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Shia LaBeouf in Peanut Butter Falcon

Starting with his stint on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens, Shia LaBeouf has dominated the big screen for 20 years with memorable performances in the Transformers movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as well as delivered distinctive personal endeavors such as making himself the object of a museum exhibition, live-streaming himself watching all his movies and becoming an oddly inspirational meme. Recently, he masterfully starred in the touching The Peanut Butter Falcon alongside newcomer Zack Gottsagen, who happens to have Down Syndrome.

Shia LaBeouf now credits his work on the film, namely with Zack Gottsagen, for saving his life. In a candid interview, LaBeouf opened up about the unique experience working on The Peanut Butter Falcon with the Huckleberry Finn to his Tom Sawyer in the Mark Twain-inspired movie. Here’s what he said:

I had never worked with an actor like him. I’d never been involved in a project like this. It felt like it was going to be a really freeing experience and to be quite frank, I was terrified. I knew he’d be playing lead guitar and I’d be playing bass to him. If he went left, I’d have to go left. I’d never been in a situation where so much is dependant on staying open, reacting and listening to another performer. I’ve been quite selfish in my choices before.

Over the years, Shia LaBeouf has shown audiences he likes a challenge and goes all in with his roles. The Peanut Butter Falcon was no exception, but this time it was reliant on playing off an actor not typically given a leading role in a full-length film. Actors with Down Syndrome are vastly underrepresented in Hollywood, and Zack Gottsagen’s performance in The Peanut Butter Falcon is groundbreaking for the community. LaBeouf admit he was “terrified” to take on the role, especially considering the trust he’d need to place in Gottsagen, but it became a life-changing experience for the two of them.

To Channel 4, Shia LaBeouf, who is currently 33, said he’d become jaded over the years about the industry he is part of. Working with Zack Gottsagen, who found his first role in The Peanut Butter Falcon, he gained a newfound perspective. He continued:

The kid in me died and I just got over all this. This rollercoaster wasn’t fun after a while. You ride the same rollercoaster, it just loses its appeal. Then, you go on it with someone who hasn’t been on it before and somehow, it sparks back up.

When asked if working on the film “saved him in a way,” Shia agreed that it wouldn’t be too dramatic to label the experience that way. During the filming of The Peanut Butter Falcon in Georgia back in 2017, the actor was arrested for public drunkenness after asking a police officer for a cigarette, and getting profane and violent in demeanor following his response. LaBoeuf was arrested at 4 a.m. and released later that day. In his words:

The day after I got arrested, we were on a boat. I couldn’t really look at anybody in the eye. I was sitting next to [Zack Gottsagen] and he put his hand on my shoulder and like nursed me back during the scene where we’re talking about the painful past. That stuff hurt to go through and to feel.

The two actors became good friends on the set of The Peanut Butter Falcon and their chemistry is apparent in the film. The movie follows Zak (Gottsagen) as he breaks out of a retirement community, goes on a personal journey and meets LaBoeuf’s character.

Shia LaBeouf’s next project is Honey Boy, which he stars in, wrote and directed. The under-the-radar late 2019 release deals with themes pertaining to his personal struggles with being a child actor and mental health. Honey Boy hits theaters on November 8.

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