behind the scenes

Behind the Scenes of Shia LaBeouf’s 19-Day Honey Boy Shoot

There was clown makeup, motel pools, and Lucas Hedges. Photo: Monica Lek

Some people struggle to even speak about personal trauma. Then there’s Shia LaBeouf, who not only wrote a script about some of the most distressing moments of his childhood, but also starred as his own destructive father in the movie that came of it. Honey Boy is peak filmmaking as radical therapy. It recounts the process of a young actor coming to terms with the abuse he experienced at the hands of his protective father. Despite the dark subject matter, the story, which takes place on film sets and motel property, is filled with light — the magenta of neon bulbs reflecting on a kidney-shaped pool, the pinks and oranges of California sunsets creeping through dusty scenes, a street lamp brusquely silhouetting actors.

Photographer Monica Lek was on hand to capture moments like these, some of which made their way into the film, and others that didn’t — including a scene between Lucas Hedges and LaBeouf arguing as father and son that was cut “perhaps because it was too intense.” During the mere 19 days that LaBeouf, Hedges, Noah Jupe, and FKA Twigs filmed Honey Boy, Lek shot the Oscar-hopeful cast under director Alma Har’el’s visually stunning direction. Ahead of the movie’s nationwide release on December 8, Lek shared with us her favorite moments from the set, punctuated by clown makeup, Juul smoke, and more clown makeup. All of the following captions are Lek’s:

Lucas on his last day on set, when he shot the dream scene in which he reunites with his dad. Photo: Monica Lek
Lucas, about to blow up on screen. This was one of the most challenging scenes, and also the first scene in the movie. Photo: Monica Lek.
This was a very delicate and emotional day on set. Noah ran into Shia while he was doing his hair and makeup, and hugged him from behind in an attempt to surprise him and whisper into his ear, “I love you.” Shia got emotional. I was there to capture the aftermath. You can see Shia’s watery eyes. Photo: Monica Lek
Lucas and Noah did not get to spend much time together on set, as they play the same exact person in different time periods. But when their time synched, it felt like they were best friends. Lucas would play with Noah; they’d run and hide from each other, just being fun and mischievous. It was so tender to see. Photo: Monica Lek
Shayna [Shia’s mother], Noah, and Shia in between takes. Shayna was on set everyday. When Shia was not shooting, he was always hanging with his mum. She has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen in my entire life. Photo: Monica Lek
Alma and Noah had a magical connection. Alma had a huge responsibility on set, but one of her main priorities was to take care of and protect Noah. Let’s not forget that Noah is young, and to go through the experiences that Shia went through, there were some moments of extreme pain, followed by nostalgia and beauty. Photo: Monica Lek
One of the moments of magical realism in the film. Alma was directing FKA twigs and Noah, while a white snake was swimming freely in the pool. Matias, a camera operator, was trying to catch the snake. Snakes have huge symbolism in the movie. Photo: Monica Lek
Shia, testing hair and makeup and smoking. Photo: Monica Lek
This happened at the end of one of the movie’s deleted scenes. I’m still shocked this scene is not even in the movie. Perhaps because it’s too intense. I have never experienced something like that between actors. Lucas and Shia had a big argument (as father and son). They beat each other — out of love, yes, out of love. The whole crew was crying. Photo: Monica Lek
I had to take a one-to-one portrait of Shia for the [film’s] official poster. It was challenging. I had to win his confidence but there was not much space and time to do it. But that was my challenge. While I was photographing something else, he came to me and said, “At the end of every scene, I’m gonna give you five minutes, you and I, for photos.” I’m like, “Sick.” So I waited patiently for the end of the next scene, and I see him running to the trailer. I start chasing him ‘til I catch him and I said, “Man! You promised….” He goes, “Yes! I like you. Shoot me.” This is the face he gave me, and he only gave me 40 seconds. Photo: Monica Lek
Shia depicting the clown act that his father did back in the day, with his chicken “Henrietta LaFowl.” Photo: Monica Lek.
Noah playing young Shia, chilling in his trailer. Photo: Monica Lek
Lucas and Noah posing for me in between takes. Photo: Monica Lek.
This is before they shot one of the most sentimental scenes, in which teenager Shia (Lucas) meets his father (Shia) in his dreams and he forgives him for all the pain he has caused. What is happening in the photo is that Lucas is sharing a song with Shia, and they both melted into tenderness. Photo: Monica Lek
FKA Twigs with Debra Jones. They both play characters who live in the same motel as Shia and his dad. Photo: Monica Lek.
Noah, Shia, and Clifton Collins Jr. (left) on set. Photo: Monica Lek.
Noah, about to jump in the pool. It was freezing. Photo: Monica Lek.
Lucas playing Shia in a movie within the movie. Photo: Monica Lek
Noah playing young Shia. Photo: Monica Lek
FKA Twigs and director Alma posing for me. Photo: Monica Lek.
Shia during makeup tests. Photo: Monica Lek
Shia playing his own father, after a really violent and sad fight with Lucas. Photo: Monica Lek
Lucas playing a scene within a scene. Photo: Monica Lek
Shia playing his own father. Photo: Monica Lek
Behind the Scenes of Shia LaBeouf’s 19-Day Honey Boy Shoot