From director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote), Foxcatcher tells the story of Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who is invited to be a part of the team being put together by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Having come from obscurity and poverty, and with a desire to step out of the shadow of his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Mark is eager and excited about the opportunity, until he realizes that it has all become way more than he bargained for.
During a conference at the film’s press day, co-stars Steve Carell and Channing Tatum talked about the physical demands of this movie, bonding through wrestling, finding their performances of these real-life men, coming out of the dark places that these roles required, and how an experience like this has changed them. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
CHANNING TATUM: The hard hits never leave my body. You can’t fake wrestling, we learned very, very quickly. You can fake a punch, but with wrestling, you have to just go ahead and do it. You really need to see the hand hit the side of the face, and the head-butting. I don’t say this lightly, but it was, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically. I’ve done a lot of sports and a lot of martial arts. It was a suffocating and very painful thing, but at the end of the day, I’m so in awe of those athletes. I’m very, very proud to have been given such amazing time and focus with some of the most amazing athletes I’ve ever moved with. It was a blessing.
STEVE CARELL: He picked me up like I was a sack of sugar and laid me gently down on the mat.
TATUM: Steve is actually a great athlete. We had to be like, “Less good, Steve.” I was in awe, just to get to work with them. They’re so in control of what they do, acting wise. And with Steve’s ability to stay in a scene, I was confused and like, “Wow!” The way (director) Bennett [Miller] shoots, he does reels. He just turns on the camera and you go, and Steve’s ability to stay in it is pretty unbelievably deep. Mark is actually my little big brother now. Whether he wants it or not, I’m his little brother now.
Channing, what was it like to bond with Mark Ruffalo through wrestling?
TATUM: In wrestling, there’s a lot being said to each other without talking. You’re in a quiet gym, and you just hear grunts and slams and slaps and breathing hard. The way that you hand fight, it’s a bit of a chess match. You’re constantly baiting and trying to set up something that you want. Throughout Mark and I’s journey, finding these two men in us, we had to go through a lot of very humbling experiences. You don’t feel like you’re doing very well, at all, especially in the beginning when you’re learning and one person is getting something better than you are. Mark and I were both just there for each other, throughout that learning process. We learned, on a very small level, what it really is to be there for someone on that level. For that scene, specifically, there were about 20 other pages before that scene, where we were talking and he was being a big brother, and we could just throw it out because you see it all in that one scene. I think it really has to do with all the time and friendship that we created through wrestling.
How did you guys find your performance and physicality for the man you were portraying? Did you work with a movement coach, or did you watch videos?
CARELL: Channing had Mark Schultz to emulate and observe.
TATUM: Yeah, I got to hang out with Mark a lot. The way he moves, I just copied it. I can’t say that I had some actor reason for why I wanted him to move like that. That was just him. That was the way he held his fork. He was a really dangerous animal, and he just moved through life, in that way. He wanted people to be afraid of him.
CARELL: There’s tape on du Pont, and I watched as much as I could.
CARELL: I thought a lot about how sad a person he was. His parents divorced when he was two, and he grew up in this enormous house with just he and his mother who, by all accounts, was a pretty chilly person. So, I thought a lot about who he was growing up, surrounded by wealth and insulated by that wealth. I think he was lonely and in need of things that he didn’t have the tools to acquire. Starting with that, I think that helped me, along the way. He was somebody who I think was in need of assistance. He was somebody that didn’t have a circle of friends. He had a circle of employees. No one was going to intervene. He didn’t have anyone who was there to see the red flags, and that’s incredibly sad and tragic. So, I never approached him as a villain. I thought of him, in that way.
You both go to some dark places in this. How did you come out of that?
CARELL: I feel like it was all pretty dark. A lot of it was because Bennett sets a tone, and it’s not a light, lively, effervescent place to be, but I think that’s important. Everyone took it very seriously. Added to that were the people that were there. Mark was there, and Dave’s widow was there, for a time. They were being very generous, and I think we all felt a responsibility to them, to be as honest as we could to the story and to stay in it. It wasn’t fun.
TATUM: We all just came in with the intention of literally just going on this ride with Bennett. He says to jump, and we just said, “How high?” or “How low?,” and we just stayed in it.
CARELL: When you get to work with somebody like Bennett, and you work with actors like Channing and Mark, and it is a different experience. The change for me is that I want to do more of this. It was challenging and exciting and exhilarating, and I felt like it meant something. In terms of the response that the film is getting, it’s very rewarding that it’s resonating with people. I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything on this level again, but I aspire to. It’s been a great feeling.
TATUM: I just think they’re all different muscles. Comedy doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve only done two movies that are really comedy style films, and I had to work at them. They’re just as scary, in a way. I hate labeling these things comedy, love story, dark drama, or whatever. They’re all just different muscles, and I’ve only played one other person that was real before. The stakes are very, very high. I have to live with Mark Schultz in the world, and hope that I did some amount of justice for him. Things are a little more tangible. They’re not just in some high-stakes, make-believe game that movies are. I enjoyed going deeper than I’ve ever gone into a character, for sure. I can’t say that I want to do this forever. I think that I’ll just find the people that I want to work with, and then go do it with them.
Steve, it’s nothing new to see people who we know and love so well from comedic performances, taking on and doing so well with dramatic performances, but was this a performance you knew you had in you?
CARELL: Oh, yeah, I’m very dark inside. I didn’t question it. It’s not a part I would have campaigned for. Had I read the script and looked at that, I wouldn’t have thought, “I need to get in touch with Bennett and throw my hat into the ring.” At the same time, when Bennett called me in and we discussed it, I trusted him. The fact that he thought I was capable of doing it allowed me to believe the same.
TATUM: I don’t know. It’s really the journey that you get to go on with the people you’re doing it with. You are playing someone else, but ultimately, it’s just a version of the person because you have to do it. I can’t put everything that Mark Schultz is, in a 90-minute movie. It doesn’t work like that. I’m really just telling Bennett’s story. You try to be as honest as you can possibly be, and just keep digging, every day. I don’t say this as a bad thing, but I don’t think we left a day feeling amazing or feeling like, “Oh, my god, we crushed that scene!” You just don’t, on a movie like this. I think we did all right. It’s previous, and you just keep digging. The satisfaction, after walking away from it, is knowing that you left it all out there and you gave all the colors you could possibly give, so that someone could paint a picture.
Foxcatcher opens in theaters on November 14th.