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Shia LaBeouf has received plenty of attention for his role in The Tax Collector, the upcoming movie from Suicide Squad (not to be confused with The Suicide Squad) director David Ayer. Recently, we learned LaBeouf went all in for the gig, even really tattooing his chest for the role. However, after some people began complaining about LaBeouf’s casting before the movie has even come out, Ayer has defended his choice.
The gist is some people online feel Shia LaBeouf is a miscast for The Tax Collector, which is supposed to follow “tax collectors” who pick up taxes for local gangs, most of which are heavily Latino in the film. Some people even went so far as to call the casting “brownface,” which David Ayer says is not the case, as LaBeouf is playing a white character in the movie. The director noted on Twitter when asked about whether or not the gig is really another case of a white person playing a Latino character:
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.
The argument seems to rely on the fact that Shia Labeouf is the lead in a movie about two rival gangs in a Latino neighborhood. But it’s also worth pointing out that while LaBeouf is the most well-known cast member in this movie and has been getting attention for the gig, he’s not actually the lead in The Tax Collector, which the director also feels is a key detail people who may seek out the movie need to know.
Ayer went on to reiterate that Shia LaBeouf is not the lead in The Tax Collector in a separate Tweet response clarifying Bobby Soto is the lead, though LaBeouf does feature prominently in the trailer. Soto previously had small roles in Narcos: Mexico, S.W.A.T. and other TV shows, but had a bigger role in this year’s The Quarry and now David Ayer’s upcoming film. Per the director:
Respectfully I didn’t. Bobby Soto is the lead. Shia has a supporting role. He’s the only non POC cast member. It’s a small indie movie and a lot of good people did great work.
Of the directors currently working in Hollywood, David Ayer is a director who has a pretty good track record with diverse casting. His take on the Suicide Squad featured the first big DCEU big screen Latino superhero with El Diablo, played by Jay Hernandez. He also is also known for directing Will Smith in Netflix’s Bright franchise and he’s written movies like The Fast and the Furious (a co-writing effort), Training Day and End of Watch, the latter of which he also directed.