Shia LaBeouf to play Italian saint in next movie

Shia LaBeouf poses with Franciscan Capuchin friars in 2021.(Photo: YouTube/Suzanne)

(CP) Shia LaBeouf is gearing up for the release of his latest film, "Padre Pio," where he stars in the role of the beloved Franciscan Capuchin friar. The film is now in post-production, but the actor's encounter with real-life monks has touched his heart.

LaBeouf will play the role of Padre Pio, an Italian saint who lived in the 20th century, in the upcoming film of the same name. Directed by Abel Ferrara, "Padre Pio" will center around the saint's young life, according to the Internet Movie Database.

The actor's transformation from the role is evident, as revealed in a recent viral post by Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

On Instagram, the man of the cloth said he recently met with the 36-year-old for the second time while at a movie screening.

"Shia and I met while he was living among the Capuchins in preparation for the role, and it was delightful to see him again at the screening," Barron noted.

LaBeouf's time living with monks came a time the actor was finding his own walk with the Lord.

The entertainer was raised Jewish and once claimed to not believe in God. In a 2014 interview with Interview Magazine, he stated that he became a "Christian" while filming the movie "Fury" alongside Brad Pitt and David Ayer. But his faith was on and off since then.

Footage posted online last year of the "Transformers" star preparing for the role of Padre Pio gave fans a glimpse into where the actor's heart with God is now after he spent time at a Franciscan Capuchin friary based in northern California to help immerse himself into the work of the friars.

According to reports, the "Even Stevens" actor even went on a pilgrimage to the Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio, also known as St. Pio of Pietrelcina, lived and served for more than half a century.

In August, the actor was featured in a video sharing how his new role has impacted him.

"I'm completely immersed in something way bigger than myself. I don't know if I've ever met a group of men as immersed in anything in my life. It's super attractive to see people give themselves to something so divine. And it's heartwarming to know that there's a brotherhood like this that exists," he said.

Additionally, LaBeouf revealed that he was met with "nothing but grace" by the friars he encountered along the way.

In an interview with Variety published last summer, Ferrara shared additional information about the upcoming movie. Besides LaBeouf, the film will feature several Italian actors who may be unfamiliar to American audiences. However, Ferrara told the publication that his close friend Willem Dafoe would also appear in the movie.

"We're doing a film about Padre Pio. He's a monk from Puglia. It's set in Italy right after World War I. He's now a saint. He had stigmata. He was also in the middle of a very heavy political period in world history," Ferrara explained. "He was very young before he became a saint, so Shia LaBeouf is going to play the monk."

In another interview with an Italian publication last month, Ferrara reported that LaBeouf came upon this project just as he was strengthening his own faith.

"For Shia, he began to know Pio just as he was discovering his own Christianity. With this film, he took a dip in the dark. He threw himself. He went to live in a monastery for months. He shared time with his brothers. It was a very powerful discovery," Ferrara recalled.

As stated in a biography compiled by the Padre Pio Foundation of America, the future saint born to the name Francesco Forgione rose to fame in the Catholic world for experiencing what is known as the stigmata — wounds corresponding to those experienced by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.

Several miracles have been attributed to Pio, who continuously bled from the stigmata wounds without experiencing a corresponding fever or loss in blood pressure.

More than 30 years after Pio died in 1968, Pope St. John Paul II beatified the monk in 1999. In 2002, he was canonized.

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