Remember when Shia LaBeouf held our attention as he watched a marathon of his own movies? Well, the Transformers star is working on another self-involved project that’s almost as strange. He has written a script about his time as a child actor on the Disney TV series Even Stevens and it’s now being produced with him cast in a major role.
No, he won’t be playing himself. That role belongs to Lucas Hedges, who earned an Oscar nomination for his breakout performance in Manchester by the Sea. LaBeouf will instead portray his own father, Jeffrey LaBeouf, a registered sex offender and former heroin addict.
Of course, the names will be changed. While serving a lengthy court-mandated stint in rehab, Shia therapeutically wrote the screenplay (co-written with himself under the pseudonym “Otis Lort”) and made it a roman a clef about his early years in Hollywood and his relationship with his overbearing showbiz dad.
When the script hit the prestigious Black List under the title Stamen, it came with this description: “A child actor and his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father attempt to mend their contentious relationship over the course of a decade.” The movie is now titled Honey Boy, after the nickname Jeffrey would call Shia.
This project sounds crazy, but it’s likely to be done tastefully with an artistic eye thanks to the attachment of Alma Har’el as director. Ha’rel is mostly a documentarian, having received acclaim for her features Bombay Beach and LoveTrue, the latter produced by Shia.
She also received notice for helming the NSFW Sigur Rós music video for “Fjögur Píanó,” which stars Shia, who at one point appears fully nude. And this year she directed Coca-Cola’s diversely cast Super Bowl commercial (recently, related, she also launched an initiative championing the work of women directors in advertising). Honey Boy will be Har’el’s first narrative feature.
As for Hedges, who followed his Oscar nod by appearing in two of this year’s Best Picture nominees, Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, he is a tiny bit too old for the part of a 15-year-old Shia — or, “Otis Lort” as he’s also named in the movie.
Meanwhile, Shia is about 20 years too young for the part of his father (“James Lort”) in the same timeline. Perhaps he will also be portraying younger versions of the man, whom in interviews has said to have given Shia drugs as a child and pointed a gun at Shia’s head while suffering a Vietnam War flashback.
But the main plot is apparently the Even Stevens era, when according to a new Esquire profile Jeffrey “would stand next to the camera, just off set, so that [Shia] could see him, focus on him.” Shia says of that time, process and experience, “I could work myself up into a frenzy.” With the talent involved, vision imagined and performances expected, Honey Boy should be quite a frenzy of emotion.