MIAMI (CBSMiami) — SXSW Film Festival audience award-winner The Peanut Butter Falconstars Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and newcomer Zack Gottsagen. Gottsagen, who calls South Florida home, has Down syndrome.

Upon his insistence, Zack was the first child with Down syndrome to be fully included in the Palm Beach County school district.

CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo met Zack, his proud mom and stepmom, and others from the film at Gangrel’s Wrestling in Dania Beach.

While rubbing elbows with David Heath, better known as Gangrel the Vampire Warrior, Zach said he is ready for the ring and excited to talk about his movie.

Zack Gottsagen stars in The Peanut Butter Falcon. (CBS4)

“My name is Zachary Gottsagen and I’m the main star of The Peanut Butter Falcon,” he said proudly to Petrillo.

Filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz met Zack at a camp for actors with disabilities 6 years ago. They instantly became best friends and the two wrote the film around him.

“He said I really want to be in feature films and Mike and I had been making short films and commercials and smaller things, so it was kind of this perfect moment when we were looking to make something bigger and we had fallen in love with Zack for past three years,” said Nilson. “The 3 of us decided to undertake this journey and it took us 5 years to get here and we’re here now.”

Making this movie with his two friends was everything for Zack.

“For me it was kind of fun and exciting and for me I love working with these two always,” said Zack. “They’ve always been my great friends.”

The film also stars Shia Labeouf and Dakota Johnson.

“It’s about a young man with Down syndrome who breaks out of a retirement home to chase his dream of meeting his favorite wrestler and going to wrestling school and he meets  up with a small time outlaw on the run played by Shia LaBeouf and then they go and have a wild adventure. Eleanor (played by Dakota Johnson) is on the hunt for them,” Schwartz explained.

Lisa Petrillo asked Zack what he likes so much about wrestling.

“For me I get to watch and see how they do work and use their talent, and they’re so strong,” he said.

Gottsagen said he is strong too.

For his two moms, seeing Zack doing what he loves means the world.

“It’s fantastic, it’s his dream,” said his stepmother Trish.

“We really feel like this movie can make a difference in the world. There are not a lot of actors with disabilities and with Down syndrome in particular that get these opportunities. We just really want to make a difference so that the world is more inclusive of all people,” said his Mom Shelley Gottsagen.

The Peanut Butter Falcon opens in South Florida theaters Friday.

Lisa Petrillo

Comments