Christophe Zajac-Denek Talks Sasquatch Sunset, Life-Casts, Jimmy Kimmel and Advocacy

Christophe Zajac-Denek Talks Sasquatch Sunset, Life-Casts, Jimmy Kimmel and Advocacy

One of the most talked about films at Sundance this year was the Zellner Brothers’ documentary-style surreal comedy, Sasquatch Sunset, which follows a family of Bigfoots or Sasquatches for a year as they navigate a rapidly changing world.

We had the opportunity to speak via Zoom with Christophe Zajac-Denek who stars as the youngest Sasquatch alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough. Born with a rare form of dwarfism, Christophe is not only an actor but an advocate, surfer, drummer, and stuntman.

[The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Christophe Zajac-Denek stars in Sasquatch Sunset
Credit: Amanda Ramon

How did you get involved with Sasquatch Sunset?


I received an audition from my agent and they sent us the “look” book, and I feel like they sent the script or a partial script. I was just hooked five pages in by the look book. I’ve worked a lot in costumes in Hollywood and I also feel like I have a weird sense of humour and a weird taste and tone. This struck a chord with me. I thought, “The costumes look… They look so incredible and authentic.”

They weren’t going for a tongue-in-cheek, wacky for wacky’s sake. It was funny because we’re trying to portray as appropriately and as accurately an experience as a Sasquatch as we can. And so that’s what really drew me in. I was laughing reading the script at the ridiculous nature and the honesty that was presented.

What was the timeline like from that initial impression to production commencing?


They contacted me in the summer of ‘21. That was the initial contact and booking the film. And then because of schedule conflicts, we got pushed twelve months or so or maybe a little longer. So we shot in the fall of 2022. We shot it in four weeks.

We did a week of rehearsal. Lorin Eric Salm came out and helped us out with some movement coaching and he was there for a day or two. He’s brilliant. He was so much fun to work with.

Christophe Zajac-Denek stars in Sasquatch Sunset
Credit: Amanda Ramon

So we were in the production office just kind of eating berries and stealing arugula from each other and throwing nuts and tossing logs around an office building and grinding all these organic foods into the carpet of this random office building in Eureka. I’m sure they needed to replace the carpeting after these four Sasquatch left.

We rehearsed for a week. We did costume tests as well and then we started shooting the week after that. It was just on.

A couple months before the rehearsal, I went to Toronto to meet with AAFX and I got life-cast out there, had a bunch of purple peanut butter spread all over my face and arms and they cast my teeth as well.

Honestly, that was one of the things I was so excited about and so looking forward to when I booked this. I was like, “I’m gonna get life-cast and it’s not just going to be my head, it’s going to be my whole body.”

Did you get to keep anything from your costume?


I think I have a set of teeth but everything else … I have no idea where the costumes are. They’re probably full of my dried sweat and it’s disgusting, I’m sure.

Until it’s final final, those get held onto until there aren’t any possibilities of reshoots or anything like that. I think everything to my knowledge is living in Toronto somewhere.

Was there a moment of epiphany the first time you wore your full costume? Or was it still challenging to become the Sasquatch?


It was pretty easy. First of all, I was so excited and amped. I was trying to just downplay my excitement for this film for a year because I was so stoked to book it and to work with David (Zellner) and Nathan (Zellner) and Jesse and Riley.

Christophe Zajac-Denek stars in Sasquatch Sunset
Credit: Amanda Ramon

This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me. They had sent us references to look at about ape behavior and Sasquatch lore and stuff like that. I felt really adequately prepped when I got to set.

Putting the costume on was just like, yeah, I just get to be a rascal now for four weeks. This is why I’m here. I’m here to just be a child Sasquatch who embraces nothing else but the moment and see where that takes us.

What was the family dynamic between you, Jesse, and Riley?


Riley’s character is somewhat of a mother figure and Jesse is kind of like an older brother to me essentially. That was one thing we were trying to figure out – how are the relationships are and how are the interactions between us are informed by the relationships because it’s different, y’know? But that’s essentially who we are to each other.

I hadn’t met any of them [before working on the show. I had some lunches with David in the year before it shot. We ended up getting together a couple of times just to hang out and get to know one another.

Sasquatch Sunset opens in theatres in wide release on April 19

We did all get together on Zoom to have some initial movement coaching sessions. Those were so ridiculous, so much fun. So there was an initial meeting there but in person, it was amazing.

How does being a little person affect your life and your career?


Being a little person, I’m mostly called or offered opportunities that want me to play some sort of fantastic character or a character that doesn’t really have a backstory or just kind of shows up for shock value.

I’ll be honest and say I feel like that has kept me out of the running for a lot of potential work as just a guy on a show or someone having just a normal “conventional” relationship with another character on a show. I think height is such an important thing to Hollywood and society that it keeps a lot of little people out of the opportunities to just play people in shows.

I never felt that way on Sasquatch. Sasquatch was an important role for me. I felt like being on that show, I was treated with the utmost respect and everyone was on an even playing field. I had a good gut feeling and I wanted to do that show from Day One, and feel so fortunate that I was able to do that.

I’d definitely say I’m somewhat of a newcomer to being in projects from the beginning to the end and that’s been a unique and welcome experience for me.

Do you have a bucket list of roles you feel could be cast height-blind? Shouldn’t little people have a chance to play any role?


I one hundred percent agree. I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you open that casting door and make those opportunities available.

Credit: Amanda Ramon

For me, I don’t know that I have a bucket list role. I’ve written a half a dozen characters in scenarios that I think authentically represent little people and they’re villainous and some of them are lazy and some of them are rich and some of them are desperately poor and some of them are just a friend, y’know?

I don’t even think it has to be a leading role. If you just cast someone in a role where they’re the friend in the apartment next door or someone who goes to the bank and is functioning like I function in my life with my friends and my family and my business. I think that’s an important thing for people with my disability and all other disabilities as well.

Christophe has never let his dwarfism hold him back from pursuing his passions. He is an accomplished drummer, touring the US and Europe with his band, The Hard Lessons. He fell in love with surfing in 1993. After moving to LA, he competed in adaptive surfing competitions and won the Short Statured division in 2019.

Have you had opportunities to showcase your unique skills?


Yes, absolutely! So there is a ten-minute documentary about my life and surfing and dwarfism which has made it to a dozen or more film festivals. It’s won some national and international awards as well. The film features me surfing and talking about my experience in the entertainment world.

There’s a music video called “Dawn” and I’m one of a cast of five individuals with disabilities. The artist is Kim Planert and the music video showcases these five individuals performing their passions, these highly attuned skills.

I’m actually playing drums in the music video … even though there are no drums in the music [laughs]. But at the end, in the last twenty or thirty seconds, you see the reveal of each individual’s body and you realize that each person has some sort of disability or some sort of difference that wasn’t necessarily apparent while they were performing their passion and their skill.


I love being a part of these projects and this outreach and this advocacy. But the next step for me is for representation to fall into theatrical presentations because I feel like that’s how we consume and we learn, in fun ways. Documentaries are wonderful, but I really want folks to see a theatrical presentation of a little person.

What was it like shooting TEN episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live? Is he really funny in person?


So that whole group — and yes, he’s hilarious — they’re such a wonderful family over there.

I’ve just about always worked in tons and tons of foam at Jimmy Kimmel Live. I’m always covered up with them and Rodney [Munoz] in Costumes — he’s the best — and his team, they’re so great.

The first time I worked for them, we were playing Oompa-Loompa-inspired Donald Trumps. Entertainment is just ridiculous, right?

Christophe Zajac-Denek stars in Sasquatch Sunset
Credit: Amanda Ramon

One thing that was really amazing is that I did get to play drums with Cleto and the Cletones. That’s the best band that I’ve ever played drums in in my entire life. All of those guys have played in bands that I idolized for thirty years and they’re such consummate professionals and they made it so easy to go in and play with them that I had the time of my life.

Every time I go to do something at Jimmy Kimmel, they’re always like ‘Well, we thought of you. You wanna do this?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, of course I want to do this. Let’s do this. Of course.’ How fortunate am I? I feel very fortunate to have that relationship and I’m very happy whenever they call.

Catch Christophe Zajac-Denek in Sasquatch Sunset, opening in theatres in limited release on April 12 and wide release on April 19.

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