The movie sees LaBeouf playing a hardened organized crime boss responsible for collecting “taxes” from gangs throughout Los Angeles. Shortly after the trailer was released, many critics took to Twitter to debate if LaBeouf, who is the only white actor on the main cast, is doing a form of brownface by appearing as a Hispanic gangster.
“It’s so sad we don’t have enough Chicano actors who were in the gang life for roles like this. Thank God for that little white boy stepping in and saving the day,” one user wrote.
“Oh hey, another movie w/ Latinos and Blacks in glorified gang culture on steroids that reinforces stereotypes & fears for white folks & promotes the cop mentality that “it’s a battlefield out there.” Sigh…..Hollywood, come on. We don’t need this right now,” someone else noted.
“Oh hey, another movie w/ Latinos and Blacks in glorified gang culture on steroids that reinforces stereotypes & fears for white folks & promotes the cop mentality that “it’s a battlefield out there.” Sigh…..Hollywood, come on. We don’t need this right now,” a third user wrote.
“Shia Labouf in a new movie and I’m really hoping he’s not playing brownface,” someone else wrote.
The controversy caused Ayer to step in and defend his movie’s star. The director explained that LaBeouf’s character is not intended to be Latin, merely someone who grew up in “hood” culture.
“Really important answer – Shia is playing a whiteboy who grew up in the hood. This is a Jewish dude playing a white character. Also the only white dude in the movie,” Ayer wrote in response to one person asking him to clarify.
Ayer added that he grew up in a similar environment.
“I grew up hood and I’m a whiteboy. Chicano culture is inclusive – I’ve seen whiteys, Asians, Blacks, Filipinos all putting in work for the hood. It’s part of street culture,” he added.
In response to another tweet, Ayer noted that the actor did his homework in order to portray the culture properly, writing that he “studied a real homie like that to get it correct.”
Shia LaBeouf in ‘The Tax Collector.’
He concluded by responding to yet another critic and explaining that “The Tax Collector” is not a cop movie and that the character is someone very specific.
“You just told them. It ain’t a cop movie. And Shia is playing something very specific. Not brown face,” he wrote.
The social media controversy comes after Ayer revealed in an interview with Slash Film that LaBeouf went above and beyond in order to properly portray the character in the movie. The 34-year-old “Honey Boy” actor went as far as to have his entire chest tattooed in order to better look the part.
“He’s one of the best actors I’ve worked with, and he’s the most committed to body and soul,” the director explained. “He had a tooth pulled on ‘Fury,’ and then on ‘Tax Collector,’ he got his whole chest tattooed. So, he kind of goes all in, and I’ve never known anyone that committed.”