Director Bennett Miller and actors Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum discuss the Oscar contender
Directed by Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher is a tragic true story about the increasingly twisted and violent relationship between eccentric millionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) and Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), the two Olympic gold-winning brothers he convinces to head up a wrestling team bound for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
How did Foxcatcher get started?
Bennett Miller: In 2006, I was signing DVD copies of my documentary The Cruise [at a video store]…and one of the people that showed up was a total stranger who said, ‘I have the rights to a story that you’re going to want to make’ and left the envelope on the table. I didn’t want to talk to him about it – it was weird. But a few months later, I looked at it and read the first article and thought, ‘This is something I’m going to do.’
What intrigued you?
BM: When do you have this blue-collar crossed with blue-blood…these two groups trying to belong in each other’s worlds? It’s almost too perfect. Any angle you look at the story, it’s like a diamond. There’s no bad angle on it; no matter what it’s an allegorical gem!
How would you characterise Mark and Du Pont’s relationship?
Steve Carell: I think they felt, initially, that they spoke the same language, that they were both patriots, that they were both wrestling supporters and aficionados. And that sense of pride and country was ingrained into both of them, but from completely different realms. I think Du Pont really had the need to be mentor.
Channing Tatum: I think Du Pont came into Mark’s life at a very interesting time. He had won gold at the Olympics. He had one world championship and three NCAA championships. All of those titles, in some way shape or form, were credited to Dave, because he was Dave’s little brother. Dave was always the golden child of wrestling. Everything that Mark did was because Dave taught him, apparently. And it was impossible for Mark to get out of his shadow. That’s the real truth.
BM: Everyone will be feeling out for a home-erotic thing. Quite possibly that. But Du Pont is also repressing the admittance that’s he’s a dilettante, that he was a poser, that this entire thing is a desperate and sad charade, and it’s a charade that could not maintain in the presence of Dave Schultz because Dave was the real deal. I think that’s the bigger thing. Du Pont’s a pretender. And everything he had is bestowed on him by coincidence. His great ancestors made a fortune and had a name and he inherited that and that’s all he had.
What was the atmosphere like on set? Did you hang out?
CT: Steve and I gave each other distance. It wasn’t in a pretentious Method way. It was just this unspoken thing that just happened. We didn’t talk about it.
SC: We weren’t able to have fun there. It wasn’t that kind of tone. It really didn’t offer itself up, and we felt it would be detrimental if we started buddying around. There was definitely a distance, which ultimately helped.
Did you change your opinion about wrestling at all?
BM: Initially, it seemed like a weirdo sport. I have a lot more respect for it now. That’s part of what was interesting.
CT: We trained really, really hard, but the truth is we could’ve trained for ten years and we would never have been anywhere near what these guys were. They were superheroes compared to just normal athletes. It’s insane. There is no resting in wrestling. There is no defence. You have to keep attacking. It’s the most gruelling discipline that I’ve ever done.
SC: Speaking to the guys who worked with Du Pont, they said he was an absolutely terrible wrestler! So when it came to me, they said ‘The less you know the better.’
Foxcatcher opens on Fri 9 Jan.