Producers of Broadway's Orphans Reach Settlement with Ousted Actor Shia LaBeouf

By Andrew Gans
July 17, 2013

The producers of the Broadway debut of Lyle Kessler's Orphans, which played a brief run this past season at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, have reached a settlement with actor Shia LaBeouf, who was dismissed from the production in February following a clash with co-star Alec Baldwin in rehearsals.



According to the New York Times, Orphans producers Robert Cole and Frederick Zollo released a statement July 17 saying that the settlement with the film actor, who had filed a grievance with Actors' Equity, had been reached. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

In a statement the producers said, "We regret the circumstances that caused Shia’s departure from Orphans. Shia is a gifted actor whose full preparation to undertake the role of Treat demonstrated his respect and devotion to the play. The parties recognize that neither Mr. LaBeouf nor the producers was at fault. We have the utmost respect for Shia and his acting abilities, and would welcome the opportunity to work with him in the future."

After his dismissal, LaBeouf was replaced by Ben Foster. The production, however, failed to catch on with audiences and closed May 19 after 27 previews and 37 regular performances.

The three-person play, which was directed by Daniel Sullivan, also starred Tom Sturridge.

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On Feb. 20 producers of the three-person play announced that the "Transformers" star was leaving the production "due to creative differences." 

On his Twitter account, actor LaBeouf posted several e-mails he received or sent to cast and creative team members, including one he received Feb. 19 from director Sullivan, which reads, "I'm too old for disagreeable situations. you're one hell of a great 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. Dan"

Another e-mail, from "AB," states, "SL I've been through this before. It's been a while. And perhaps some of the particulars are different. But it comes down to the fact that what we all do now is critical. Perhaps especially for you. When the change comes, how do we handle it, whether it be good or bad? What do we learn? I don't have an unkind word to say about you. You have my word. AB"

LaBeouf responded, "same. be well. good luck on the play. you'll be great."

Two other emails, from co-star Sturridge and fight director Rick Sordelet, have also now been posted on LaBeouf's Twitter account.

Co-star Sturridge wrote Feb. 20, "Hey, are you still here? I don't really know what to write. I went in this afternoon and they were all there…producers etc. I said my piece but they didn't really listen. I don't understand what has happened here. Maybe you have had a more enlightening conversation with someone by now. All I can say is that it was truly an honor to work with you even if it was only for a few days. I was stunned by the work you were doing, the performance you were giving. I think you lifted the play to a place higher than maybe it even deserved to be. I hope this isn't the last time we work together and I especially hope it isn't the last time we see each other. Hope you're ok brother. T"

Sordelet, in an email dated Feb. 21, wrote, "Dear Shia, So sorry things went down like they did. It's a pity Broadway will not get to see your Treat. It was obvious you were going to turn in a fantastic performance. But you are a divinely guided young man and it will all become clear in a short time.… Christian and I are very impressed with your work ethic and respect for the craft. It must have been difficult for others in the room to be schooled by someone [whose] raw talent and enthusiasm out matched theirs. Good luck and love to you, Rick Sordelet."

In the play, according to press notes, "two orphaned brothers are living in a decrepit North Philadelphia row house. Treat, the eldest, supports his damaged younger sibling Phillip (Sturridge) by petty thievery, and makes the house a virtual prison for the seemingly simple-minded Phillip. One night he kidnaps a rich older man, Harold (Baldwin), who turns out to have his own motives and becomes the father figure the boys have always yearned for."

Orphans premiered in 1983 at The Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles where it won the Drama-Logue Award. Following its 1985 engagement at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, the play had a successful run at New York’s Westside Arts Theatre and was subsequently produced in London. A film version was also produced.