There were not enough roles for actors with Down syndrome in Hollywood, so filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz created one for the film’s lead role.
The cast of ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon” including Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes and Bruce Dern, turned out at the Arclight Hollywood on Thursday evening for the film’s premiere.
Although the line-up contains punch of big names such as LaBeouf and Johnson, it’s Gottsagen who stole the show from the beginning, when he arrived on the red carpet with a large jewel-encrusted wrestling belt hanging on his shoulder.
The filmmakers, producers and stars of the SXSW Audience Award all had one thing in common: they could not raving but talk about Gottsagen, who played Zack, a man with Down syndrome determined to leave his nursing home in the rural southeast U.S. and chase his dream of attending pro-wrestling school.
“When I met Zack, I met him at a wild time in my life and he kept telling me to slow down and to pace myself,” LaBeouf told THR. “It was a time when I couldn’t look at too many people and I couldn’t talk to too many people. Really it was me and him, laying in bed, watching wrestling and talking shit, going through the script, going through our lives. I’ve never been so quiet, I’ve never talked so little — I’ve never listened so much.”
“Meeting Zack was the most exciting aspect of the project, he’s the greatest thing on the planet,” Johnson echoed her co-star’s sentiments. “It changed the way I approach working with other actors. Zack is the most open, pure and honest being I’ve ever met.”
“He studied acting since the age of three and in high school,” said Schwartz of Gottsagen. “He teaches acting. He works as an usher at a movie theater to be close to movies. He wanted nothing more than to be a movie star and we were having that hard conversation telling him there’s just not a lot of roles for somebody like him and he said to us, “Let’s just do it together.”
Everyone attached to the film described Gottsagen as a person with such magnetism, they couldn’t help but immerse themselves into the project.
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