Steve Carell Channels His Bad Self for "Foxcatcher"
by Skip Sheffield
Ah Steve Carell, we hardly knew ye.
Typically Carell plays light-hearted comedy roles, and he is very good at it. “Foxcatcher” is more than just a departure. It is a revelation.
Carell plays John E. du Pont of the famous, fabulously wealthy du Pont family. “Foxcatcher” was the name of the Pennsylvania country estate where John E. lived with his elderly mother Jean (Vanessa Redgrave) and a full service staff.
Jean du Pont loved horses and everything equestrian, including fox-hunting.
John E. du Pont hated horses but had a thing for wrestling, and he fancied himself an expert. That is the impetus for this bizarre story, based on actual events and adapted for the screen by E. Max Frye (“Where the Money Is”) and Dan Futterman (“A Mighty Heart”).
Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and his younger brother Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) were 1984 World and Olympic Gold Metal Champion wrestlers for Team USA. The story begins in March, 1987. The brothers teach and coach at a small college. One day Mark gets a message summoning him to the du Pont estate to meet John E. du Pont in person. Mark did not realize the full impact of the du Pont name, but when he was transported by helicopter to the vast estate, he learns soon enough.
Du Pont wanted both Schultz brothers to come and live at the estate and coach a hand-picked team to compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics under the Foxcatcher banner. Dave was happily married to Nancy (Sienna Miller) with two children, and he had no desire to be uprooted to suit a rich man’s fancy.
“The rich are different for you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said to his friend Ernest Hemingway.
“Yes,” Hemingway wisecracked, “They have more money.”
Being fabulously wealthy is not just about money. It is about power. John E. du Pont is portrayed as a petulant spoiled brat by Carell, who wears a large fake nose and other prosthetics to make him less handsome. As we watch du Pont browbeat first Mark and then Dave, whom he coerces to work for him despite his better instincts, he becomes uglier and uglier.
Channing Tatum bulked up amazingly for his role, and his wrestling moves are quite convincing. So is the physical beating he takes, in what he says is his most difficult role to date. I believe him.
The outcome of this story is a matter of public record, so I won’t go into it. The take-away for me is that yes, the rich are different, but no, I would not want to trade places.