"Nigel Bluck / Courtesy of Roadside Attractions and Armory Films. We didn't see it.". The movie follows the story of Zak, a thirtysomething man with Down’s Syndrome. Contact the editor We know the hot-button obstacles that are so virulently discussed on the tube and especially in social media: classism, racism (whether we want to admit it exists or not), xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. I mean, the characters are almost complete clichés! Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. That film follows a young boy growing up on a small island in North Carolina and his struggle with change when a new bridge is built connecting the island to the mainland. Subscribe to cleveland.com. It costs about $500 to produce this and all other stories on CRO. We have to let him jump," Zajaros says. Nilson said “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and its characters are based around the shores where he grew up and the community that he said raised him. Their credentials are beyond reproach. Keep journalists asking the hard questions. No, he wanted to be an actor, and like his character in the movie, he refused to let his condition deter him. Rated: PG-13 for some violence and language. The 2014 documentary Becoming Bulletproof documents ZMF's goal towards helping people with disabilities work in film. That includes a journey on a raft in which they meet various characters, much as Huck and the escaped slave Jim encountered people like the King and the Duke while floating down the Mississippi. Newport, North Carolina 28570 "I think they were afraid of a movie that starred a person with Down Syndrome, that's the only thing that comes to mind," Zajaros says. The Peanut Butter Falcon hits theaters this Friday. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (each updated 1/1/20). “I grew up during a time when Colington people told great stories,” said Nilson, who originally wanted to make surf films after graduating from Manteo High School in 2000. “So many of the people (from the Outer Banks) made their way into my stories,” he said. As Lemole explains, "Inclusion is not just limited to race or sexual orientation or other things. He can. CLEVELAND, Ohio — America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, and to some degree, it is. “We hit it off right away.”. But they got that chance. All rights reserved (About Us). Despite a huge response at this year's SXSW Film Festival, wherein the feature won the Audience Award, none of the major studios volunteered to purchase it. So when you meet filmmakers and screenwriters who understand the issues inherent in the narrative it provides hope for greater understanding. “The truth is, I grew up in the greatest place in the world you could raise a kid, and at the greatest time … and (the Outer Banks) is a community of people I love and care about so deeply,” said the 37-year-old Nilson, who, along with co-director Michael Schwartz, wrote and directed the modern-day Mark Twain film that shares the story of a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from his life at a retirement home to fulfill his dream of being a professional wrestler. My students were not kids with Down syndrome, but they all had challenges in widely varied degrees, some emotional, some physical, some mental. Nilson credited the locals and their support for not only making “The Moped Diaries” possible, but also “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” He notes that both films wouldn’t have happened without the help of Wanchese’s Nancy and Winkie Silver, who let Nilson and Schwartz use their home, family, props and cars. Nilson said “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and its characters are based around the shores where he grew up and the community that he said raised him. Filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz met him at a camp where he was studying acting and were so impressed that they chose to make the movie, but take a little artistic license with the storyline. Who: With Zack Gottsagen, Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Thomas Haden Church and Mick Foley. “It’s an Outer Banks story,” he said, adding that he plans to have a local screening that will be “a raucous OBX premier where no one wears shoes.” All rights reserved. Not many people know this, but when I came to The Plain Dealer almost 29 years ago, I was working full time as a special education teacher at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, Texas, as well as working full time at the Houston Chronicle. All sponsorships and donations are tax-deductible. But their biggest challenge was finding acceptance, by the other kids, by the faculty and by society. © 2020 Advance Local Media LLC. The duo eventually met up with Chris Lemole and Tim Zajaros, founders of Armory Films who saw something "magical" within the script. '", Zajaros and Lemole, who raised the financing to release the film and partnered with Roadside in order for the film to get a theatrical release, are reluctantly blunter: it was because the movie was about a person with disabilities. Mark Twain used “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to put the spotlight on prejudice based on race. The film debuted in March at the South by Southwest Film Festival and earned the festival’s Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight. Co-director Michael Schwartz wants The Peanut Butter Falcon to show disabled narratives that aren't sad or tragic, but allow everyone to have an adventure and, ultimately tell their story. Gottsagen, Tyler Nilson, Mike Schwartz and Tim Zajaros attend the LA Special Screening of Roadside Attractions' 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' at ArcLight Hollywood on AugustWIREIMAGE, EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change. Coastal Review Online is a nonprofit news service and a member of the North Carolina Press Association. He can’t do that!” News flash, folks. He doesn’t “inhabit” the role, because for him, it’s not a role. "Deep in my heart I knew...somehow, somebody would step up and say we're going to fully support this thing," says Nilson. He’s got Down syndrome! He literally IS the man determined to overcome an obstacle, and he’s amazingly honest and wonderful in doing it. "Seth Johnson / Courtesy of Roadside Attractions and Armory Films. And that’s the biggest surprise of all, because I think it’s not they who bring Gottsagen up to their level; it’s Gottsagen who brings them up to HIS. Their chops, and that of the other actors, including Church and even real pro wrestlers Mick Foley and Jake Roberts, as well as rapper Yelawolf, turn this into so much more than a simple let’s-feel-sorry-for-the-handicapped-kid. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local. Having seen the litany of films about disability, nearly all played with an able-bodied actor, the two thought they could finally put something out that would tip the scales towards letting disabled actors play disabled characters. Michelle Wagner. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a rarity in cinema: a story starring not just a person with a disability, but one that is prominent and not hidden (like deafness or blindness). tip@nccoast.org, 3609 N.C. 24, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen and Shia LeBeouf star in the unique buddy road picture "The Peanut Butter Falcon. “We were cut from the same cloth,” Nilson recalled of Gottsagen. And though the two were living on the edge of poverty - "I was eating just enough food, calorically, to get by; one piece of chicken, one half of sweet potato, and one spoonful of butter daily, very skinny," according to Nilson - they refused to budge on having any else but Gottsagen in the role. "We were like the whole purpose of this movie is not to limit people with disabilities because we think that they should be. That stretch of sand has some really beautiful individuals and everyone is kind of their own outlaw there. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows Nilson’s 2015 short film “The Moped Diaries,” which was featured in a number of film festivals, that was shot on the Outer Banks with a cast comprised entirely of locals. ""A lot of people are talking about inclusion, and they're talking about supporting actors with disabilities at stuff like this. Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission. But Gottsagen refused to be discouraged, asking the directors to work on the project with him, and with that the trio decided to press forward. “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” which opens areawide on Friday, is the story of a young man with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming a professional … You may opt-out by. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.