Shia LaBeouf doesn’t shy away from personal trauma in “Honey Boy,” the semi-autobiographical film that also marks his screenwriting debut.
In a Tuesday appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” LaBeouf talked about writing much of “Honey Boy” during a stint at a rehab facility he called “head camp” after his 2017 arrest in Georgia on charges that included disorderly conduct. Prior to completing the script, the actor hadn’t spoken to his father, Jeffrey, in seven years.
“Head camp is where the court sends you when the other option is seven years in jail, pretty much,” LaBeouf explained. “They said, ‘You’ve got PTSD, we’ve got a solution.’ We started doing this stuff called exposure therapy. Through that process of recording all these conversations is where the movie came from.”
“Honey Boy” stars LaBeouf as an alcoholic and abusive father to a young actor, Otis Lort, played by Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges at different stages in the character’s life. The film has been described as “an egoless retelling” of LaBeouf’s early years as a child actor on the Disney Channel series “Even Stevens,” with the movie’s title coming from his own real-life nickname.
LaBeouf reunited with his father at the urging of “Honey Boy” director Alma Har’el. Later, he watched his dad watch the film in its entirety via a web camera. Turns out, the elder LaBeouf was impressed.
“He didn’t say much but he felt like I saw him, like I saw him,” the actor said. “I got him. He was very teary-eyed. It’s a love letter.”
“Honey Boy,” which hits theaters Friday, has earned near-universal praise from critics. Refinery 29 called the film “an indictment of toxic masculinity through a woman’s gaze and a hard look at the ways Hollywood fails its child actors,” while The Guardian applauded LaBeouf’s “clear-eyed” script.
On Sunday, LaBeouf received a screenwriting award for the film at the 2019 Hollywood Film Awards, where he thanked the Georgia police officer who arrested him for “changing my life.”