Nobody’s ever won an Academy Award for their performance at a table read, in large part because table reads aren’t meant to be performative exercises. Gather a bunch of actors in a room, sit them down at a table with all your producers and writers as the audience, and strap in for 125 pages of waiting for an acceptable time to go take a nap. It’s the first time a writer gets the chance to hear their words come off a page and listen to the story they’ve put together, iron out the kinks before they go back for their 187th round of rewrites. That’s it.
Meanwhile, the actors themselves aren’t really walking in the room to act, they’re usually doing exactly what the description implies — reading. No need for grandiose accents, voice warmups, or 20 minutes of Strasberg method relaxation techniques.
Ok, I take that back. There’s always at least one actor in the room intent on bringing the heat. And it’s awkward. It’s awkward because that person is entrenched in delivering the performance of their life while the other dozen trained actors keep their heads buried in a page, listening to a narrator direct some imaginary action, then occasionally reading lines with zero energy like those awkward exercises in grade school where every student traded off reciting a sentence at a time from the textbook. But hey, things could be worse. You could be the tray of 80 bagels in the corner of the room nobody will ever touch.
Shia Lebouf was that guy last week when a bunch of people sat in front of their computers for a Fast Times at Ridgemont High charity table read. Except it wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t awkward at all. It was brilliant. Lebouf went full method and showed up at least three heavy bong rips deep to portray the iconic Jeff Spicoli. Even more impressive, the jazz cabbage didn’t stop him from being mostly off-book and holding every scene in his head like a steal trap. Even Sean Penn himself, the guy who made Jeff Spicoli Jeff Spicoli three decades ago, was reading from the page between moments of trying not to laugh at the roasted Lebouf doing his role justice.
Shia joined Jennifer Aniston, Dane Cook, Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Kimmel, John Legend, Ray Liotta, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts as the reimagined cast of Fast Times and if you’ve paid attention to the internet the past few days, you’ve probably heard that he stole the show from all of them.