Premiering @ SXSW 2019
The Peanut Butter Falcon is an adventure story set in the world of a modern Mark Twain that begins when Zak (22), a young man with Down syndrome runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck (50). Through circumstances beyond their control Tyler (34), a small time outlaw on the run becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (26), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own to join them on their journey.
Written // Directed by: Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz
Starring: Shia LaBeouf as Tyler, Dakota Johnson as Eleanor, John Hawkes as Duncan, Bruce Dern as Carl, Thomas Haden Church as "The Salt Water Redneck," Jon Bernthal as Mark, Mick Foley as Jacob, Jake "The Snake" as Samson, Yelawolf as Ratboy, and introducing Zach Gottsagen as Zak.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is currently in post-production.
Tyler Nilson is a filmmaker from North Carolina. He explored the seas of the South Pacific as an adventurer for a handful of years, and eventually decided to take his rich desire to tell stories and move to Los Angeles. He has appeared in commercials selling products that people don’t really need, like NFL jerseys and beer. He also used to be one of the world’s top hand models and enjoyed making easy money doubling his hands for actors like Brad Pitt. A few years ago he released a narrative short film called The Moped Diaries, which people seemed to enjoy.
Michael Schwartz is a filmmaker from Northern California. His roots as a traveler and artist are constant influences on the projects he chooses and people he surrounds himself with. Some of his accomplishments include riding his bicycle across the country, planting an orchard, and growing a really big beard. In 2014 Michael and Tyler Nilson collaborated on a short film called The Moped Diaries and co-founded a production company called Lucky Treehouse; together they make films, commercials, and marinara sauce.
When I was 15 a judge sentenced me to 16 months in a boot camp for wayward boys. My crime was a simple misdemeanor. But being an outcast from a strict religious community, the powers-that-be wanted to make an example of me. I was dropped off in the middle of the North Carolina and told “try not to die out there.” What I thought would be arduous and painful turned into the most exhilarating experience of my life. Ironically, the following year plus in an “outside jail for children” was when I became the most free boy on earth. I had total reign of my life, so long as I didn’t journey outside of the razor wire fence on the 95 square mile property. I built my own house out of trees, I slept wherever I wanted, I stopped bathing, and I danced around fires late into the night with other boys who found themselves in the same place at the same time. It was magic, nothing could touch us; we were the wildest of animals.
When I finally came home 16 months later, I longed for the life I left behind in the woods. My father said to me “No man is an island” I have struggled with the reality of those words, and wish to express that with my art, film making. I’m still a wild animal but in a different way. I know with The Peanut Butter Falcon we can capture that magic on film. What it feels like to be completely free, and then to find balance and eventually peace with the fast-paced world. After all, no man is an island.
I plan to combine the elements of my youth with the stark juxtaposition of the friends of my present. I work and make films with Down syndrome actors. Many of them struggle to maintain a regular life, not because of their disabilities, but because of others disbelief in their talents. I have had many friends with Downs placed in old age homes because of lack of proper care. I know how beautiful freedom is, and I know what it feels like to be locked away as well. I am grateful I know that freedom in the outdoors and my heart aches for my friends with Down syndrome who touch only linoleum floors and plastic all day. I am not making this film for them. However, I am making it for the people who believe it is ok to dismiss them and lock them away. Prejudice towards Down syndrome is costing a lot of young people good years of their lives. Everyone should know what it feels like to go a little wild, even if you’ve got an extra copy of chromosome 21.
TYLER (34) is a down on his luck crab fisherman from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, part Huckleberry Finn and part Han Solo. Not sure whether he’s a good guy or bad guy, Tyler dances in the space between as he carries the loss of a loved one with him on an unexpected journey.
THE SALT WATER REDNECK (50) is the 12th greatest wrestler to ever come out of North Carolina. With his glory days behind him Salt Water’s friends have reverted to calling him Clint and he spends his nights sleeping in a trailer on the rustic property where he used to run a wrestling school.
ELEANOR (26) has completed the coursework for a PhD in Social Welfare and is finishing up her residency at the retirement home where Zak lives. She is from a wealthy family and embodies the essence of a young Jackie Kennedy. She is smart, driven, and beautiful inside and out. Until she meets Tyler she is positive that she's making all the right decisions.
ZAK (22) is a young man with high-functioning Down syndrome. For years he has lived his life in a retirement home and has high hopes of becoming a professional wrestler.
DUNCAN (45-55) has been trolling the waters off North Carolina as a commercial fisherman his entire life. Driven by what he sees as right Duncan does what must be done to take care of himself, his community, and his family.
Like many men that thrive into their 80’s CARL (82) has learned that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. He is smarter than most, sees himself as a ladies man, and in the retirement home where he shares a room with Zak he learns as much each day as he teaches.
MARK (45) believes in having a good time and believes in having it now. He is confident and fun-loving and together with his little brother Tyler has run the family crab boat since they were kids.
RATBOY (23-30) has a strong presence rooted in a shady "rock star with a dark past" attitude.
JACOB (30-60) is passionate about backyard wrestling and the man at the center of the local scene where The Salt Water Redneck made his mark. He is loud, lovable, and lives for he weekenends when he presides over the festivities at "Jacob's Inferno."
SAMSON (51) lives in a shed on The Salt Water Redneck’s property. He never quite made it to “professional” wrestler but backyard Sunday matches are still the place he feels most alive.
BLIND JASPER JOHN (45 - 65) has never been more than an hour up or down river from where he was born and where he runs a junkyard today. He is a god-fearing man with passions for family, six-shooters, and salvation.
CRAIG (20-40) runs in the same crowd as Duncan and Ratboy. He spends his time with fishermen and crabbers and is easily recognized by his high pitched laugh and larger than life appearance.