Is the Salt Water Redneck (Clint) Based on a Real Wrestler?

Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ narrates a gritty yet heartwarming story of Zak, a man with Down syndrome, going on an adventure to meet his wrestling hero, The Salt Water Redneck. Zak has been stuck at a retirement home for two and a half years since his family abandoned him. Throughout this time, he has remained inspired by videotapes of The Salt Water Redneck, a professional wrestler who Zak looks up to as a badass. Dreaming to achieve fame and create an identity of his own, Zak escapes the retirement home and heads to his hero’s wrestling school in Ayden, North Carolina.

After a long journey, Zak reaches the residence of the Salt Water Redneck with Tyler and Eleanor. Tyler knocks at the door of the dilapidated house and is greeted by a weary middle-aged man, Clint, who confirms that he is indeed Salt Water. However, he closed his wrestling school 10 years ago and has since retired as a professional wrestler. Nevertheless, Clint dons his outfit once more to surprise Zak and even gives him training and a shot at a backyard wrestling match. Witnessing Salt Water’s compassion, inquisitive minds may seek to learn more about the wrestler’s real-world origins and story.

The Salt Water Redneck is a Fictional Golden Age Wrestler

Wrestling, with its larger-than-life personas and inspirations, serves as a central theme for ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon.’ Interestingly, actor Zack Gottsagen, who essays Zak, is also a huge fan of wrestling in real life. Filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz also share his interest in the entertaining sport and drew upon Zack’s love for wrestling to create a storyline surrounding it. While the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church) is an imagined character, the writing and directing duo clearly have their own favorite when it comes to the sport.

For Gottsagen and Nilson, wrestlers Mick Foley and Jake ‘the’ Snake Roberts are the stand-out talents who have inspired them. In the film, Mick Foley can be seen donning the referee’s clothes as Jacob and commentating on the backyard wrestling match. Jake ‘the’ Snake Roberts, on the other hand, takes on the grimacing character of Sam, who goes up against Zak in the ring and begins to bully him. “I’m gonna jump in and say Mick Foley’s got my heart,” said Tyler Nilson in an interview. “He may not be the best in the ring, but as far as a general wrestler, and the personality, and the contributions he’s made to society.”

Interestingly, in the early days of his career, Mick Foley was known to live frugally and survive on a diet of bread and peanut butter, the latter of which also seems to be Zak’s favorite source of macronutrients in the film. In another parallel, Zak travels a long distance to be trained by Salt Water, and Foley traveled 400 miles to train with Dominic DeNucci, a legend from the First Golden Age of professional wrestling. Much like Foley, the Salt Water Redneck also seems to be a star of the Second Golden Age of wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s, given the videotapes and their visual characteristics.

Through the fictional character of the Salt Water Redneck, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz create a pure storyline of a wrestling fan journeying to meet his hero and train under him. The plotline was inspired by lead actor Zack Gottsagen’s passion for wrestling. With both Gottsagen and Nilson being fans of Mick Foley and the film drawing several parallels between its narrative and his life, we can reasonably assume that the good-natured character of Clint is inspired by the real wrestler.

Read More: Best Feel-Good Movies on Netflix