Hitchhiking project brings ‘Transformers’ actor Shia LaBeouf to Helena

June 16, 2016

HELENA — Most hitchhikers passing through Helena probably don’t get much notice, but actor Shia LaBeouf was different.

Perhaps best known for his role in “Transformers,” the former Disney Channel child star stopped at Bad Betty’s Barbecue on Thursday as part of his “Take Me Anywhere” hitchhiking project held in the name of art.

“The first thing he said was, ‘I heard this was the best barbecue in the state.’ And I didn’t argue with him,” said Bad Betty’s Barbecue owner Calvin Richards, who learned the celebrity planned to stop in just moments before his arrival.

Nice to meet you, Shia! Welcome to Montana! #TAKEMEANYWHEREpic.twitter.com/qbTH14hQYp — Joel Thompson (@joelmichaelt) June 16, 2016

During LaBeouf’s visit, staff members gave him a tour of the restaurant and explained plans for the indoor seating area that’s currently under construction. They also took him into the kitchen, where he put on an apron for a photo, and they gave him a Bad Betty’s shirt that he graciously accepted even though it was several sizes too large.

“He was super genuine with everything,” Richards said, adding that the actor was happy to take photos with people in the restaurant.

And while Richards says he was able to keep his cool during LaBeouf’s visit, he admitted some of his employees “were certainly a little star struck.”

“It’s not every day that you have something like that happen,” he said. “It was definitely surreal.”

Shia LaBeouf, giving a thumbs up, poses for a picture with Bad Betty’s Barbecue employees Thursday afternoon.

Richards said LaBeouf ordered the three-meat sampler with brisket, tri-tip, smoked bratwurst, beans and coleslaw. And he seemed to be happy with his choice.

“He was raving about all of it,” Richards said. “The first thing he said was, ‘Oh man, those beans.’”

Along with artists Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner, LaBeouf has partnered with Vice News, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado and the Finnish Institute in London for the hitchhiking project. The three have been Tweeting their coordinates and inviting people to take them anywhere as part of their road trip, which the Boulder Museum says is “symbolic of a collective yearning to seek out beauty and truth within a corrupt nation.”

Their journey can be tracked in real time at takemeanywhere.vice.com.