Shia LaBeouf's New Movie Highlights Father's Heroin Addiction Struggle

By Lindsey Weedston 01/31/19

LaBeouf wrote the screenplay for the semi-autobiographical film while in rehab.

Shia LaBeouf
Photo via WikiCommons/Tabercil

Shia LaBeouf’s latest film, Honey Boy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25 to tell the world the story of the actor’s odd and tumultuous childhood that led to his struggle with addiction and mental illness.

LaBeouf is known for his strange performance art as well as his acting and has been the subject of quite a bit of controversy during his long career.

The actor, who began as the star of the children’s TV show Even Stevens, was twice arrested for disorderly conduct and conducted a performance piece in which he sat with a paper bag over his head and cried for six days.

LaBeouf has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has sought treatment for alcoholism, plus was ordered to attend an anger management program after going on a drunken tirade against the police who were arresting him for his second time.

Honey Boy is a semi-autobiographical film that shows the verbal and emotional abuse which may have led to the actor’s PTSD. Fittingly, the actor wrote the script while he was in rehab in 2018, according to The Wrap

LaBeouf himself plays James Lort, a clear representation of his real-life father, Jeffrey LaBeouf. James, like Jeffrey, is a Vietnam veteran and convicted sex offender with alcoholism who “pushed his son around while stumbling through a series of poor decisions,” according to film critic Eric Kohn of IndieWire.

Meanwhile, Lucas Hedges plays a 20-something version of LaBeouf as his life quickly spirals out of control, culminating in a drunken car crash that lands him in jail and then rehab. While in therapy, he flashes back to the representation of LaBeouf’s childhood.

Financial troubles result in a divorce between the representation of LaBeouf’s parents, ending in LaBeouf (“Otis”) living with his mother in a run-down motel and a world without warmth made worse by his “affection-averse” deadbeat dad.

LaBeouf himself has opened up about his troubled past and his family’s history of substance abuse before.

“When you’re 10 years old and watch your father going through heroin withdrawals, you grow up real fast,” he said in an interview with The Orange County Register. “You become the parent in the relationship. But I must give [Jeffrey LaBeouf] credit because he always told me that he didn’t want me to be like him.”

The film’s director, Alma Har’el, told The Wrap that LaBeouf has “done the bravest thing anyone could do” by depicting his own father and called Honey Boy an “artistic exorcism” for all involved.

“Obviously we all went through a lot of deep feelings while making the film, but nothing was too much. Everything was accepted. Whenever the demons came, we danced with them.”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: