The Crazy Story Behind Steve Carell’s Creepy-Looking New Movie

Slate's Culture Blog
May 19 2014 1:38 PM

The Crazy Story Behind Steve Carell’s Creepy-Looking New Movie

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Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum in the menacing trailer for Foxcatcher

Photo byScott Garfield– ©2013 - Fair Hill, LLC. All rights reserved.

Foxcatcher, which premieres at Cannes today, has been on the radar of Oscar-watchers for some time now. It’s not hard to see why. Audience pleaser and (occasional) critical darling Channing Tatum stars as real-life Olymypic champion Mark Schultz; Bennett Miller, who got nominations from the Academy for Moneyball and Capote, is at the helm; and, most pertinently, perhaps, Steve Carell stars in an uncharacteristically dark and twisted role as John Eleuthère du Pont, the athletic sponsor who—historical, heavily foreshadowed spoiler alertkilled Schultz’s brother Dave in 1996. (For more details on the story, see below.)

Carell has gone a little bit dark before—as with his suicidal Frank in Little Miss Sunshine—but he has never crossed over quite this far into the realm of creepiness. Just take a look at the menacing eyes and modified nose—and listen to that odd voice—in the teaser trailer that was just released. (A similar teaser was briefly leaked last year, but was pulled down soon after.)

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The Oscar buzz from last year seemed to be for naught when the film exited the race, the previous December theatrical release date pushed back to November 2014. (The supposed reason why: Miller needed more time to finish it.) But despite this setback, the film seems poised to drum up awards season excitement yet again.

And the movie looks genuinely fascinating, thanks largely to the strange true story it tells. Mark Schultz and his older brother Dave (played by Mark Ruffalo in the movie) were world champion wrestlers, each winning gold medals in the 1984 Olympics as well as numerous other awards during their careers. Du Pont, who suffered from schizophrenia, was the sponsor of the competitive Team Foxcatcher, composed of numerous athletes who trained in his suburban Pennsylvania gym. In 1996, after years of increasingly erratic behavior, du Pont shot Dave—who had been training for the Atlanta games and coaching Team Foxcatcher—dead in his driveway, and was “found guilty but mentally ill.” He was sentenced to 13 to 30 years in prison, and died at the age of 72 in 2010.

The motivation for the killing was disputed during the trial: The prosecution argued it was due to du Pont and Schultz’s deteriorating relationship; the defense claimed it was not premeditated. From the looks of the chilling teaser, which focuses primarily on du Pont, Foxcatcher might try to provide some of its own answers.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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