Shia LaBeouf’s Honey Boy, written by the actor and directed by Alma Har’el, is his most personal role to date. The autobiographical drama follows the upbringing of a child actor under the care of an abusive father and the impact it has on him as a young adult. The actor plays a version of his own father in the film.
LaBeouf opened up about writing the film to the Actor Roundtable, explaining how “it wasn’t a dream project.” Rather, he said, “It felt like survival.”
“There was no other way to go. I didn’t have a lot of people talking to me. I was in a mental institution. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is my dream project, I’d like to explore this.’ It was like, ‘My back’s against the wall. This is the craft that I love and I can’t do it anymore.’ I hadn’t talked to my dad for seven years before I started this up, so I didn’t really know my dad too well.”
LaBeouf went on to tell the story of how he stepped into the shoes of his own father, originally wanting Mel Gibson for the role. “I definitely didn’t think I’d be able to play it, you know. I was not in the spot where people were like, ‘Hey, let’s put some money on this kid’s back and have him carry a movie.’ So I thought my acting career was done. I was going to join the Peace Corps. I was out. I sent it to Mel Gibson. I thought he was the guy to play my dad. And my dad was also thinking along the same lines.”
He continued: “It’s one thing to want to play your dad. It’s another thing to go stand in front of your father after seven years of not talking and go, ‘Hey man, I’m going to play you,’ when there’s contention already, and we weren’t on good terms. So I lied and told him, ‘Hey, Mel Gibson’s going to play you, sign right here.’ My dad loves Mel Gibson. So my dad signed the paper under the auspices that he was going to be played by Braveheart.”
The full Actor Roundtable is set to air Jan. 19 on SundanceTV. LaBeouf appears on the panel along with Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story).