In his new film, Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf plays "James Lort," a Vietnam vet, clown (literally), and drug addict who earns a living as his preteen actor son's guardian on the set of a TV show. Other than the name change, there's very little fictional about this character, who is really Jeffrey LaBeouf, Shia's father, in a script the younger LaBeouf began writing in court-appointed rehab. We all know how the story winds up for present-day Shia, but where is real-life Jeffrey these days?
Jeffrey's current whereabouts have a lot to do with his life before he met Shia's mother, Shayna, and had their son in 1986. We don't know much about the elder LaBeouf's early life, other than the fact that he's of Cajun descent and grew up in San Francisco, and trained as a classical clown. We also know that he served three tours in Vietnam, which left him pretty damaged.
"He was in Vietnam long enough to come back and be a disaster," Shia told Parade magazine in 2009. "My dad brought something called the ‘elephant seed’ to Oahu, Hawaii. And in Oahu, it became the ‘Thai’ stick. But how do you make millions on weed when you don’t own a plant? Nobody owns a plant. Well, my dad wasn’t thinking franchise. He was selling things to the Hawaiian mafia, and then they would give it to their cab drivers to sell when they picked people up from airports."
Dealing drugs wasn't the worst of Jeffrey's offenses, however. As tabloids uncovered in 2011, he was convicted of attempted rape of a minor in 1981, for which he served time until 1983.
Jeffrey's employment after that was spotty, as far as we know. In interviews Shia has talked about how the family of three dressed as clowns and sold hot dogs and shaved ice in an L.A. park when he was 3 years old. (Shayna and Jeffrey divorced when he was about 5.) When Shia was 10, Jeffrey's job at a bar and comedy club launched his son's brief stand-up career, giving him the acting bug. Once Shia got the part in Even Stevens, his job really was just to be Shia's dad. Shayna lived too far from set, so Shia and Jeffrey moved into a motel. From then on, Shia supported both parents, and Jeffrey continued to be his son's guardian until he came of age. And if you've watched Honey Boy, you probably know how that went.
According to Radar Online, Jeffrey failed to register as a sex offender (stemming from that 1981 conviction) at some unknown point, and in 2014, he fled to Costa Rica to avoid prosecution. The gossip site reportedly found him posting to social media, sharing photos of his relaxed life a town just outside of San Jose called San Juan de Dios.
"I went to Costa Rica and read him the script," Shia said on The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast last month. "I told him someone else was going to play him, which was a feather in his cap, a person he really looked up to. [I] bluffed my way into getting him to sign the paperwork, and then after he signed the paperwork, I put it to him like, 'I'm playing you,' and he looked at me in a different way."
Shia said Jeffrey didn't believe his son could pull off playing him. But his reaction was different after he saw the movie.
"He knows that I really see him from the inside," Shia told THR. Now, their relationship isn't quite as contentious as is once was. "I think all my dad ever wanted was for nobody to be upset with him. Now he feels like he's given me a legacy."