‘Foxcatcher’ at NYFF: Transforming Funnyman Steve Carell Into the “Tortured” du Pont
"It’s the kind of thing that’s funny until it’s not, and then it’s not funny at all," 'Foxcatcher' director Bennett Miller told reporters at New York Film Festival of his latest film. The man behind 'Capote' and 'Moneyball' tackled the story of John du Pont, the disturbed successor of the du Pont family fortune who became obsessed with two Olympic wrestling brothers and tragically shot one to death on the grounds of his estate. 'Foxcatcher' was pegged early on as a prospective Oscar contender, and the director and cast members Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall and Vanessa Redgrave went a bit more in-depth on its creation.
"I thought it was funny – seriously," said Miller. "Somebody gave me an article about the story. I hadn’t heard about it when it happened, and the absurdity, the dark comic absurdity of one of the wealthiest men in America bringing a team of wrestlers onto his estate to train, where he would become their coach not knowing anything about wrestling -- it was funny that the outcome was kind of horrible."
Carell, who portrays du Pont in 'Foxcatcher,' described the billionaire as "a very tortured individual." In preparing for the role, the actor, known for his comedic stylings, poured over books du Pont wrote and the documentary on himself that he commissioned. "One of the most interesting aspects of that was the raw footage -- the things, the parts of himself that he did not want to be seen publicly. That gave me, probably, more insight than anything as to the type of person that he was. The way he was instructing the crew, the way he was going through his lines in his head trying to establish an identity for the camera."
Carell is practically unrecognizable as du Pont. Aside from the mental transformation that occurred, the actor worked with makeup department head Bill Corso on camera tests to discern the best version of his new look. "Du Pont had a very, very specific look to him," continued Carell. "People responded to him in part because he looked a certain way. That’s why we proceeded to try to emulate his real look. ... When I would arrive on set in that look, people treated me differently and it tended to separate me from the rest of the cast. It was only during these press tours that I’ve gotten to know these guys."
Channing Tatum also had a tremendous transformation to take on, and it's arguably the 'Magic Mike' star's strongest performance to date. "It’s difficult to talk about Mark Schultz and then talk about my character," he explained, describing the man as a physical and emotional person. "One of the first nights that we got to spend with Mark Schultz, we all went out to dinner -- Bennett, Ruffalo and myself, and Mark Schultz. And after the dinner we were all walking down the street in New York, and me and Mark Ruffalo started hanging back and he’s like, 'Look at the way he looks. Look at the way he walks.' It’s just a subtle indication of just how he goes through the world."
Funny enough, Miller says he got very little push back from the du Pont family when making this movie, and many people outside of the dynasty stepped forward to offer up their knowledge. For instance, the man who conducted the interviews for the real du Pont documentary was the one who assembled the footage for Miller, and he even portrayed himself in the film. "There’s no real attempt to block or stop us. I did encounter a few du Ponts who were generous, but at no point did anyone overstep. I think we were very clearly within the boundaries of what we were legally entitled to do."
'Foxcatcher' hits theaters on November 14, and you can watch the latest trailer below.