×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Shia LaBeouf on ‘Peanut Butter Falcon’: ‘I Walked Out of This Project a Changed Person’

Shia LaBeouf agreed to star in “The Peanut Butter Falcon” before ever reading the script.

“I knew I was in immediately,” LaBeouf said at the Hollywood premiere Thursday night, explaining that the movie’s star, Zack Gottsagen, was the main reason he knew he had to be part of the project. “He’s been acting longer than me, he’s more trained than me, and he was involved with this project five years before I even got the call — it was intimidating.”

LaBeouf’s eagerness to join the movie isn’t the only rarity of the indie film, which was created by first-time feature filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz who dreamed of giving Gottsagen, a 32-year-old with Down Syndrome, a chance to become a movie star.

The decade-long friends took to the newcomer immediately after meeting him at Zeno Mountain Farm, a Santa Monica camp which brings together those with and without disabilities. After discovering Gottsagen’s acting talent, Wilson and Schwartz vowed to write a script for him, using his contagious personality as a way to win over bold-faced names such as LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes and Bruce Dern — despite having no Hollywood connections themselves.

The story follows Gottsagen’s character Zak as he runs away from a nursing home where the state has sent him to live to pursue a wrestling career and befriends a reckless outlaw (LaBeouf) on the way. The result is a modern take on “Huckleberry Finn” as the unlikely duo adventure down the North Carolina coast. And the pair’s chemistry transcends the screen, according to Gottsagen and LaBeouf, who say “they became brothers” while filming together.

Popular on Variety

“He’s very connected to God and I thought God was silly for a long time. And then life hits you hard and then you start asking wild questions,” LaBeouf told Variety, noting that his co-star has served as his “spiritual adviser.” “And the universe put him in my life at a very specific point and he kept me afloat.”

LaBeouf may be referring to one specific dark point: he was arrested for drunken behavior in Savannah, Ga., while filming the movie in 2017. The actor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction. His sentencing included 10 weeks in rehab. The former child actor has found himself at the center of controversy and legal woes throughout his years in the spotlight, but says, “I walked out of this project a changed person — big time.”

“We spent a lot of time rehearsing and getting close and laying in bed together and talking s—…holding each other’s hands, running around Georgia,” LaBeouf shared of working with Gottsagen, before turning to his co-star and tearing up as he added, “And leaning on each other, but mostly me on you…mostly. I love you.”

John Hawkes, Tyler Nilson, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf and Michael Schwartz'The Peanut Butter Falcon' Film Screening, Arrivals, ArcLight Cinemas, Los Angeles, USA - 01 Aug 2019
CREDIT: Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock

Gottsagen had a similar effect on almost everyone on set, which comes as no surprise to Wilson and Schwartz, who recognized his star-power from the moment they met him. “He is probably the most magnetic human you’ll ever meet, which made people want to be involved in the film.”

Dern, who plays Zak’s roommate in the nursing home, agreed, saying that he signed on almost immediately after meeting Zach: “He is a magical man.”

Talking about magical moments — before the screening, Gottsagen asked the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to his late grandfather because his birthday happened to fall on the same day as the premiere.

Roadside Attractions will release “The Peanut Butter Falcon” in theaters on Aug. 9

More Film

  • Lee Byung-hun stars in "The Man

    Lee Byung-hun’s ‘Man Standing Next’ Secures 2020 Asia Theatrical Releases (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showbox’s political drama “The Man Standing Next” has secured releases in multiple territories in Asia. The film was picked up by Falcon for Indonesia, The Klockworx for Japan, Viva Communications for the Philippines, Shaw Renters for Singapore and by Moviecloud for Taiwan. Release dates in each territory have yet to be confirmed. Set 40 days [...]

  • Lulu Wang and Zhao Shuzhen'The Farewell'

    Zhao Shuzhen on Stealing Scenes in Her First American Movie, 'The Farewell'

    A year ago, 76-year-old actor Zhao Shuzhen shot her first American movie, “The Farewell,” based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s very personal family story. In November, Shuzhen found herself making her first visit to the States, where she earned standing ovations from audiences and posed for pictures with stars like Robert Pattinson at parties. Then she [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Director Lorene Scafaria

    'Hustlers' DP Todd Banhazl Discusses How Not to Shoot With the Male Gaze

    Cinematographer Todd Banhazl had to rethink conventional wisdom in shooting Jennifer Lopez starrer “Hustlers.” What sort of approach did you and director Lorene Scafaria discuss in terms of how you were going to shoot the women and create these strong images of strippers? From the beginning, we talked about this idea of control and the [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie

    Film News Roundup: Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life' Screened at Vatican Film Library

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Hidden Life” is shown at the Vatican, “Limerence” finds a home, Dave Baustista’s “My Spy” moves, and the DGA honors two veteran members. VATICAN SCREENING Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” received a rare private screening at the Vatican Film Library this week. The movie centers on Austrian farmer and [...]

  • Wet Season

    'Wet Season' Star Yeo Yann Yann on the Need for Quality Chinese-Language Films

    Malaysia’s Yeo Yann Yann wiped away tears that weren’t purely of joyous triumph just minutes after receiving the 2019 Golden Horse Award for best actress in Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s “Wet Season.” The film plays in the New Chinese Cinema section of this week’s International Film Festival & Awards (IFFAM). Emotion welled up as she [...]

  • Wolf Totem

    Juben Productions Stretches From Peter Chan to Chinese Zombies

    Beijing Juben Productions has taken over rights to the popular “Wolf Totem” novel from China Film Group and is working on a sequel to be delivered in 2021 or Chinese New Year 2022. It also has a zombie film up its sleeve, as well as a British co-production about Shakespeare and a Chinese drama with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content