Starring as a young Shia LaBeouf in his semi-autobiographical coming of age story – in which LaBeouf plays his own dad – the actor reflects on his own experience of being a child star (it’s all a bit meta)
What’s the worst thing about being hit in the face with a cream pie?
“Breathing,” says Noah Jupe. “It’s like, every time you breathe the cream comes in with the air, and I guess it’s nice coming through your mouth, but through your nose it’s really horrible. Also, it’s actually quite violent, not going to lie. It kind of hurts a little bit, like getting hit. You would think it’d be soft but it’s just like getting slapped in the face with, like, a really wet hand.” Luckily, Jupe only had to actually endure the cream pie once – “We only had three pies,” he explains. “The first two, we missed.”
The on-set anecdote is probably the only time in our conversation Jupe has something of the world-weariness of his character in Honey Boy. He’s in London for the European premiere of Alma Har’el’s heartfelt dramedy, penned by Shia LaBeouf as a semi-autobiographical account of his turbulent childhood growing up in the spotlight. In the film, 14-year-old Jupe stars as LaBeouf ’s lightly fictionalised alias, Otis Lort, while LaBeouf plays his own dad – a retired clown and recovering addict. But despite inhabiting the extremes of child stardom in the role, in person, Jupe seems pretty relaxed. Having stolen scenes in George Clooney’s Suburbicon (2017) and John Krasinski’s monster horror smash A Quiet Place (2018), premieres, interviews and the occasional dessert in the face are just part of the job.
That said, it’s always nice to be back on home turf for Jupe, who was born in London and grew up in Manchester before his acting career took off. He explains he’s just moved back to the capital with his family (“like, two weeks ago”) and so far, he’s mostly hanging out around Turnham Green, as he hasn’t quite got used to the Tube to venture further afield yet. It’s a funny thing to think about, considering the busy, very glitzy few years he’s had: since his first role in 2017, Jupe has made nine films. The two coming out in 2019 – Honey Boy and James Mangold’s racing drama Ford v Ferrari – might not appear to have much in common at first glance, but look a little closer, and they are both sincere, deeply felt stories about family relationships, with all the highs and lows that come with them. Jupe’s performance in the former feels multi-layered in ways perhaps only a child actor playing a child actor can reach; in a series of explosive scenes with his on-screen dad, he more than matches LaBeouf for intensity.
Jupe’s parents both work in film and television: his dad, Chris, is a filmmaker, and his mum, Katy Cavanagh, had a role in Coronation Street for several years. When asked to describe his own family, he instantly replies that they’re “like a pack of jellybeans”. “They’re these crazy, ridiculous flavours that taste totally different, but when they all come together, they are like this one pack that’s really tasty and nice.” Which flavour would Jupe be? “Oh, probably a lovely flavour... Like the strawberry one. Everyone likes that one.”
How do you manage to keep up with your friends while you’re off travelling the world making films?
Noah Jupe: I have no friends. (laughs) I’m joking, I’m joking – I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a reality to go back to. I mean, although I love acting, it’s exhausting and I need time off to go home. I’ve just done eight months in New York and I need to go and hang out with my friends. I kind of like that I’m based here in England, because the flights separate the two worlds. But making sure that you have a place to go back to, so you can gather your health, I need that.
Where do you hang out?
Noah Jupe: In Manchester, we always ended up at the Trafford Centre (shopping mall). It’s a bit boring, but everyone goes there. I guess in London it’s like going to Westfield or somewhere, watching the guy make that rolled ice cream that everyone is going on about. Soon I’ll be (back at work), like, ‘I wish I was back in Westfield with those ice creams!’
How was it making a film about the problems with being a child actor when you’re still technically a child actor yourself?
Noah Jupe: It was very insightful to see the negative perspective on this, because my own view has been so positive. I have such a great family and team, so to see it from the point of view of someone who didn’t necessarily have those positive relationships was interesting. It taught me a lot, actually.
And I imagine Shia is fascinating.
Noah Jupe: He’s amazing, you never get bored of him.
“Shia never thought he would play his own dad – that was Alma’s idea. I think by him writing it down and giving it to her, there was a sense of him passing it on and giving away his story” – Noah Jupe
How much did you know about him before starting Honey Boy?
Noah Jupe: Really, hardly anything. I mean, I knew his name because it’s such an awesome name. I wish I had that name! But I was intrigued by the story, and the way he writes is incredible. His words just flow on the page; it was beautiful. I was instantly hooked. I only got sent one scene for the audition, which was the phone scene.
That scene (where Otis acts as a mediator between his estranged mum and dad) must have been a hard one to audition with!
Noah Jupe: Yeah. The audition process was scarier that the actual movie, just because I didn’t know anyone and hadn’t gotten the part – I didn’t know that I was good enough yet. Whereas when I got the part it was almost like, ‘Oh right, I can do this!’ Otis is so far from me in terms of personality; I really didn’t know if I could stretch that far and inhabit this other person.
Is there added pressure when you’re playing a real person – or someone based on a real person – as well?
Noah Jupe: You know, Shia never thought he would play his own dad – that was Alma’s idea. I think by him writing it down and giving it to her, there was a sense of him passing it on and giving away his story. We used that as the basis, (but) it never felt like I was playing him, necessarily. I used him as a sort of inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, you worked with FKA twigs in her first film role on Honey Boy. You’re a pro now, so did you have any advice for her?
Noah Jupe: Not really! She took it really well and was really professional, probably more professional than me. (laughs) She was awesome and I actually learned a lot from her even though it was her first job, it was cool. Shy Girl (twigs’ character) is like a mother figure to Otis, which he needs because he doesn’t have a very good father figure... necessarily. (laughs)
Very diplomatic. Growing up, who did you watch in films that made you want to act?
Noah Jupe: I wasn’t a Disney Channel kid. I was like, movies, movies, movies. I mean, I did watch Even Stevens for a while. But the first person I followed was probably Leonardo DiCaprio. One of the first ones I watched was Romeo + Juliet. And I was, like, obsessed with this guy. Then I went back and watched What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, This Boy’s Life – he still influences me to this day. He’s doing shit in the world and really changing the way it is.
If they were making a film of your life, who would play the older version of you?
Noah Jupe: Timothée Chalamet, definitely.
Are you a Chalamet fan?
Noah Jupe: I have big respect for him. I love his fashion, I love the way he talks about things, I love his performances. I feel like we’re quite similar in fashion sense and that sort of thing. I sat in front of him at an awards thing a couple of years ago; I had no idea who he was. I was like, ‘Ooh, he looks like he’s in some sort of boy band.’
(laughs) He has that vibe.
Noah Jupe: Yeah. He has that One Direction vibe, if you know what I mean.
What was your favourite day on the set of Honey Boy?
Noah Jupe: It was one of the last days of shooting and Shia and I were doing all of the motorbike scenes. We were just driving around, me and Shia, at sunset. It was just really peaceful and beautiful because it was one of the last days and it was like, we’d done it, we’d done all the hard stuff, we’d completed it all. He definitely climbed a mountain to make this film, and that was a lot of bravery he put in. It was a very victorious moment for me and Shia, I think.
Honey Boy is in UK cinemas from December 6
Grooming Roku Roppongi at Saint Luke using Bumble and bumble and Kiehl’s 1851, photographic assistant Oscar Foster-Kane, styling assistant Chloe Pearson