Shia LaBeouf Says Co-Star With Down Syndrome Saved Him From Alcohol

By Bryan Le 10/15/19

His “The Peanut Butter Falcon” co-star Zack Gottswagen made LaBeouf promise to never do “that kind of stuff again.”

Borg/McEnroe CAST: Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason DIRECTOR: Janus Metz The grand tennis rivalry between cool Swedish icon Bjorn Borg (Sudnason) and the über-expressive John McEnroe (LaBeouf) peaked during the foes’ five-set marathon match at at Wimbledon in 1980.
He needed to hear some honest words. John Bauld/Wikimedia

Actor Shia LaBeouf told interviewers on the UK’s Channel 4 that he was saved by tough love doled out by his The Peanut Butter Falcon co-star Zack Gottsagen. At the time, LaBeouf was dealing with the backlash from his drunken arrest, during which he launched into a racist rant against his arresting officers.

LaBeouf and Gottsagen star in the movie, with Gottsagen playing a man with Down syndrome who has dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. Notably, Gottsagen lives with the condition in real life. The unfiltered and unflinching bluntness from Gottsagen helped LaBeouf get his head on straight.

A Straight Shooter

“Zack can't not shoot straight,” he admitted to Esquire in an interview. “And bless him for it, 'cause in that moment, I needed a straight shooter who I couldn't argue with.”

As the story goes, LaBeouf was skulking around on the set of The Peanut Butter Falcon the day after his embarrassing arrest, unable to muster the will to make eye contact with any of the cast on the boat where they were filming. Gottsagen, sitting next to LaBeouf, put his hand on his shoulder.

“He nursed me back, on a boat, during a scene where we're talking about, like, the painful past,” LaBeouf said in the interview.

The Ultimatum

Gottsagen also gave an ultimatum to LaBeouf.

“I was sad and cried,” Gottsagen said to Channel 4. “But I’m still gonna take a chance for myself to give Shia one chance to prove to himself... never, never, never do this kind of stuff again.”

LaBeouf had been arrested for becoming disorderly after being refused a cigarette by a stranger. TMZ obtained video of the actor screaming at his arresting officers, including some racially charged comments.

“So you wanna arrest, what, white people who give a f— who ask for cigarettes? I came up trying to be nice, you stupid b—,” LaBeouf said on camera, among other things. “I got more millionaire lawyers than you know what to do with, you stupid b—.”

But thanks to his co-star, LaBeouf eventually got his head on straight.

When asked by Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman if he felt the film saved him, in a way, the actor was definitive in his answer.

"No, it's not too dramatic to say," LaBeouf admitted.

Gottsagen’s mother, Shelly, says that conversation is the reason LaBeouf hasn’t had a drink since.

The film The Peanut Butter Falcon is out in theaters now.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter