Shia Labeouf Lied To His Dad About Mel Gibson Playing Him in ‘Honey Boy’

Shia LaBeouf’s independent film Honey Boy has been well-received by audiences since its 2019 release. Starring LaBeouf as his father, it explores LaBeouf’s tumultuous relationship with his dad in the early years of his life. 

And although the film is a strong showing from LaBeouf, it was very difficult to get it made. In fact, LaBeouf had to trick his dad into giving him permission to use his likeness by telling him Mel Gibson was signed on to play him. 

Shia LaBeouf’s personal life inspired him to create ‘Honey Boy’

Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf attends the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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Before LaBeouf had decided that he wanted to create Honey Boy, he was deal with an array of things in his personal life. Due to numerous arrests and erratic behavior in the years prior, LaBeouf’s name had been in headlines many times. 

LaBeouf revealed in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter that by the time he committed to producing Honey Boy, he was working through an undisclosed mental illness. For LaBeouf, Honey Boy evolved from a passion project into a tool for survival. 

“My back was against the wall, I was nuclear at this point, so it wasn’t like a dream project,” LaBeouf said. “It felt like survival. Like there was no other way to go. I didn’t have a lot of people talking to me. I was in a mental institution. So it wasn’t like ‘Oh, this is my dream project, I’d like to explore this,’ it was like ‘My back’s against the wall. This is the craft that I love and I can’t do it anymore. 

LaBeouf lied and told his dad Mel Gibson was playing him in ‘Honey Boy’

When the time came for LaBeouf to begin pre-production, he had to decide who was best for the role of his father. Initially, he wanted Mel Gibson to play the role, but decided it would be best if he handled the role himself. 

According to LaBeouf, he needed his father’s permission to use his likeness in the film. In order to do so, LaBeouf lied to him, telling his dad that Mel Gibson would be playing him in the feature. 

“Yeah, sent it to Mel Gibson,” LaBeouf said. “I thought he was the guy to play my dad. And my dad was also thinking along the same lines. It’s one thing to wanna play your dad, it’s another to go stand in front of your father after seven years of not talking and go ‘Hey man, I’m gonna play you,’ when there’s contention already. And we weren’t on good terms so I lied to him and told him ‘Hey, Mel Gibson’s gonna play you, sign right here. And my dad loves Mel Gibson. So my dad signed the paper under the auspices that he was going to be played by Braveheart, you know, so…”

LaBeouf and his father didn’t have a great relationship at the time

For the average person, it might seem odd that LaBeouf had to use such unusual measures to obtain permission from his father. But in the same interview, LaBeouf revealed that he and his father didn’t have a healthy relationship for a very long time. 

“I hadn’t talked to my dad for seven years before I started this up, so I didn’t really know my dad too well,” LaBeouf said.

Once LaBeouf immersed himself in developing Honey Boy, his relationship with his father changed. When asked if the project changed the way he thought about his father, he confirmed and mentioned that the film improved his life overall. 

“Yeah, and made me better at my craft and created a relationship, yeah.”