Newcomer Zachary Gottsagen, who is the inspiration for the film, will play the principal character of Zak in the movie, which will be directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz from their own script.
Variety first reported in May that LaBeouf had come on board. The story follows Zak, a young man with Down syndrome, who runs away from the nursing home where he lives to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the Saltwater Redneck wrestling school. Through circumstances beyond their control, a small-time outlaw also on the run (to be played by LaBeouf) becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally.
Armory Films’ Tim Zajaros and Christopher Lemole will produce and finance the film, alongside Bona Fide Productions’ Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, T-Bone Burnett, Lije Sarki, and David Thies. Burnett will also produce the soundtrack. Principal photography will commence on June 17 in Savannah, Ga.
Zajaros and Lemole said: “Films like this are the reason why we got into the business. The script is absolutely incredible and the message so important, which should be apparent from the superb talent that the script has attracted. Tyler and Michael are extremely talented and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with them.”
Johnson has starred in the two “Fifty Shades of Grey” films and will next be seen starring in Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria.” Dern received Academy Award nominations for his roles in “Nebraska” and “Coming Home” and has appeared in over 100 films. Burnett won an Academy Award for original song for “Crazy Heart” in 2009.
Gottsagen lives with high-functioning Down syndrome, and became the inspiration for the movie after Nilson and Schwartz met him while working at a non-profit arts organization.
Johnson is represented by WME; Dern is represented by Innovative Artists and Pure Arts; Burnett is represented by L J Entertainment; and Nilson, Schwartz and Sarki are represented by Management 360 and Bloom/Hergott.