Written by: Jennifer Lopez
Making a movie with a lead actor who has Down syndrome was a major risk for The Peanut Butter Falcon writers and directors Chris Schwartz and Tyler Nilson, but little did they know the biggest challenge would come after filming was complete.
“We started winning some awards and then we were going to look for distribution,” started sharing Nilson on Popcorn Talk Network’s iTalk Movies. “It was a lot of distributors that you probably would have heard of, a lot of streaming services were like, we’re not going to buy that.”
The film won the Audience Award at SXSW and at the Nantucket Film Festival, but even awards couldn’t convince backers to get on board.
“‘We don’t know how to market this. How would you market something with a lead that has a disability?'” was what Schwartz said they were told, “and we’re just like, ‘how do you not market this? This is a great story.'”
The Peanut Butter Falcon stars Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, and Zack Gottssagen, who has Down syndrome.
“This is always how it always went. ‘We love it! It is phenomenal! A cinematic masterpiece, and I don’t use that word often, but it’s not marketable. And people don’t really want heroes with Down syndrome,'” shared Nilson.
Surprisingly, both Schwartz and Nilson understood the responses, and took it as business, not personal.
“It’s a fear, a business fear. They’re going, ‘we haven’t seen this done, therefore it doesn’t prove to be profitable, therefore if I make a decision on this and it’s not profitable, I lose my job, maybe my house,'” said Nilson. “I understand these people have their own, their own challenges to deal with. For Mike and I, we were just like, no, this is a beautiful story about a human being and a, and people that come together to be a family.”
Thankfully Roadside Attractions came along and backed the movie’s marketing and it received a small release of 50 theaters. Because of the strong showing in those theaters, it’s receiving a 1,000 opening this coming weekend.
For the full interview with Schwartz and Nilson where they talk about making the film, click the link above!