CBS News Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports for 48 Hours that LaBeouf is an Emmy Award-winning Disney Channel star who has crossed over to the big screen. His list of movie credits is longer than some stars twice his age, which is not bad for someone who's never taken an acting class.
He simply has a natural quality in front of the camera. "I was always acting like a fool," LaBeouf explains. "Doing impersonations and characters. I was always a class clown."
Growing up, life was a bit unusual for LaBeouf. His mom was an aspiring ballerina and jewelry maker, and his father was a professional clown who sold hot dogs. Both parents struggled to make ends meet.
LaBeouf remembers, "My dad trained chickens to jump through hoops of fire 'cause he was in the circus for a while, and he had this chicken named Henrietta Lafowl. I'd come home and ask my mother, 'Hey ma, what's two plus two?' and she'd say, 'Go ask your father.' 'Dad, what's two plus two?' 'Just a second, the chicken's not [cooperating].'"
He says his best memories are from the house in the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where he was raised. But that period was not without its unpleasantness, like the time his mother sold things at a street fair.
"If you could imagine this," says LaBeouf, "My mom's trying to schlep stuff out - this New York Jew, trying to push merchandise. And me sitting there playing with my toys. And have some rich guy come and drop $500 on the table and buy all my mom's stuff. Because I wanted to be that rich guy dropping $500."
And when LaBeouf was very young, his relationship with his father was troubled.
"He had a drinking problem," LaBeouf explains. "My mom didn't want him in the house, so she said, 'Get out of here, go to the VA hospital, get your life in order come back when you're ready.' So I would go and see him every Wednesday for three hours, for two years.
"You want to see your father every day. You don't want to see your mother go through hard stuff. It was rough, man. But when he came out, he was the best guy I'd ever met in my life. Better than when he'd gone in. And now he's my best friend."
At age 12, LaBeouf picked up the phone and called an agent, doing an impersonation that would change his life. Pretending to be an adult, and an agent himself, he recalls his pitch as: "I've got the biggest thing in England. This kid is the best."
The agent signed him up, and LaBeouf landed roles on "ER" and "The X Files." Within two years, he had his own show, "Even Stevens," on the Disney Channel.
These days, a role on the Disney Channel is often a ticket to the silver screen. Disney was grooming LaBeouf just as they had Hillary Duff and Frankie Muniz. If all went well, LaBeouf, and Disney, would end up making millions at the box office.
The show was a hit, and earned him an Emmy. During his acceptance speech, LaBeouf pointed out his mother. He tells us she's, "like that old Italian dude in Rocky: 'Come on Rocky, you can do it.' That's my mom."
Disney gave him his big-screen debut, in the movie "Holes." He played a kid struggling to make it through a boot camp for juvenile delinquents.
Jon Voight co-starred and produced the movie. He remembers LaBeouf as both professional and enthusiastic.
"I told many people here in my offices, this kid is gonna be a big star," says Voight. "And sure enough, the energy is starting to build right now with this boy and we can see that indeed he has all of those ingredients."
"Holes" made a stunning $67 million at the box office, and LaBeouf had successfully crossed over to the big screen.
He says: "I never thought about it like, 'Wow, I have a hit.' It was just like, 'Wow, I have a movie.' It's just crazy."
Now, LaBeouf reportedly makes a half million-dollars per film. Proud of his accomplishments, he says, "I don't want the fame, the fortune so much. I want respect."