Despite the fact that The Peanut Butter Falcon was the highest grossing independent film of 2019, the comedy-drama sleeper hit garnered little mainstream attention before the Oscars broadcast on Feb. 9, 2020. However, once actor Shia LaBeouf and co-star Zack Gottsagen took to the Dolby Theatre stage to present the award for Best Live Action Short Film, the movie’s leading men quickly came under public scrutiny when LaBeouf appeared to be laughing at Gottsagen as he struggled to read the teleprompter.
At the 2020 Oscars, Gottsagen became the first actor with Down syndrome to present an award in the show’s 92-year history. However, the 34-year-old actor’s moment was tainted by Twitter’s pseudo-outrage over LaBeouf’s supposed behavior. Users took to social media to bash the 33-year-old Transformers star with one person tweeting, “But why was Shia Labeouf so disrespectful towards the man who announced the #Oscars winner?”
Tweets like that one ultimately demonstrate the public’s own ignorance when it comes to the true story about the friendship the two actors developed behind-the-scenes and the real reason why Gottsagen walked the Oscars stage in the first place.
Shia LaBeouf credits Zack Gottsagen with helping him get—and stay—sober
Before meeting Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf admits that he’d lost his way, often resorting to alcohol to numb his pain and cope with inner turmoil. However, once the two men met, The Associated Press writes, they “quickly became close, spending their evenings watching wrestling and their days on 12-hour shoots across the Georgia countryside, swimming in rivers, dancing on railroad tracks and having watermelon fights.”
It wasn’t until LaBeouf was arrested for public drunkenness during the film’s production in 2017, however, that he finally recognized the error of his ways. In that moment, LaBeouf promised Gottsagen he wouldn’t drink again—and he hasn’t had a single sip since.
“He knows about my pain intimately,” LaBeouf told AP. “We’d be sitting there watching wrestling every night. He’d be eating ice cream. I’d be drinking gin. I’d tell him, ‘You gotta stop eating all that ice cream.’ He’d say, ‘You gotta stop drinking that gin,'” says LaBeouf. “This man’s a year older than me. He’s been acting longer than me and he’s healthier than I am. He has more friends than I have, has longer lasting loving relationships.”
LaBeouf also told Sky News, Gottsagen rekindled his love for acting. “My little kid was dead,” he said. “I wasn’t in love with this no more when I met him. It’s like going on a roller coaster for the first time, he turned my spark back on.”
It's all love between Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen
When Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen walked the 2020 Oscars red carpet together, the two could be seen embracing on multiple occasions, putting their friendship on full display before the “incident” in question. In fact, it’s because of Gottsagen, that LaBeouf has learned how to give and receive love and embrace their relationship wholeheartedly.
“I was quite unintelligible to myself before I met him,” LaBeouf told The Associated Press. “He had more self-awareness coming into this picture than I do, which is saying a lot. Walking out, I’ve adopted a lot of his self-love and his confidence. It’s leading to self-love, which is leading to an ability to receive love, which is what was lacking in my life.” Talking about his co-star, Gottsagen added, “I was doing things for Shia because I just don’t like to see old Shia act like this. I wanted to see the new Shia that I know.”
In a show of true friendship, LaBeouf agreed to present at the Oscars under one condition. “Shia was offered to present an Oscar. He said he would do it if he can share that moment with his beloved co-star Zach Gottsagen who we all adore,” Alma Har’el, director of both The Peanut Butter Falcon tweeted in LaBeouf’s defense. “It’s stressful up there…”
Zack Gottsagen's mother knows Shia LaBeouf wouldn't disrespect her son
Amid the attempt to “cancel” Shia LaBeouf on Twitter, Zack Gottsagen’s mother, Shelley, spoke with TooFab to set the record straight, further emphasizing the “beautiful” relationship the two men share.
“I would hate to see any misconception out there. I mean, you know, Shia is just wonderful, you know, we really love him. If anything, I think they were grinning because it was hard to get the envelope open,” she said. “We just love Shia and the respect that Shia and Zack have for each other is beautiful. Their friendship is really, really beautiful. And, you know, it just, it upset me when I thought that somebody was thinking that Shia could have ever had a kind of negative attitude ’cause he’s been nothing, nothing, nothing but supportive.”
Shelley added that LaBeouf has been very supportive of Gottsagen’s acting career. “He’ll really seek out opportunities for Zack and did a lot with promoting the movie, you know, which, Shia always doesn’t—that’s not really his thing, but he did it for Zack.” And the unwavering support definitely isn’t one-sided. “This is the least judgmental friend that I have, the most supportive, the most consistent,” LaBeouf told The Associated Press.
All that to say, it sounds like the two are BFFs who have each others backs no matter what. And it seems like the Oscars moments that sent the internet into a tizzy was nothing more than a funny moment between friends.
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