Actor and avant-garde performance artist Shia LaBeouf is completing his destiny. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shia LaBeouf will play his own father in Honey Boy, a movie loosely based on his life. LaBeouf wrote the biopic, sharing the credit with a co-writer he admits is actually a pseudonym "Otis Lort." The same fictional moniker will also be used, roman-a-clef style, as the name of Honey Boy's protagonist, a teenage child-actor (played by Oscar-nominated actor Lucas Hedges) who has a complicated relationship with his dad.
While the casting sounds pretty wild, Honey Boy is a very personal project for LaBeouf. Before the announcement, the script was listed on the Black List, an annual list that compiles Hollywood's "most liked" unproduced screenplays. According to THR, the movie was described on that list with the description, "A child actor and his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father attempt to mend their contentious relationship over the course of a decade.” The title comes from his father Jeffrey's nickname for LaBeouf, "Honey Boy."
In a recent cover story with Esquire, Labeouf explained that his difficult relationship with his father fueled a great deal of his life, explaining, "That dude is my gasoline." He added, "My dad handed me a lot, and his legacy was an emotional one. And it wasn’t scarring." He also claimed that it was thinking about his relationship with his dad that would stir up the intense emotions needed of him in certain scenes. saying "I could work myself up into a frenzy." He noted that his father was "the whole reason I became an actor.”
The movie will roughly take place during the time when LaBeouf gaining fame in the wildly successful Disney Channel family comedy Even Stevens. Though Hedges did not have the same name recognition as a young actor as LaBeouf, he also had experience as a teen actor — the 21-year old actor appeared in Wes Anderson's 2012 flick Moonrise Kingdom. He also played teens in last year's critically-acclaimed movies Ladybird (he performed as a fellow theater geek and love-interest to the lead, Saoirse Ronan) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (he was the grief stricken Frances Mcdormand's son). He received his Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor for his part as a teenage orphan in 2016's Manchester by the Sea.
It should be noted that though they are playing son and dad, Hedges and LaBeouf are not that far apart in their actual ages. LaBeouf was born in 1986 and Hedges in 1996. Since Hedge frequently plays high schoolers, it stands to reason that the 31-year-old actor will be going through more of a transformative makeup regimen to look like a man old enough to have a son Hedges' age.
LaBeouf revealed to Esquire that he finished writing the screenplay when he was in rehab in 2017 and worked through some deeply personal issues with his parents and his father, who also has been to rehab. According to the interview, 13-year-old LaBeouf lived with his father Jeffrey in a "forty-dollar-a-night motel" to be close to the Even Stevens set. “I was going to the Alano Club [a twelve-step program] with my dad," LaBeouf told Esquire. "That was my daycare center. Then I’d go to work. That was my whole life.”
In addition to working on Honey Boy, LaBeouf plays tennis pro John McEnroe in the upcoming indie drama Borg McEnroe, which will be released on April 18, and he'll star opposite Dakota Johnson in The Peanut Butter Falcon, which will premiere later in the year.
As for Honey Boy, it sounds like LeBeouf's role playing his own father just might be the role of a lifetime for the actor.