“The Peanut Butter Falcon,” a movie starring Florida self-advocate, Zack Gottsagen, opens in Florida and nationwide this Friday, August 23.
Gottsagen is a long-time member of FL SAND’s Palm Beach County group, Self-Advocacy for an Independent Life (SAIL). Although “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is his first Hollywood role, he shares top-billing with heavy-hitters Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Johnson.
Gottsagen’s involvement in the film is a true self-advocacy story. While talking with “Peanut Butter’s” future writers/directors, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, at an acting camp, Gottsagen was confronted with the reality that there aren’t many roles for people with disabilities in movies. Not letting that go, Gottsagen asked the duo to write a script for him – and to use a cliché Nilson and Schwartz would likely never include in a script – the rest is history.
Nilson, Schwartz, and Gottsagen previewed the film to the media and friends in Boynton Beach last week where the crowd was so large a second screen was added. Gottsagen also received a proclamation from the City of Boynton Beach, greeted long lines of autograph and selfie seekers, and hung around with Nilson and Schwartz to answer questions of movie-goers.
Having won a top audience award at the Austin, Texas-based SXSW Festival in March, the movie and Gottsagen have continued to impress reviewers. Not all of them use people-first language but most express authentic respect for Gottsagen’s performance and contribution to the film’s success. Rogerebert.com reviewer, Sheila O’Malley writes . . .
Unlike so many disabled characters in film, Zac [Gottsagen’s character] is not utilized as a symbol, a metaphor, or created to be "inspirational." He's the central figure, he's outspoken and strong, funny and vulnerable. He's never had a friend before. He's always wanted to be "bro dawgs" with someone. Watching the relationship develop with Tyler [LeBeouf’s character] is one of the film's many pleasures.
Check your favorite movie app to see where “The Peanut Butter Falcon” opens in your city, spread the word among your friends and networks in person and via social media, have a movie party, and enjoy the show. An actor with a disability starring in a Hollywood movie is community inclusion at its most powerful!
Also, check back for an interview with Gottsagen in the coming weeks. We’re anxious to hear how the success of the movie has impacted his life and if there are any self-advocacy lessons he’d like to share.