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Actor Zack Gottsagen First Person With Down Syndrome to Present at the Oscars

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During the Oscars on Sunday, Zack Gottsagen presented an award onstage alongside his “Peanut Butter Falcon” co-star Shia LaBeouf. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gottsagen is the first person with Down syndrome to present an award in the show’s 92-year history.

At the 92nd Academy Awards, Gottsagen took the stage to present the Oscar for live-action short film, which went to “The Neighbor’s Window,” with LaBeouf. Gottsagen read out the iconic, “And the Oscar goes to,” line after being greeted by a standing ovation by the audience.

Gottsagen recently starred in “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” a critically acclaimed film written by Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson with Gottsagen in mind for the lead role. The film follows Zak (Gottsagen) as he makes a break from his nursing home to embark on a professional boxing career. Along the way, he encounters “small-time outlaw on the run” Tyler (LaBeouf) before running into Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), who is tasked with bringing Gottsagen back home.

While Gottsagen’s inclusion in the Oscar ceremony as a presenter was a first for disability representation, Mighty contributor Emily Kranking highlighted that the Oscars — like all of Hollywood — still overwhelmingly celebrates non-disabled actors. Despite speculation of an Oscar nomination for Gottsagen for “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” the film and its actors were ultimately snubbed.

“Here is a real-life actor with a disability (Zachary) actually and incredibly portraying a character with a disability in a major movie, but he is swiped aside for already established, abled actors,” wrote Kranking, adding:

If the entertainment industry wants to truly welcome actors with disabilities, such as Zachary, we should be recognized for our accomplishments. When we do award-worthy work, give us the same recognition and respect you give to established actors like Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. That is when we will truly feel equal in Hollywood.

On social media, however, many celebrated Gottsagen’s turn on the Oscars stage as a step forward for disability inclusion.

Header image via Vogue Magazine’s Twitter

Originally published: February 10, 2020
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