Interview With ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ Directors Tyler Nilson & Mark Schwartz
The Peanut Butter Falcon, a touching story about a young man with down syndrome who escapes his home care facility to pursue his dream of becoming a wrestler. Newcomer Zack Gottsagen stars alongside big names such as Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and John Hawkes. Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with directors & co-writers of The Peanut Butter Falcon, Tyler Nilson and Mark Schwartz. Check out some of the highlights of the interview below.
The Peanut Butter Falcon Was Inspired By Friend Zack Gottsagen
Lead character Zack Gottsagen is a close friend of directors Nilson and Schwartz and was the inspiration for the film. They had worked with Gottsagen on a short film 3 years prior to writing The Peanut Butter Falcon and not only kept in close contact with Zack but was inspired by his dreams and determination. So much so, they wrote The Peanut Butter Falcon about Zack and for Zack. “He (Zack) loves wrestling, he wants to be a movie star and we just tailored everything to him.” The duo admits the stories in the film are not “real”, they are based on Mark Twain stories. Co-writer Nilson “grew up in the outer banks, so he would go craning and fishing. It has that Mark Twain feel.“
Directors Nilson and Schwartz did take some real life situations from Gottsagen and incorporated it into the film. Schwartz states, “When he (Zack) tells Shia Labeouf’s character that he is a down syndrome person, that story comes from real life. We had known Zack for 3 years and he tells Tyler he has down syndrome.” The more directors Nilson and Schwartz spoke of Zack, it became evident that Zack was not only a a muse for the pair but also someone they loved. Nilson adds, “It is inspiring to be around someone who is so emotionally present. It is the most inspiring thing for me, especially as a director.“
The Peanut Butter Falcon’s 5 Year Journey
The journey to making this film as not easy, Nilson and Schwartz wrote the film 5 years ago and no one would read it for ever a year. It wasn’t until they created a 5 minute trailer showing what the movie would feel like when it finally started gaining interest and doors began to open. And while both Nilson and Schwartz talk about the message of the film being centered around friendship and “friends are the family you choose“, they also wanted to showcase Zack as a character and actor. Schwartz even jokingly says, “Zack is a compelling character, one that rivals Tom Cruise.” After a good chuckle and giving Cruise his props, they turned to a serious note and like a friend that always has your back Schwartz states, “Zack was the best person for the job, this was not out of charity.“