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Actor Zack Gottsagen

Actor Zack Gottsagen

Since the age of three it was Zack Gottsagen's dream to become an actor. With the help of family, friends and VR, he was able to find acting prospects that would allow him the opportunity to pursue his passion as an actor with Down syndrome. Zack's mother, Shelly Gottsagen was an active member of the Florida Independent Living Councilóthis is how he learned about VR. This exposure provided the opportunities Zack needed to further his venture in acting.

VR Counselor Shanqua Sims-Brown helped Zack attain on-the-job training (OJT) at the Alco Theater in Boynton Beach. He recalls his manager always providing support and being proud of his work. Zack frequently asked to take on more responsibility that led to opportunities such as coordinating events and dressing up in costume for functions that took place at the theater.

Actors Zack Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf at the Academy Awards

Throughout his life, Zack had several opportunities to learn how to become an actor. At the age of 18, Zack performed in the play Artie. Although the director admitted he had reservations about Zackís ability to perform in the play, Zack showed him that he not only memorized his lines, he also memorized the lines of the other performers. The director said, "Meeting Zack not only changed my mind about the abilities of people with disabilities, but it also changed my life." Zack also attended an inclusion acting camp called Zeno Mountain Farms in Venice, California. At this camp, Zack starred in a movie called Bullet Proof Jackson where he played the villain. He fondly remembers making the film with his friends, Tyler and Mike, and their conversations about their dreams and aspirations. Zack spoke about his dream of becoming an actor and they told him, "There really isnít a desire for actors with Down syndrome in Hollywood." "Well, then we need to make our own movie," said Zack.

Zack developed the title and concept of the film The Peanut Butter Falcon. It took two years but was eventually picked up by Roadside Attractions. The movie is described as a Mark Twain-style story of an unlikely friendship between the character that Zack played and Tyler, an outlaw on the run played by Shia LaBeouf. There have been premieres for the film from Los Angeles to London with box office success. Zack's advice to future actors, "Stay in school. Study a lot. Perform in plays. Do not be afraid of auditions," and to "Dream Big."

The Peanut Butter Falcon movie poster

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a 2019 American comedy-drama film directed and written by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal and Thomas Haden Church. Its plot follows a young man with Down syndrome who escapes from an assisted living facility and befriends a wayward fisherman on the run. The two men form a rapid bond.

Rated PG 13             95%             7.9/10
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