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Bennett Miller doesn’t just make movies, he composes cinematic character studies that burrow deep, refusing to settle for easy answers, or worse, tone-deaf moralizing. Perhaps that’s why each of his Oscar-Winning films, (2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball) have not only examined the human condition in all of its idiosyncratic, often tragic glory, but also earned him a worthy reputation as an actor’s director.

Fortunately, his latest effort, Foxcatcher – a resonant portrait of the peculiar and destructive relationship between multi-millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) and Olympic Wrestling legends, Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) – is no exception. A triumph for all involved, the film is easily one of the year’s best… which is why I couldn’t wait to here the talented cast and crew (including, Miller, Tatum, Carell, and screenwriters, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman) talk all about it.

Steve, at first, were you confident that du Pont was someone who you could play?

Carell: “I really… again I didn’t think necessarily that — it is not a part I would have campaigned for. Had I read the script first, I wouldn’t have thought, I need to get in touch with Bennett and throw my hat in the ring. At the same time when Bennett called me in and we discussed it — I trusted him frankly. The fact that he thought that I was capable of doing it allowed me to believe the same.”

FOXCATCHER

Channing, you take some hard hits in this film… How did you prepare for that?

Tatum:  “The hard hits … I don’t think they’ll leave my body, for sure. You can’t fake wrestling–we learned (that) very very quickly. You can fake a punch with camera lines, but with wrestling, you really need to see the hand hit the side of the face, the headbutting, everything.  It was by far – and I don’t say this lightly – the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. But I gotta say, at the end of the day I’m so just very proud to been given such time and focus by the most amazing athletes I’ve ever worked with– it was a blessing.”

Steve and Channing, you both completely changed your posture and physicality to play these roles … Did either of you work with a movement coach or just watch old video of the people you were portraying?

Tatum: “I got to hang out with Mark a lot. The way he moves is so … I mean I just copied that. I can’t say that I had some actor reason for why I wanted to move like that. That was just him. How he held his fork, I mean he was just like a really dangerous animal. He just sort of moved through life that way. He wanted people to be afraid of him.”

Carell: “For me, there was tape on DuPont and I just watched as much as I could.”

Channing, can you talk about working with Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell, and what you admire about them?

Carell: “I’m curious…”

Tatum: “I think Bennett’s the better person to answer this, but … Steve is a actually great athlete. We had to ask for less out of Steve. I was in awe just to get to work with them; they’re so in control of what they do, acting wise — and Steve’s ability to stay in a scene… The way Bennett shoots is he does reels; he turns on the camera and you just go. And Steve’s ability to stay in it is pretty unbelievably unique. And Mark, he’s pretty much my big brother now; I’ve said it to him, Whether you want it or not, I’m your little brother now.

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Following up on that, Mr. Tatum, there’s the scene where you and Mr. Ruffalo are practicing blocks. And it’s this form of silent communication. Can you talk about the silent aspects of doing this film?

Tatum: “There’s a lot being said to each other without talking (in wrestling), and you’re in a quiet gym — so all you hear is grunts and slams and slaps and breathing hard — and the way that you hand-fight is that it’s a bit of chess match; you’re constantly baiting, and trying to set up something that you want. And that scene specifically, there was 20 other pages before (we shot) where Ruffalo and I are talking and he’s being a big brother. And we just threw them out, because you see it all in that one scene. And I think it has to do with all the time and friendship we created through wrestling.”

Mr. Carell, can you talk about how you got into this character’s mindset and or understood his motivations for your performance?

Carell: “I thought a lot about how sad of a person he was. His parents divorced when he was two. He grew up in this enormous house, essentially with just he and his mother- who, by all accounts, was a pretty chilly person. So I thought a lot about that: who he was growing up, and surrounded by wealth and I think, insulated by that wealth. I think he was lonely and in need of things that he didn’t have the tools to acquire. He was somebody that didn’t have a circle of friends; he had a circle of employees. So no he didn’t have anyone who was there to see the red flags and that’s incredibly sad and tragic to me. So I never approached him as a villain.”

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Bennett, Max, and Dan, what do you think were the real reasons that John du Pont killed Dave that morning?

Miller: “There’s a lot within the film to mull over about (du Pont’s) condition and his character, and I think those are the relevant things. But the film purposely denies you that satisfaction of saying, Oh that’s what it was!

Frye: “To go along with what Bennett just said… There was no explanation. John du Pont never gave an interview where he said, I did it because… or there was never a reason given, so that allowed for us to pursue and to leave open, and to address just what Bennett said, that there was no conclusion to the film, because there was no conclusion in real life.”

Steve and Channing, this film marks a definite change for you both in terms of the type of characters you’re playing… Do you feel like these roles have taken your careers in different directions?

Carell: “The change for me is that this is something that I want to, I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything at this level again, but I would aspire to, because it’s been a great feeling.  You get to work with somebody like Bennett and you get to work with actors like Channing and Mark and it really is a different experience.”

Tatum: “I enjoyed going deeper than I’ve ever gone into a character for sure and I can’t say I want to do this forever, but I’ll just find the people that I want to do (projects like this) with and then do them. But I hate labeling all these things – comedies, love stories, whatever – they’re all just different muscles. With this one, I’ve only played one other person who was real before (in 2006’s A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints) and the stakes are very, very high. I have to live with Mark Schultz in the world and hoping that I did some amount of justice for him.”

FOXCATCHER

What is the scene that changed the most from the page to the actual shoot?

Miller: “The first thing that comes to mind is that helicopter scene. It was just a spontaneous moment of this ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist. But how that kind of thing happens is, it begins with the material, the research, the understanding and an atmosphere that sort of allows actors to explore and be spontaneous.“

“And the way that we worked on developing the film, the way the screenplay was written was more novelistic- an attempt to really understand deeply who these people were, and what happened, and how to coordinate these facts into something that could work on a larger journalistic level. So necessarily, more was understood, more was written about it than could ever possibly fit into a little film with the understanding that all of it is going to inform the shoot, and on the day things happen.”