In 2019’s round of awards consideration buzz, Shia LaBeouf’s portrayal of James Lort, the fictional surrogate for his own father in the semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy has been gaining him some pretty solid traction. It’s the sort of news any actor wants to hear, and it almost didn’t happen for one specific reason: LaBeouf was gunning for actor Mel Gibson to play the version of his father he’d crafted for the movie. When he actually did end up filling the role himself, he definitely lied to his dad about it.
During a roundtable interview with other contemporaries hotly tipped for prestige buzz, Shia LaBeouf responded with the following story about lying to his dad to get him to sign off on Honey Boy:
Definitely. I didn't think I'd be able to play him, because I was not in a spot where people were like, ‘Hey, let's put some money on this kid's back and have him carry a movie.’ I thought my acting career was done. I was going to join the Peace Corps. So I sent it to Mel Gibson and luckily he never emailed me back and it gave me an opportunity. I thought he was the guy to play my dad, and my dad was thinking along the same lines. And 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. So I lied to him and told him, ‘Mel Gibson's going to play you. Sign right here.’
Shia LaBeouf hadn’t talked to his father, Jeffrey Craig LaBeouf, in almost a decade before he tried to tell the story of their strained relationship, which is an important component to the story that Honey Boy is trying to tell. But in trying to get the details right, he had to break that silence, which is never easy when family members go for so long without even a passing remark to one another.
So, if your estranged dad is hoping to be played by Mel Gibson, you obviously want to keep him happy by saying that’s exactly what’s happening. Which is how the story LaBeouf told those on hand for THR’s Actor Roundtable came to be. Strangely enough, without that white lie being told to grease the wheels to Honey Boy’s production, Shia LaBeouf may have lost out on more than he knew.
The narrative film debut of music video director Alma Har’el, Honey Boy is one of the two films credited with the resurgence of Shia LaBeouf’s acting career; the other being directors Tyler Nielson and Michael Schwartz’s feel-good river epic The Peanut Butter Falcon. A pair of films that are definitely night and day when compared to one another, both have served as therapeutic experiences for LaBeouf, allowing him to hone his craft and better himself in the process.
From a professional and personal standpoint, it feels like Honey Boy came along at the right time in Shia LaBeouf’s life. While the attention must be a bonus for the hard work he’s contributed to his projects in 2019, the ability to tell stories that helped rejuvenate and redefine him as an actor and a person are the greater win. Though it also helps that Jeffrey Craig was rather proud of his son’s performance, which is the best you can expect after pulling a fast one involving Mel Gibson.