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With ‘Honey Boy,’ young Noah Jupe carries a film’s emotional weight for the first time

Noah Jupe stars in ‘Honey Boy’ and ‘Ford v Ferrari’
At 14, English actor Noah Jupe, stars in two films this season: “Honey Boy” and “Ford v Ferrari.” From them he’s learned to “keep those people who you trust and care about as close as possible. It gets tricky when you’re all alone in this world.”
(Micha Theiner/For The Times)

“The thing that scares me in my life is that I will never have enough time to be all the different versions of myself and do all the different things in the world,” says Noah Jupe, an up-and-coming actor far wiser than his 14 years. “This job really gives me insight into all the aspects of all the different people in the world.”

Today Jupe is in London for the BFI London Film Festival, which is showcasing his latest films, “Honey Boy” and “Ford v Ferrari.” The actor, who has built up a strong resume over the past five years, including films like “A Quiet Place” and “Wonder,” shot both projects in California last year. They were made so close together that Jupe says the movies feel “almost like one experience” despite the remarkable contrast between the two.

In “Honey Boy” Jupe plays 12-year-old Otis, a fictionalized version of Shia LaBeouf, who wrote the screenplay based on his experiences as a young actor. Although Lucas Hedges stars as Otis at an older age, Jupe is responsible for much of the story’s emotional heft.

“I was nervous and excited,” Jupe says of being cast. “I’ve been playing a lot of children and kids before this. This was the first time, really, that I got the weight of a part of the movie on my shoulders. Which was scary, but also what I do this for. It was definitely a perfect project for that point in my career.”

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To prepare, the actors rehearsed for three months with director Alma Har’el. The actual filming took place in only two weeks, with lots of improvisation, particularly from LaBeouf, who plays Otis’ father. Jupe found it intense, but describes the set as one of the calmest he’s ever been on, which gave him space to try new things and play around. Not everything was easy, especially a tense scene where Otis confronts his father in their hotel room and gets slapped in response.

“It all got built up to this day where there’s this scene you’ve been practicing for like three months and now you’ve got to pull it off in an hour at the end of the day,” Jupe remembers. “It was the last shot of the day and I think it was one of the last shots of the shoot. It was scary, but we got there. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t had my mum there. And Alma was really helpful.”

To decompress at the end of the long shooting days Jupe would go home and watch “Even Stevens,” LaBeouf’s Disney Channel series that aired from 2000 to 2003 (Jupe wasn’t familiar with any of LaBeouf’s work before filming “Honey Boy”). Har’el suggested he watch one episode as research, but Jupe ended up watching the entire series – plus the TV movie. Becoming Otis made Jupe consider the positives and negatives of being a young actor, an experience he has so far enjoyed.

“I think me and Otis are very different in terms of where we are in stages of our career and the team that surrounds us,” Jupe says. “Obviously, I have a really supportive family and I feel really safe on set. I really respect my normality and my reality, and I love going home and chilling out afterward and having a place to go back and be myself after all this craziness of Hollywood. I feel like he doesn’t have that place to go back to. He feels that he’s more safe on set with these fake people.”

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He adds, “That’s probably the one thing I learned from this movie, to keep that reality and keep those people who you trust and care about as close as possible. It gets tricky when you’re all alone in this world.”

Jupe found another kindred spirit on “Ford v Ferrari,” in which he portrays Peter, the son of racing driver Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale. The two spent a lot of time together, just hanging out and talking, to help make their close father-son relationship feel real onscreen, and Jupe found Bale’s experiences growing up in Hollywood relatable.

“How I feel about creating a relationship with someone to make it seem like you’ve known each other for years is that it’s about time spent,” Jupe notes. “We just spent so much time together. It developed that trust on set. It let me feel safe around the other actors. It’s about listening, too. Listening to him and what he has to say, and him listening to me. I think that’s really what creates that kind of chemistry onscreen.”

Jupe has since moved from Manchester to Chiswick, an area of London, and shot two more notable projects, recently wrapping production on the sequel to “A Quiet Place,” which will arrive in theaters next March, as well as “The Undoing,” an HBO series from David E. Kelley that also stars Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman.

He’s particularly excited for people to see “A Quiet Place: Part II.”

“I think, honestly, it’s quite needed, the story they’re going to tell,” he says. “It’s weird to think of the first movie as being a stand-alone movie anymore because of shooting this second one. They work so well together. I think that’s going to be cool to see the two of them side by side as a collection. I just loved the whole thing. And going back to a character I already know and have spent time with was great.”

Going forward, Jupe hopes to make his own films (he’s dabbled in the process with friends) and to continue to pick projects that open his eyes to all those different aspects of the world he’s so afraid of missing. He’s also very clear on why he wants to be an actor at all.

“Someone asked me earlier how I choose which movie to do and I will always only choose jobs that excite me,” Jupe says. “If they didn’t, what would be the point of doing them? I’m not in it for the money, or whatever. I want to do what I’m passionate about and keep doing it for the rest of my life.”


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