Gottsagen, 35, took to the stage at the Dolby Theatre to present the award for Best Live-Action Short Film, accompanied by his co-star and friend Shia LaBeouf. The pair received a standing ovation from the supportive audience, with Gottsagen waving before proceeding with the announcement.
This prestigious honor was made even more exciting as this was also Gottsagen’s very first time attending the Oscars, walking the red carpet with LaBeouf.
The Peanut Butter Falcon marked Gottsagen’s professional acting debut, and follows the story of a wrestling-obsessed fan – also called Zack – who leaves his assisted living facility in pursuit of a life of adventure.
The character ends up forming an unlikely friendship with a fisherman on the run, played by LaBeouf. The surprise indie hit was inspired by Gottsagen, written specifically for him by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz after they met him at an acting camp for those with disabilities.
Gottsagen, who was named as as one of the Associated Press’ Breakthrough Entertainers of 2019, told AP he plans to focus on working in dramas, as these show ‘feelings … most people would probably love to see that’.
The historic moment was almost overshadowed when some viewers accused LaBeouf of laughing at Gottsagen, without understanding just how close the two actors are.
Indeed, during an October 2019 interview with Channel 4, LaBeouf credited Gottsagen as the person who saved his life at a time when he was struggling with drinking problems.
LaBeouf helped Gottsagen open the winner’s envelope, and some viewers noted that he appeared to laugh after reading who had won.
Honey Boy director Alma Har’el has since taken to Twitter to correct this narrative, writing:
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. It’s stressful up there…
A massive congratulations to Zack Gottsagen on making history, while paving the way for others to follow in his footsteps.