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James Franco empathizes with Shia LaBeouf in New York Times op-ed

Shia LaBeouf arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the extended version of the film "Nymphomaniac Volume I" at the 64th Berlinale Film Festival on Feb. 9, 2014, in Berlin.
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Shia LaBeouf is receiving some support from a Hollywood peer.

Oscar-nominated actor James Franco penned an op-ed piece, published Wednesday in The New York Times, on the former "Transformers" star's recent behavior.

"Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct," Franco wrote.

LaBeouf, 27, has been under the focus of media scrutiny since December, when he was accused of plagiarizing the work of graphic novelist Daniel Clowes for his short film "HowardCantour.com." Soon after, allegations of plagiarism were again leveled at LaBeouf over his public apology to Clowes.

 The actor's behavior further came under the microscope after he wore a paper bag, inscribed with the words "I am not famous anymore," over his head to the premiere of his new film, "Nymphomaniac." He was also seen donning a similar bag last week in an L.A. art installation called "#IAmSorry."

Franco elaborated, "Indeed I hope -- and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that [LaBeouf's] actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona."

The "This Is the End" star went on to note that performers have been known to rebel at times during their careers. 

"As an actor, you are often in the uncomfortable position of being the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form," Franco wrote.

As an example, he cited Marlon Brando, who often defied studio demands to stay in shape and refused his best actor Oscar for "The Godfather" in 1973. There's also mention made of Joaquin Phoenix, who attracted significant press attention while staying in character during the filming of his "I'm Still Here" mockumentary.

Franco even pointed to his own actions, referencing his role as a guest star on the soap opera "General Hospital," around the same time he was making his Academy Award-nominated turn in "127 Hours."

"Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d’être," he added.

Franco ended the piece by calling LaBeouf's latest PR mishaps a "worthy" project: "I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist."

In 2000, a then-13-year-old LaBeouf appeared in an episode of "Freaks and Geeks," a cult series which Franco starred on as a main cast member.

Tell us: Do you think LaBeouf's antics are really an act?

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    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.