When a judge ordered Shia LaBeouf to write about the childhood trauma that plagued a fiery transition to adulthood punctuated by outbursts of anger, car accidents and curious creative choices that transformed him from a child of gold to pariah, his decision to strip His pain in the script format with which he was so familiar turned out to be a life-changing experience.
Who could have imagined several years later that the result, Honey boy, Would it become one of the first Sundance titles that gave LaBeouf a standing ovation after its premiere on Friday? Or that it might have the power to make audiences, and industry decision makers, reconsider LaBeouf's place in the Hollywood ecosystem. It is a well-told story that provides a clear understanding of the painful education that fed LaBeouf's demons when he made the transition to adulthood. Honey boy it is, at the same time, a story that will be familiar to many who, like LaBeouf, grew up as children of an alcoholic father, with all the inherent shame, self-loathing and insecurity that goes with it. The film is an acquisitions title and if LaBeouf was considered a responsibility for being so unpredictable, it will be the key selling tool for the distributor that acquires and launches the film.
"There are people who are as good as Shia, but there is no one better than him," said Alma Har, the director born in Israel who also grew up as the daughter of an alcoholic father and had to find her way through. the own adversity. She spoke with Deadline on the eve of the film's premiere on Friday. It is his first narrative film as director.
LaBeouf's struggles can be traced back to substance abuse, alcohol, the criminal father that the young man paid to accompany him in acting because he needed a tutor and was too young to drive. Honey boy It's a fictitious look at LaBeouf's childhood at the time he was beginning to find success in the Disney Channel series. Even stevens, before starting a journey that led him to become the next young Hollywood star in the movies Holes Y Transformers.
LaBeouf not only wrote a script about the drama that fictionalizes his dysfunctional education, but he also plays James Lort, a character clearly based on Jeffrey Craig LaBeouf, the father who guided young Shia on a motorcycle from the sound stages to the motel. bad death they called their home. The young man's mother is not seen in the film, and it does not seem to have been a nutritional influence during the period in which the film is developed. Essentially, an employee paid a monthly stipend from his son, LaBeouf abused his father position and took him out of the child. After suffering an abusive education, the father developed a sense of toxic masculinity as a protective mechanism, and distorted the childhood of his son by pbading it all on to the youth.
"I saw Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe [who play the young actor at different ages] and how these young people are becoming tremendous young actors, "said Har'el." They came with a much better support system than Shia had when she entered that world, I do not even know how Shia survived. miracle. "
The filmmaker met LaBeouf when he came across his documentary debut, Beach of bombay. This was at a time when his personal struggles were beginning to show. He became totally connected with Har'el and proved capable of extreme acts of kindness.
"When we met, we discovered that our parents were alcoholics," said Har'el. "I feel that all the children of alcoholics are my brothers and sisters, and I also had to go through a great period of recovery. I really connected with him and we felt we should work together. We made a music video that also dealt with the circle and the cycle of pain, of causing pain to others, to the people you love. And be locked in that cycle. When I tried to get my second movie to take off, I did not get funding. You know how difficult it is, especially for women directors. So he intervened and financed my movie. He literally sent me a check in the mail. New Year's Eve arrived and, although I will not say how much, I will say that I never expect to receive such a large check in the mail, again. "
Soon, it was his turn to help LaBeouf, when he sent her a biographical script. The young man who was promoted as a potential Tom Cruise when he starred Spielberg in three Transformers movies and a Indiana Jones sequel, however, began to look more like the next Jan Michael Vincent, a story of warning about a young man unable to handle stardom. After crashing a car and being arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct that involved a dispute with the police (it was not the first time this happened), LaBeouf was diagnosed with PTSD and was ordered to attend management seminars. go to.
"I was so impressed when he sent it to me from the rehabilitation, when I realized how everything he did took him to where he was," said Har'el. "When he went to rehabilitation, he did not write this to be a movie, he went to rehabilitation because he received a court order and, literally, he received a court order to write his memories as part of his therapy, much of what is seen in the film. He wrote it in the form of a script, instead of writing his memories, and he sent it to me from the rehabilitation, it was called stamen, which is the male fertilizing organ of the flower, it really dealt with the masculinity and expectations of masculinity that our parents had , along with the pain of the generation.
Har'el said Stamen he only dealt with the young actor named Otis in the movie, and his love / hate relationship with his abusive father / employee. She suggested that they take it further and Har'el worked with LaBeouf to take the consequences into account. Finally, they had a film that obtained funding from Daniela Taplin Lundberg, with Anita Gou and the approach of Automatik Bryan Kavanaugh-Jones as producers.
"We work, we buy it and he rewrote it for months," he said. It's amazing to see that a prominent Disney Channel star with a bright future could live in a motel room so succulent and run-down. But that was the reality of LaBeouf when the young man paid the bills and was not sure of his future in a capricious Hollywood that minted children's stars and generally discards them.
"When I was in Even stevens, he was living the reality that you see in the movie, "he said. "They were worried that the money was going to end, they did not know that he was going to be in Transformers. They were very poor and they only lived in a motel and saw where this was going. His mother wanted to keep his job. They were fighting and she did not want to put everything into this and imagine that he would become a great Hollywood star. That discussion is in the movie. His father paid his father a monthly fee to accompany him.
"I do not know how much Shia wants to share," he said. "This film is about a certain moment in time. There's a lot that happened later, and a lot of trauma that Shia endured, later on. He does not tell the story of what was happening with his mother. It really is a period in which he felt that he was living a life without a woman. I was dealing with a certain kind of masculinity and pain. His father was in the army, he put a lot of emphasis on certain qualities of what a man is. There is a completely different story about the Shia trauma that is not told in the movie. I know he will continue writing, because the story of his life does not end here. "
What is surprising is the sympathy with which LaBeouf wrote the character based on his father. It is made clear, for example, that the father had very little positive reinforcement during his own son and developed his own theories of hardness and masculinity as self-protective devices.
"Shia's grandmother fell out of a window and nobody knows how she died, if she was pushed or if she fell," Har'el said. "So his father did not have a mother, then he went to Vietnam, he became addicted to heroin, he tried to kick him, he became a rodeo clown, he was very pbadionate and it's still about making clowns, but then he he became a criminal, went to jail for three years and then was hired by Shia to take care of him.When you see Shia play with his father … the genius of Shia is how he incarnates the things he inherited.Not many people can play that type of character, with that level of anger.
Even so, although the father may be abusive physically and verbally, there is no Dear mom Environment in the movie. As bad as the father's behavior becomes, it is clear that he loves his son, and the young man loves him back.
"That's the recovery part, and that's why Shia made this movie," he said. "Recover, understand and have empathy for his father, who developed to interpret the role. I think he is now a different man, having developed that empathy for that man and recovering the relationship they had also to make the film. That is the recovery part. Then, Lucas Hedges came in and really channeled something that is so accurate and at the same time … it's not an impression, but a performance, his own thing that really gave life to that character. "
I suggest that Honey boy It's a potentially important movie for LaBeouf's career. After I saw him, I saw Borg Vs. McEnroe, and was surprised at how effective LaBeouf was in channeling the anger and intensity shown by McEnroe, which contrasted so much with the frigid calm of Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon, while McEnroe tried with the pressure of trying to be perfect in the eyes of his father.
Any child of an alcoholic can tell you that bad memories, self-hatred and insecurity are fuel for achievement, but it's terribly hard to feel happy. Seeing how LaBeouf came to understand his problems through writing such a thoughtful script made me believe that he has a real chance to break that cycle when he becomes a father.
To that end, Har'el showed me a tattoo that was just put on the wrist after wrapping it. Honey boy It is a symbol of a snake, eating itself.
"It's a sign, the idea that you eat your own pain and use it to create your own material, to create gold," he said. "But you have to digest it, to heal, to free yourself … This movie, these messages, come from my heart to the children of alcoholics, it's what all the children of alcoholics have to say, that runs in the family and that has to stop Everything that is in the film, too, that's why I hope people see it, it's bigger than Shia's story, this is social, because we try to understand and deal with things like masculinity and racism, how It's about women, all those discussions, we have to start at home, that's really what this movie is about. "