‘Foxcatcher’ Subject Mark Schultz Is Still Pissed At Director Bennett Miller (And Has A Right To Be)

As Courtney pointed out a few days ago, wrestler Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, went on a classic all-caps Twitter rant against the director this week, augmented with a few less screamy updates on Facebook. His issue with Miller seems to be two-fold: that the film had paid Schultz for his life rights, then downplayed it, and (a less forgivable sin in Schultz’ mind, it seems) implied a gay relationship between Schultz and murderous wrestling booster John Dupont.

Schultz has had some time to cool off since then, but is refusing to back off his original characterization of Foxcatcher as “a sickening and insulting lie.”

“My story and my life are real. I am a real human being,” Schultz wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “While I may have tweeted out of anger, I in no way regret standing up for myself, nor do I regret calling out the only other man who has had decision making power concerning my image and legacy these past years.”

“I apologize for the harshness of my language, but I am firm in where I stand,” Schultz continued. “I will gladly go to any lengths to protect and safeguard the integrity and truth of my story, my life, my character and my legacy. If that’s not worth fighting over while I’m still alive, I don’t know what is.”

“Leaving the audience with a feeling that somehow there could have been a sexual relationship between du Pont and I is a sickening and insulting lie,” Schultz wrote last month. “I told Bennett Miller to cut that scene out and he said it was to give the audience the feeling that du Pont was ‘encroaching on your privacy and personal space.’ Then after reading 3 or 4 reviews interpreting it sexually, and jeopardizing my legacy, they need to have a press conference to clear the air, or I will.” [TheWrap]

“Implied” is somewhat subjective, sure, but the Schultz character in the film definitely does some coke and randomly shows up to a wrestling tournament with frosted tips in his hair, and as I wrote in my initial review

There’s a gay subtext between Dupont and Mark Schultz that’s strongly implied, but then, without any sort of climactic event, Schultz all of a sudden starts acting like a rape victim.

“Implied gay relationship” is by no means a reach†.

Reactions to these kinds of stories, about departures from the truth in “based on a true story” movies, usually falls into two categories, one of people legitimately interested, and the other of the sarcastic types who react with some form of a “so what?” wank – “Oh, you mean a Hollywood movie wasn’t a documentary? Color me shocked, bro.”

Which is easy to say if you’re not one of the subjects of the film. Over and over we find fiction has a way of outliving the truth, and it’d be hard to convince someone depicted that it isn’t a legitimate worry. We don’t necessarily expect these movies to be documentaries, but for me there’s a big difference between trying to simplify the telling of a story (say, creating a fictional composite character out of multiple real people) and inventing storylines to make it seem more dramatic. That’s called fan fiction, and should be labeled as such.

Aside from the fact that bullshitting to make the story feel more Oscary (which I would argue Foxcatcher does and which Miller also did in Moneyball) may piss off the still-living subjects, most of the time it doesn’t do the audience any favors either. When I’m watching a movie that’s supposedly based on a true story, I tend to assume that anything that feels like bullsh*t probably is. So at the end of Argo, when AK-wielding Iranians in a jeep are literally chasing the jet of diplomats down the runway, my first reaction is “No f*cking way this is actually how it happened.” Ditto for the final scene in Lone Survivor when a Pashtun villager shows up to kill a Taliban executioner just as he’s about to bring his knife down on Marcus Luttrell’s throat. I know intuitively that those things didn’t happen, so then when they happen in the movie I’m up in my head trying to figure out what did instead of being invested in the scene.

Most of these inventions aren’t just a lie, they seem like a lazy way of just writing in familiar storylines to avoid the work of figuring out what’s compelling about the story at hand. Instead of giving us insight, they’re like propaganda for pre-existing myths. They actually do make us all dumber. And even a jock like Mark Schultz knows that’s not something you forgive just because the acting is good.

Channing SHOULD be nominated for BEST ACTOR or at least be top 10. He had the most difficult role physically, emotionally, and creatively. He created a fictional character using a few of my personality characteristics as jump-off points but it’s so different than me it’s almost the complete opposite. [Mark Schultz on Facebook]

Even the guy who hates the movie still loves C-Tates. I love that.

†A little more on this: I’ve heard Mark Schultz be accused of being homophobic to object to being portrayed as gay. Which is interesting to me, because the movie implying John DuPont killed over gay stuff rather than because he was a paranoid schizophrenic isn’t exactly what I would call gay-friendly.