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DISTURBIA

The Neighborhood Watch
For the role of Kale, the troubled teen whose daily routine now includes spying on the neighbors, the filmmakers were looking for an actor who had the stamina to sustain throughout the film (his character is in nearly every scene) and to bring out all the dimensions and nuances of a teenager's personality. That meant he had to be smart, funny, a little bit dark, a little bit quirky and, ultimately, have the ability to take charge and act heroic.

The search came to a quick resolution when one Shia LaBeouf walked into the audition room…and, more or less, walked out with the part: LaBeouf has managed to bridge the tricky career breach between being a child actor (with an immensely popular television series under his belt) and a young leading man (he's headlined several films, including the upcoming blockbuster "Transformers” for director Michael Bay and producer Steven Spielberg).

The director says, "It was a tough casting choice because Kale is pretty much in every scene. And we had had discussions about Kale being relatable, not that perfect looking, cover model type. I mean, for me, some of my favorite actors growing up were Sean Penn and John Cusack. Shia is a charming intellectual, a really good-looking guy. Halfway through Shia's reading, though, I just knew he was this guy and as soon as the door closed, I told the casting director, ‘That's him. We found him.'”

Caruso admits he wasn't familiar with LaBeouf's previous work even though his children are fans of his show, "Even Stevens.” But he found him to be a great natural actor, whose "realness” comes across onscreen, which was essential for his central character, someone the audience could identify with (flaws and all) and cheer on. In addition, he was able to handle all the plot turns inherent in the script. (Interestingly, LaBeouf notes that Caruso's compelling "The Salton Sea” is one of his favorite films, and that he auditioned for "Disturbia” primarily for the chance to work with him).

"I think the different tones in ‘Disturbia' come from our everyday lives,” says Caruso. "There are moments in life where you're laughing and, a minute later, you're scared out of your wits. That's what makes the movie work, and much of that is due to Shia's talent. He has that balance. In working with him, I discovered that if the moment felt real he was okay about exploring all these different avenues.”

For LaBeouf, Kale was an attractive character to create. "When Kale loses his father, his whole world changes,” he says. "He becomes a dark, somewhat closed-off human being. Because his mom is dealing with the same pain, she's not available, so Kale turns into this out-of-control kid under house arrest. It's kind of like dangling meat in front of a dog. In jail, you're locked away from the world, but on house arrest, the world is tantalizingly out there in front of you. And on top of that, he may be living across from a killer. "The question of whether it's true or not,” he continues, "becomes his ultimate focus…and the windows of his house become his world. He doesn't want to deal with his feelings because the pain is too intense. So, he starts looking out and finding himself outside. He begins to explore other people's pain as he views relationships unfolding and falling apart. While doing that, he finds someone he thinks is a murderer.”

Though technology becomes a primary factor in Kale's campaign to prove that what he thinks he has seen is true, it also impacts n Kale's isolation and loneliness. "YouTube and MySpace have supposedly revolutionized communication for kids,” LaBeouf mentions. But I'm not so sure. They always said cell phones would bring people closer together, but they really take you farther away, especially because some people prefer to text rather than have a conversation. Kale is growi

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