A lot has changed since we headed down to Angelika Film Center on Tuesday and were able to get right in to see Nymphomaniac with Shia LaBeouf. Around 11 a.m. this morning, a line wound back and forth across the Center’s lobby and spilled out the front door and down the block.
Inside Angelika’s smallest theater, capacity around 75 persons, Shia LaBeouf and around seventy-four other people were watching all of the movies he has appeared in, in reverse chronological order. Admission to the performance stunt, #ALLMYMOVIES, is free and audience members can stay as long as they like.
One person stayed too long, rumor had it. A few people in line had heard that an audience member urinated in the theater and staff retaliated by kicking everyone out except LaBeouf and letting in a new batch of people. Who knows whether this actually happened. There’s no mention of it on social media, and theater staff declined to talk to us.
Near the front of the line we found 26-year-old Li, an after-school teacher who had been in line since 8 p.m. last night, he said. He originally thought he would only need to wait a few hours at most, but he decided to stick it out anyways. He had nodded off to sleep a couple of times.
Li wasn’t sure what LaBeouf was up to, and suspected the actor was trying make people look foolish. “He might be laughing at us,” Li said.
So then why was Li here? “I mean I’ve been here this long, I might as well go through with it.”
He was due to be at work at 4pm. LaBeouf’s stunt is predicted to end around nine or ten tonight. “I might call it in. Maybe, I don’t know,” Li said.
A few rows away, Mikayla, 21, Jocelyn, 23, and Heather, 24, were chatting, their eyes slightly baggy. They’d been in line for around six hours.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Mikayla, who described herself as a lifelong fan of LaBeouf. She really wanted to see the movie Holes.
“I think it’s a stunt,” Jocelyn interjected. “Can I make people stand in line for days?”
“But he’s participating in his own stunt,” Heather said. “I think he’s doing this so we can watch him watch himself doing what he loves. He’s trying to normalize himself. He’s sorting himself out.”
If that’s the case, why not do it privately with a shrink?
“I don’t know, it’s Shia LaBeouf. He’s a weird guy, he’s not like the rest of us.”
Out the door, down the steps, and down the block we found Emma, a 19-year-old NYU student. She had stepped in line “five seconds ago.” She didn’t know how long people had been waiting.
“I’d be willing to wait two hours,” she said.
The person at the front had been waiting 13.
Her eyes widened and she said “Wow,” then looked down at her phone. She did not step out of the line.
“I like this kind of thing,” Julia, a 26-year-old television writer, said. “More of Hollywood should be crazy. He’s not crazy, but what he did is a strong choice and I like strong choices.” Julia said this reminded her of the musical Merrily We Roll Along. “It’s about a group of friends whose lives are in shambles and they look back on what happened and they said to themselves everything would be great but that’s not what happened and they are looking back to see what happened.”
Julia also didn’t know what Emma just found out. “I love Holes, I want to see if I can make it for that.”
Back inside, a small girl who looked no older than 19 heaved up a camping backpack with sleeping mats sticking out the sides of it and walked away from the line. She was wearing a long purple velvet coat with a white fur-lined hood. Her disheveled hair, some parts of it braided, stuck out from underneath a black baseball cap that loosely hung on the side of her head. She had a nose bridge stud piercing. A tall, heavyset female theater manager told her something with a stern demeanor. The girl jerked her hands up and backed away, laying the backpack near a column.
“I thought this was going to be like a festival,” the girl with the purple coat and camping gear said to us. “But these are just the most uptight group of motherfuckers I’ve ever hung out with.”
It turns out she’s 34 years old, is named Linn, and has been living in Williamsburg for eight years. (“I caught the tail end of when New York was cool.”) She had joined the line at 8:30 this morning but was getting ready to leave; she had just found out how long people had been waiting.
“I thought it would be like people being excited and more fun and happy. But it was more like borderline angry people, not friendly. Extreme frustration. We brought things with us to do.”
What kinds of things?
She blushed. “You know, things,” she laughed. Her laugh smelled like rum and Kool-Aid. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She brought with her a foldout chair, to offer to people who had been in line for a long time. “They looked at me like I was fucking crazy.” She offered to do a store run and asked people if they wanted anything.
“Same thing, just looks, like I’m batshit crazy. Which is funny because you’ve been in line for nine hours to watch some movies so you tell me who’s crazy.”