The wild true story behind ‘Foxcatcher’

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Steve Carell has established himself as a true comedy great by starring in globally renowned works like The Office and Anchorman, which have allowed him to demonstrate his strongest skills. However, it’s also interesting to see Carell deliver dramatic performances, and one of the strangest examples of the latter is his work in Foxcatcher.

Directed by Bennett Miller, the 2014 movie explores the strange events that unfolded when John du Pont (portrayed by Carell), an heir to the vast du Pont family fortune, developed an interest in wrestling and built an advanced wrestling facility on his estate. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star as the Schultz brothers, two Olympic gold medalists who were hired by du Pont to manage his facility and train other recruits aiming for international glory.

Born in Philadelphia, du Pont was brought up in the lap of luxury and witnessed his family’s interest in horse breeding and racing from an early age. After studying zoology at university, he also worked as an ornithologist before shifting his interests to other fields. One of those areas was sports, and du Pont treated his Foxcatcher facility as his version of the horse stables his family had maintained where he could train excellence in young athletes.

During an interview, Miller explained: “I am attracted to characters who are in worlds where they don’t belong and who have great ambitions that they imagine will somehow reconcile themselves with the world and make things right. In this film, you’ve got two very eccentric worlds—the world of extreme and inherited wealth, and the world of wrestling—and that one of the richest men in the world would have a team of wrestlers living on his estate just tickled me. It seemed so bizarre and comically absurd that I could have made a comedy out of this thing had it not ended tragically.”

While many millionaires often serve as patrons within their domains of interest, du Pont’s story is very different because it is marked by violence and death. Prior to the tragic end that Miller references, du Pont had already been accused of violent conduct and sexual assault by his ex-wife Gale Wenk and assistant coach Andre Metzger. However, the world finally got undeniable evidence when he murdered Dave Schultz.

In 1996, du Pont shot the trainer of his wrestling facility in the driveway of his home in front of his then-wife and his head of security. The authorities never found a motive either, especially because everyone who knew him claimed that he had never shown such tendencies before that incident. While his defence tried to plead not guilty due to insanity, he was found “guilty but mentally ill” and sentenced to a minimum-security correctional institution.

When he finally passed away in 2010, he was buried in his wrestling singlet, bringing a bizarre story about a psychologically unstable man’s obsession to a conclusion. Foxcatcher will always be a special addition to Carell’s filmography because his portrayal of du Pont is simply haunting, lingering on long after the movie has ended.

Watch the trailer below.

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