Director Bennett Miller has waited for “Foxcatcher” to hit theaters longer than you might have thought. He was actually hoping to shoot the film before 2011's “Moneyball,” but got sidetracked stepping in for Steven Soderbergh on what eventually became a Best Picture-nominated smash. In fact, “Foxcatcher” has been in the works for so long that it was actually the first project Annapurna Pictures was prepared to fund before they found success with such films as “The Master” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” After earning critical acclaim at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Miller has had to wait another six months for his passion project to finally hit theaters. Which brings us to today.
“Foxcatcher” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles and its public debut found new raves from the papers of record (New York Times and Los Angeles Times). Star Steve Carell is one of the major contenders for a Best Actor nomination and a Best Picture nod is looking increasingly likely. That would be three for three for Miller after “Capote” and the aforementioned “Moneyball,” so, yes, it all appears to have been worth the wait.
Speaking to HitFix during a press day for the movie last weekend (no doubt not his last), Miller explained why bringing the story of the strange relationship between the Schultz brothers (American wrestling icons played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and eccentric billionaire John Du Pont to the big screen was so important to him.
“I was just drawn in to these characters. Just a very odd situation that intrigued me,” he says. “One of the wealthiest men in America who brings a wrestling team on his property, his huge estate, to train for the Olympics and it ends in tragedy. I couldn't tell you what that is that when a story seizes you, but when you feel you can't look away from something. It's how I felt from the first time I learned about it.”
The film doesn't paint a very flattering portrait of one of the nation's longest running industrial dynasties, but that didn't stop Miller from trying to at least get the du Pont's side of the story.
“I had very little contact. No one was obstructive. No one did anything negative like that,” Miller recalls. “I had a little bit of contact with a few family members. Very little and they were generous.”
Miller could have gone in a number of different directions for casting the notorious John du Pont. His choice surprised many, but shouldn't have. Carell has shown significant dramatic range in everything from “Little Miss Sunshine” to “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” And it may seem like a bad example at first, but if you don't think he can transform into a character completely unlike his everyday self, you've never seen his work in either of the two “Anchorman” movies.
“He has a quality about him that makes him intriguing,” Miller states. “Part of it is that you would never expect it out of him, which is also something that is integral to the role. John du Pont murdered somebody. No one believed he was capable of doing that. As Steve said to me, he's only played characters with a mushy center and John du Pont seems to have a mushy center, but he does not, and it's terrifying when it turns.”
For more of Miller's thoughts on “Foxcatcher” check out the embedded video at the top of this post.
“Foxcatcher” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles.