Shia LaBeouf’s world premiere of the indie biopic Honey Boy received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday night. The Borg vs McEnroe actor wrote the screenplay while in rehab, basing it on his childhood and unstable relationship with his alcohol-abusing and law-breaking father. LaBeouf portrays the part of his dad, who’s named James Lort in the film. Two actors share in the portrayal of the Shia-inspired character, Otis Lort—A Quiet Place actor Noah Jupe plays Young Otis while Manchester by the Sea‘s Lucas Hedges depicts Otis as a young man with a burgeoning acting career.

LaBeouf becomes unrecognizable as he transforms into James Lort, shaving his head to create a receding hairline and donning a mullet wig, sideburns, and glasses. In real life, Shia has described his dad as “a hippy,” “on drugs,” and who was “tough as nails and a different breed of man.” Indeed, Shia used to accompany him to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a child. “A lot of my s*** has to do with my relationship with my dad. That dude is my gasoline … He’s the whole reason I became an actor,” Shia insists. And he grew up with his father calling him “Honey Boy.”

As soon as Shia completed the script and got out of therapy, he reached out to Alma Har’el to direct the film, but he also wanted to maintain a voice throughout the making of the movie. In addition to receiving the standing ovation at Sundance, the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (Drama). And after the showing, 13-year-old Noah Jupe described LeBeouf as his “best friend” and elaborated on how their friendship affected his performance on set. “That made it so much easier on set,” Jupe shared. “And it sounds weird because obviously he was playing someone who wasn’t meant to be necessarily my friend, but because he was so close off set, on set when he was so [emotionally] distant from me, I really felt it. In those scenes, I wanted him to come give me a hug and talk to me, but I couldn’t. That really helped channel the emotion and be able to play the scenes.”

Honey Boy’s storyline spans the course of a decade, and LaBeouf says he really didn’t want to make the movie a “boo-hoo piece.”  “[Critics will say] ‘Oh, here he is not trying to own his s***. He’s trying to put it on his father,’” the Transformer actor said in an Esquire interview.

In fact, he is grateful for his experiences with his family. “My dad handed me a lot, and his legacy was an emotional one. And it wasn’t scarring. He handed me texture. My dad blessed me that way,” LaBeouf said.

Born in Los Angeles, the elementary school-aged Shia started out practicing comedy around his neighborhood “as an escape.” His act featured “disgustingly dirty” material as if he had a “50-year-old mouth” on a 10-year-old kid. But after landing an agent, it wasn’t long before he became known to young audiences for his role as Louis Stevens in the Disney Channel series Even Stevens for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award. From there, LaBeouf’s acting career blossomed with roles in films including Holes, Disturbia, Transformers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Fury, and Borg vs McEnroe.

But LaBeouf is notorious for the steady stream of drama in his personal life including admitted plagiarism, bouts of disorderly conduct, and public drunkenness. His many bizarre and high-profile performance art projects intrigue some and repel others. So perhaps audiences will better understand the tortured soul of Shia LaBeouf after watching Honey Boy.