Shia LaBeouf premiered his autobiographical memoir “Honey Boy” to a standing ovation at the Eccles Theater on Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival.
The movie, which LaBeouf wrote and co-stars in, is set in the 2000s during the height of his Disney star fame, and it traces his strained relationship with his alcoholic father, played by LaBeouf. The character based on himself, named Otis Lort, is portrayed by Noah Jupe as a teenager and Lucas Hedges as an adult.
LaBeouf wrote his first screenplay after one of his stints in rehab a few years ago. “It’s strange to fetishize your pain and make a product out of it,” LaBeouf said from the stage of the Eccles. “And you feel guilty about that. It felt very selfish. This whole thing felt very selfish. I never went into this thinking, ‘Oh let me f—ing help people.’ That wasn’t my goal. I was falling apart.”
He sent the script to his friend, documentary filmmaker Alma Har’el, who decided to make “Honey Boy” her first narrative feature. “Originally, this was scripted as a linear film,” Har’el said. “It started with young Otis.” She suggested juxtaposing the scenes of the past with the present, to convey the pain that Otis was still dealing with as an adult who grew up with an alcoholic father.
LaBeouf and his father, Jeffrey Craig LaBeouf, had been estranged for years. But at the Q&A, the actor revealed that they have re-connected. “Previous to this, me and my father hadn’t spoken in six, seven years,” LaBeouf said. “We’re talking now.”
“Honey Boy,” which is seeking distribution at Sundance, could be one of the more commercial prospects out of this year’s festival. The opening scene is set on an action movie (LaBeouf starred in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and the “Transformers” franchise). And there are other scenes that are intended to represent a show similar to “Even Stevens,” the Disney Channel series that gave LaBeouf his start.
“I’m just grateful,” LaBeouf said to the premiere audience in Park City, Utah. “It’s a blessing to be able to show it to you. And thanks for coming.”