The Honey Boy actor, 33, attended the 92nd annual affair held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater with Gottsagen, 34. An onlooker told Us Weekly that LaBeouf stood by Gottsagen’s side “throughout the evening.”
While watching the ceremony together from the lobby, LaBeouf was eating popcorn and “holding Zack Gottsagen’s hand.” The eyewitness noted how the Disney Channel alum was “very caring and protective” of Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome.
At one point in the evening, LaBeouf and Gottsagen hit the Oscars stage to present the award for Best Live-Action Short. The moment was historic because Gottsagen is the first actor with Down syndrome to present during the Academy Awards. He ultimately received a standing ovation from the audience for his achievement.
LaBeouf, however, drew criticism from some social media users who accused him of laughing at Gottsagen while they presented. In response to the backlash, Honey Boy director Alma Har’el came to LaBeouf’s defense.
“Shia was offered to present an Oscar,” Har’el, 44, tweeted on Sunday, sharing a clip of the duo’s onstage moment. “He said he would do it if he can share that moment with his beloved costar Zach Gottsagen, who we all adore. It’s stressful up there…”
LaBeouf and Gottsagen starred in 2019’s The Peanut Butter Falcon together alongside Dakota Johnson, Thomas Haden Church and Bruce Dern. The acclaimed indie flick follows Zak (Gottsagen), a man with Down syndrome who chooses to leave his nursing home to pursue his pro wrestling dreams. He receives help along the way from Tyler, who is played by the former Transformers star.
This past October, LaBeouf credited his experience working on the project and with Gottsagen for saving his life.
“I had never worked with an actor like him. I’d never been involved in a project like this. It felt like it was going to be a really freeing experience, and to be quite frank, I was terrified,” he explained in an interview with U.K.’s Channel 4. “I knew that he’d be playing lead guitar, you know, and I’d be playing bass to him. If he went left, I’d have to go left. I’d never been in a situation where so much is dependent on staying open, and reacting, and listening to another performer.”
LaBeouf continued, “I’ve been quite selfish in my choices and my way of working before. The kid in me died and I just got over all this. This roller coaster wasn’t fun after a while. You ride the same roller coaster, it just loses its appeal. Then you go on it with someone who hasn’t been on it before, and somehow, it sparks back up.”
With reporting by Kayley Stumpe and Carly Sloane
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