Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

 Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

Actor Shia LaBeouf said he converted to Christianity and became a member of the Roman Catholic Church during the filming of his new movie "Padre Pio."

LaBeouf revealed his conversion in an interview with Bishop Robert Barron of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries published Thursday.

The actor first came into contact with the church while living in a Franciscan Capuchin monastery to better understand the late mystic St. Padre Pio, whom LaBeouf portrays in the upcoming film.

Prior to the project, LaBeouf said he found himself at the darkest point in his life after a series of public scandals. He was drawn to spirituality and joined various faith groups to find meaning, battling thoughts of helplessness and suicide.

"I had a gun on the table. I wanted to get out of here," Shia recalled in the nearly 90-minute interview. "I did not want to be alive when all this happened. There was a shame like I had never experienced before - the kind of shame where you forget to breathe. You do not know where to go. You can not go outside to get a taco." 

"But I also had a deep desire to hang on," he added.

The actor described that during his research he surprisingly found faith. He said that while working on the film, he focused on his career, not on God.

"The reaching out had happened. I was already there, I had nowhere to go. This was the last stop on the train. I had nowhere else to go - in any sense of the word," LaBeouf said in the interview. 

He continued, "I know now that God used my ego to draw me to Him. To pull me away from worldly desires. It all happened at the same time. But there would have been no reason for me to get in my car and drive [to the monastery] if I had not thought, 'Oh, I am going to save my career.'"

During research and casting for the role, however, LaBeouf said he felt "tricked" by God.

"And when I arrived here, a change happened. It was like three-card Monte. It felt like someone had tricked me," the actor recounted. "Not in a bad way. More like I could not see it. I was so close to it that I could not see it. Now that time has passed, I see it differently."

LaBeouf described that talking about his feelings and learning about the Christian understanding of sin and forgiveness were key to bringing him out of the dark time in his life.

Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

The actor said that he did not feel worthy to strive for any kind of godliness until he met others who had labored morally in ways he had never seen before and felt secure.

Last year, LaBeouf was charged with two misdemeanors - petty theft and assault - after stealing a man's hat during a brawl that degenerated into fisticuffs. Just a few months later, his ex-girlfriend and pop star FKA Twigs sued him for his alleged abusive behavior.

Another ex-girlfriend was listed in the lawsuit and also claimed LaBeouf abused her.

"When I saw that other people who had sinned beyond anything I could ever imagine were also found in Christ, I felt like, 'Oh, that gives me hope,'" LaBeouf told the bishop. "I heard about the experiences of other depraved people who had found their way, and that made me feel like I had permission to do that."

LaBeouf plays the title character in "Padre Pio," a film by Abel Ferrara that explores the life of the Franciscan Capuchin mystic.

Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in southern Italy in 1887. He became famous for his stigmata, crucifixion wounds similar to those on the body of Jesus Christ. He died in 1968 at the age of 81. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999 and canonized in 2002. Ferrara had previously made a short documentary film about the religious figure.

Despite intense scrutiny by skeptics and members of the medical community, there is no conclusive explanation for Pio's stigmata, which allegedly occurred and recurred throughout his life.

LaBeouf felt immense pressure as he learned more about Pio and spoke with other Franciscan Capuchin friars who, he says, implored him, "Do not get it wrong. He's the only one we have."

The actor stressed throughout the interview that despite his intense immersion in the faith, he is still very new and is not an expert on the various aspects of the religion. When his conversion began, LaBeouf and the monks were not even sure if he had ever been baptized.

"I did not know that I had been baptized. I had been baptized earlier in my life and had not even remembered it. My uncle had baptized me according to the [Trinitarian formula]," he explained.

Shia LaBeouf becomes a Catholic after studying for the movie 'Padre Pio.'

LaBeouf told Barron that the traditional form of the Catholic Mass - celebrated in Latin - was crucial to both his conversion and his acting performance in the role of Pio.

When Ferrara asked LaBeouf to use an Italian accent, he refused. The film had become too personal and too important to wear a "mask," as LaBeouf described it to Barron.

"While we were practicing the Latin Mass, I was having real emotional experiences, and aside from the fact that as a Neapolitan, I would not have fit the Italian anyway, I felt like that would have taken me out of this, which felt very personal," LaBeouf explained.

Barron, 62, of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, is the Catholic clergyman with the most followers on the Internet, along with Pope Francis himself.

"It was a pleasure to have an in-depth conversation with Shia LaBeouf, one of the most compelling actors of his generation," Barron said of his time with LaBeouf. "Shia is also a man who has a fascinating story to tell about his spiritual journey. I think anyone struggling to find their way to God will be interested in what he has to say."

While his episcopal ministry involves his Minnesota congregations - where he is already widely known - Barron's public influence extends around the world through his books, videos, radio shows and documentaries with his Word on Fire ministries.

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