Shia LaBeouf’s new film Honey Boy isn’t just a labor of love. It’s quite literally the story of his life.
“From the minute I got out of therapy I went to work,” the Transformers star, 32, said during a Q&A session after the movie’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 25. “This was gestalt therapy.”
The drama is garnering much buzz in Park City, Utah — and not just because LaBeouf wrote the screenplay after completing court-ordered rehab in 2017. He also cast himself as his own father-manager, Jeffrey. The brutally honest coming-of-ager depicts the relationship between the colorful Vietnam war vet/rodeo clown/ex-con and his 12-year-old child-star son named Otis (played by Noah Jupe, A Quiet Place) circa 1995. In a parallel storyline set in 2005, a now-grown Otis (Lucas Hedges) struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder in rehab as he comes to grips with his father’s emotional and physical abuse in their blue-collar housing project.
Prior to typing out the screenplay, LaBeouf — who started his career on Disney’s Even Stevens — noted he had been estranged from Jeffrey for “6 or 7” years. During that period, his behavior grew from erratic (i.e. wearing a paper bag over his head marked with the words “I am not famous anymore” while walking a red carpet in 2014) to troubling (he was arrested in Savannah, Georgia, in 2017 for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct and obstructing, leading to his rehab stint).
Honey Boy, which refers to LaBeouf’s father’s term of endearment for him, was born out of that dark place and the need to reconcile his past. “The whole thing felt very selfish,” he admitted. “I feel guilty about it. It’s strange to fetishize your pain and make a product of it. It wasn’t ‘let me f—ing help people.’ I was falling apart.”
He added that he sent the screenplay to director Alma Har’el “in jest” and she agreed to take charge under the pretense that there wouldn’t be much acting or directing required. Ultimately, “It was a very difficult movie to make,” LaBeouf noted.
Still, LaBeouf received a warm standing ovation prior to taking the stage. And he shared that he and Jeffrey have reconnected as a direct result of the meta-movie. “We’re talking now,” he said.
Honey Boy will be released in theaters later this year.
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