He's just a cool guy. He's a cool, normal guy. Well as normal as someone can be at that level.
Q: You worked alongside another Oscar winner in Eagle Eye – Billy Bob Thornton. He
plays a very shrewd FBI agent. What's he like?
A: He's a wild card. I like to go off book a lot and DJ lets me. It's our style. Billy fell right into that. He was really gung-ho about it and so fast and quick-witted, so it raises the level of whatever scene we're doing. He's one of the best actors on the planet. To go toe-to-toe with him and spitting out seven pages of dialogue is just a lot of fun.
Q: So how did it play out when shooting the fight scenes?
A: It was very physical. If was a different type of physical for me. In Indiana Jones it was like a 'slip on a banana peel' type of action. Transformers is like another world, sci-fi, CGI-heavy action, while Eagle Eye is a very candid, tangible, realistic, dirty type of action. The fight scenes in Eagle Eye were fights. You're going to get hit. You have to accept it. There was no way to choreograph it like a ballet. You have to fight and it felt that way. We would try and get it in one shot, if we didn't get it in one we'd try to get it in two, but if we didn't get it in two we were there a long while and the day was a hard one. It sucked. (laughs).
Q: How's the Transformers sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, going?
A: It's big. It's massive. It's way bigger than the first one. Michael Bay is trying to re-define action. This is not a small movie. I love him, but he's pushing the envelope. He wants it to be crazy. He wants the audience to say 'You are kidding!'
Man, what can I say? Last week we blew up a bridge and we blew up a town. It's outrageous. The day before I got here we had this shot where there were four helicopters in the sky blowing up a building as I was running through it. There was a camera on a Jeep and I'm running through these dunes and it's following me. If I tripped and fell I'm crushed. So we're pushing it as far as we can. It's the toughest thing I've ever done physically.
Source: Basingstoke Gazette