“[Foxcatcher] was kind of an orphan movie for a while. There was no financing. There were no actors, and we were just trying to get the script right.”
Foxcatcher co-screenwriter Dan Futterman
The Wall Street Journal
In the post Wrestling for an Oscar Nomination I wrote about screenwriter Jason Hall physically wrestling with someone while he was researching the story that would become the movie American Sniper.
While Foxcatcher is a story actually centered around wrestling—and up for 5 Oscars this year—I didn’t find any physical wrestling the filmmakers had to endure while bringing the story to film life, but director Bennett Miller and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman had plenty of metaphorical wrestling along the eight-year journey to get the film made.
“In spring 2006, a total stranger handed me an envelope at an event at Tower Video that contained newspaper clippings about the story. That was my first exposure.”
Bennett Miller on the early seeds for Foxcatcher
Frye and Futterman worked on the screenplay seperatley—Frye before the 2007/2008 writers’ strike and Futterman afterwards.
“Bennett… became obsessed with it, and I think for, oh, six months at least, began to really do a lot of research and compile a lot of articles and public domain material and histories of the du Pont family, etc., etc. But he also did another really important thing, which was he went around and he interviewed and videotaped a lot of wrestlers who knew the Schultz brothers and/or were at Foxcatcher during that time period. And for me that was really essential to understand the world. I’m an ex-jock but I’m a basketball player and not a wrestler. So wrestling is a very, very particular kind of person and personality that becomes involved in it, in the sport, and it was really interesting for me to…I feel like that’s what I really…my research, you know, aside from the nuts and bolts and the facts and how to crack the story, my research really involved getting to know wrestling in a way and really understanding the mentality of people that wrestle, because that was, certainly for Mark and Dave, that was essential to understanding their characters.
E. Max Fry
Final Draft interview with Pete D’Alessandro
Apart from nailing the script, finding the right actors and securing financing were the major battles in getting the film made. Miller set the project aside and made Moneyball (2011) before things finally fell in place to get Foxcatcher made.
The payoff is Miller received an Oscar-nomination for directing Foxcatcher, and both Fry and Futterman were nominated for writing the screenplay. A win-win even if they don’t win.
P.S. To see how Miller launched his career go back and watch the documentary The Cruise (1998). Dream big, start small.
Scott W. Smith
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