In the early summer months of 2015, actress and alumna Laura Kirk was on-set in Mission Hills for the production of road trip drama "American Honey," directed by Academy Award-winning director Andrea Arnold.
The scene was set in an upper-class home, and toward the end of the 10-hour work day the 1989 graduate and Lawrence resident sat on the couch in the living area — unsure of what she was about to do next.
Beside her on that couch was actor Shia LaBeouf, and her then 16-year-old son was back home waiting for his autograph.
"I was talking to Andrea [Arnold], the director, and asked, 'Would it be weird to ask him?,'" Kirk said. "She said, no, absolutely. He’s really nice that way."
So she turned to LeBeouf politely, asking for an autograph for her son. He obliged. Now, one year later, "American Honey" is out in theaters.
The film features the story of a traveling magazine crew making a route from Oklahoma to North Dakota. The project, for Arnold, was inspired by a 2007 New York Times article she read on the realities of wandering youth crews searching for money and fulfillment.
In "American Honey" the depicted magazine crew, joining LaBeouf's character Jake, consists of many of those troubled young adults, including Krystal (Riley Keough) and new recruit Star, played by newly-discovered actress Sasha Lane.
The scene featuring Kirk's character — a Christian suburban mother also named Laura — takes place early in the film after Star is taken in by the magazine crew. It is one of the first houses Jake uses to teach Star the ropes of the business.
Heather Laird, the film's casting director for the Missouri and Kansas area, said Kirk's character has an aristocratic nature that demanded a certain level of politeness toward the teens when they first meet. But Laura's patience quickly dissolves and turns apprehensive as she confronts Jake and Star about their true intentions.
"She tries to be kind and Christian but, by the same token, her natural suspicions and gut instincts are firing off that the people at her door are not who they seem to be," Laird said. Read more