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Actor Zack Gottsagen becomes first Oscar presenter with Down syndrome

Zack Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf have a close friendship and LaBeouf even credited Gottsagen for helping him get sober.
Shia LaBeouf, left, and Zack Gottsagen present the award for best live action short film at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Shia LaBeouf presented the Academy Award for best live action short with Zack Gottsagen, his co-star in “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and an actor with Down syndrome.

Some viewers on social media grilled LaBeouf after he appeared to roll his eyes as Gottsagen hesitated reading the card, perhaps sensing a star grousing about sharing the stage with a special needs co-presenter.

To the contrary, LaBeouf and Gottsagen are close friends from their time filming in the Georgia countryside. They recounted to The Associated Press in August how then spent evenings watching wrestling between 12-hour shoots. LaBeouf has even credited Gottsagen for helping him get sober.

“He knows about my pain intimately. We’d be sitting there watching wrestling every night. He’d be eating ice cream. I’d be drinking gin. I’d tell him, ‘You gotta stop eating all that ice cream.’ He’d say, ‘You gotta stop drinking that gin,’” says LaBeouf. “This man’s a year older than me. He’s been acting longer than me and he’s healthier than I am. He has more friends than I have, has longer lasting loving relationships.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gottsagen was the first person with Down Syndrome to be a presenter at the Academy Awards.