Shia LaBeouf began writing the script for ‘Honey Boy' as a healing exercise during his rehab stint, according to his interview at the film's Sundance world premiere in January with The Hollywood Reporter. The semi-autobiographical biopic drew on the actor's childhood and his relationship with his abusive father, Jeffrey LaBeouf.
“It is strange to fetishize your pain and make a product out of it and feel guilty about that,” he said, speaking at the film's launch about how making a film based on his script affected his rehab. LaBeouf wrote the script as a part of his rehabilitation program.
The film, directed by Alma Har'El (Bombay Beach), explores “a young actor's stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health.” After it attracted critical acclaim at the festival, Amazon Studios acquired the distribution rights for the film for a cool $5 million.
After its Sundance Film Festival premiere, the distributions rights for ‘Honey Boy’ was acquired by Amazon Studios, and the film is set to premiere on the streaming platform on Friday, November 8, 2019.
The film follows the fictionalized version of LaBeouf, Otis Lort, as he deals with an abusive father, James Lort, who he has employed as a chaperone and the pressures of fame. James, a former rodeo clown and felon, shifts between pushing his son to be his best and dragging him down.
Otis copes by becoming an addict. The film shifts between time periods featuring Otis as a young man in 2005 as a bonafide star with his father living off his talent before it goes back in time to 1995 when Otis is a boy forced to start acting to earn money for his family before coming full circle to Otis in rehab after an arrest. The film is billed as an exploration of “art as medicine and imagination as hope through the life and times of a talented, traumatized performer who dares to go in search of himself”.
The role of young Otis Lort — a fictional version of LeBeauf — is played by Noah Jupe of ‘A Quiet Place' fame, and Lucas Hedges, who is best known for his roles in ‘Boy Erased' and ‘Manchester by the Sea'.
While Jupe plays the child version, Hedges is the youngster who becomes the famous and sought-after young actor who struggles with addiction and other mental health issues.
James Lort, Otis' father and the fictionalized version of Jeffrey Craig LaBeouf, a Vietnam war veteran, who was prone to having war flashbacks triggered by PTSD.
The movie will also see the feature film debut of dancer-singer FKA twigs, who plays Otis' shy neighbor and kindred spirit at their garden-court motel home. The other characters in the movie include Natasha Lyonne as Otis' mom, Maika Monroe as Sandra, Martin Starr as Alec, Byron Bowers as Percy, Laura San Giacomo as Dr. Moreno, and Clifton Collins Jr. as Tom.
The screenplay is by actor Shia LaBeouf who is known for his roles in the ‘Transformer' movies and in ‘Indiana Jones.' The film was directed by music video and film director, Alma Har'el, best known for her documentary ‘Bombay Beach', which won the top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011.
The trailer begins in 2005 with Otis, a young adult, being yanked backward during a stunt for an action film. Several scenes follow of him behaving badly before he is arrested after he crashes his car while driving drunk. He yells at the policeman, saying “You think you’re hot? Coz you don’t know how good I am at what I do.”
The trailer cuts to a young version of Otis, played by Noah Jupe, getting hit in the face in a pie before the scene shifts to a motivational speech from his abusive father and manager, James Lort. Played by LaBeouf, James says, “I'm your cheerleader, honey boy.” After which shots of Otis as a young child on different sets follow along with his scenes with his father and other characters.
An adolescent Otis' voice intones: “My dad is not the reason I drink. He is the reason I work.” The trailer ends with James asking a young Otis, “How do you think I feel to have my son paying me? How do you think that feels?” Otis replies, “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t pay you.”
However, while “Honey Boy” adheres to a traditional playbook for naturalistic stories of troubled youth, it begs for deeper readings from its very first shot: A 2005-era Shia, lightly fictionalized as “Otis” (Lucas Hedges), endures some explosive stunt work on the set of a big Hollywood production that could only be “Transformers.” Glimpsed in a dense montage engaged in a remarkable blur of production schedules, heavy drinking, and hookups, Otis has barely spoken a word before he’s flipped his car and landed in jail, followed by rehab. Once pressured by his therapist (Laura San Giacomo) to consider his past, the flashback begins: It’s 1995, as pre-teen Otis (Noah Jupe) finds himself at the center of another insubstantial production, this time a discardable kids show that could only be “Even Stevens.”
From there, “Honey Boy” settles into its two time periods, making unsubtle connections between the way LaBeouf’s impoverished wreck of a dad (here named James, based on the real-life Jeffrey) pushed his son around while stumbling through a series of poor decisions, and the eventual impact it had on LaBeouf’s own rocky trajectory. Diagnosed early on with post-traumatic stress disorder, twentysomething Otis grapples with his memories to make sense of his broken home. While Hedges inhabits the role with little more than furtive glances and the occasional tantrum, the bulk of the movie involves his younger counterpart. Fortunately, he’s the movie’s saving grace: Jupe, briefly glanced in “A Quiet Place,” takes center stage in “Honey Boy” as a bonafide breakout, imbuing the pint-sized figure with a fiery confidence to resist his father’s cruelty over the course of the concise story.