Bennett Miller:
FOXCATCHER




  • 1988 Olympics set…

    Director Bennett Miller and his key actors, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum check the video playback...

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • 1988 Olympic trials set…

    Director Bennett Miller, actors Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum…the actors stay in character each time they step onto a set…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher training facility set…

    Bennett Miller and Steve Carell on the set of the wrestling training center Carell’s character has created…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Fundraising gala set…

    Bennett Miller discusses the upcoming scene with Vanessa Redgrave, who plays du Pont’s mother…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Fundraising gala…

    The elegant Jean du Pont [Vanessa Redgrave] is at home in the world of gold and crystal, while Olympic Gold Medal wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] is ignored…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] in the foyer of the estate… the contrast of denim, sweats and silks tells the story in full…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Decidedly out of place, wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] awaits the mysterious John du Pont

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Miller describes wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] as like a bull in a china shop standing in the elegant living room/library…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    The awkward meeting of Olympian wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] and eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont [Steve Carell] in one of the main rooms heralding the DuPont dynasty…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] perches on the edge of an antique damask chair…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    In the trophy room filled with equestrian honors garnered by Foxcatcher stables, destitute Olympian and world champion wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] hears of John du Pont’s [Steve Carell] dream to sponsor & coach the next Olympic wrestling team…

    Photo © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    The less formal trophy room is the setting John du Pont [Steve Carell] chooses to reveal his offer…he wants a trophy of his own in this room, several in fact, and nothing to do with horses!

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Mark Schultz apartment…

    … Olympic gold medalist and world champion wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] is barely able to sustain an existence in this dreary dump of an apartment as he assiduously works to maintain his fitness and win the next title…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Du Pont’s assistant [Anthony Michael Hall] gives Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] a tour of his new accommodations, the estate’s guest chateau, designed as a French hunting lodge…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Having tea with his mother in her classic master suite, John du Pont [Steve Carell] is as out-of-place as Mark Schultz is in the chateau…

    Photo © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher training facility…

    After leading him astray, du Pont [Steve Carell] turns on Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] …what you don't see in this screen grab are the opposite walls filled with training equipment...

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher training facility…

    Foreshadowing: the ineffective “head coach”, but expert marksman du Pont [Steve Carell] shoots off one of his many guns inside the state-of-the-art facility where the Olympic team hopefuls are training…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • World Wrestling Championships…

    Mark Schultz’s brother, Dave Schultz [Mark Ruffalo], also an Olympic Gold medalist and a top wrestling coach, urges his brother on to win the World Championship match…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    In his personal office, filled with significant Americana, du Pont [Steve Carell] demands Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] bring in his brother to coach the Olympic team…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    In an office filled with carefully chosen American antiques, Du Pont [Steve Carell] and his lawyer [Guy Boyd] cut a deal with the Schultz brothers…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    Du Pont [Steve Carell] is becoming desperate and more off-balance…What the photo doesn’t reveal are the many details throughout his office, including sculptures of eagles, which he proclaimed as his new name…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • 1988 Olympics…

    Faux “head coach” du Pont [Steve Carell] is totally out of place, but taking credit for any advances made by the team, while Dave Schultz [Mark Ruffalo] is the actual coach…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • 1988 Olympics…

    Faux “head coach” du Pont [Steve Carell] forces his way into Mark Schultz’s [Channing Tatum] corner, derailing the team, while Dave Schultz [Mark Ruffalo] tries to help his brother…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Dave Schultz’s house…

    Dave Schultz’s wife Nancy [Sienna Miller] sees du Pont drive up to their house on the outskirts of the Foxcatcher estate. A house that they have made into a warm and welcoming family home, one of the many things the mega-wealthy loner covets…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.





  • Foxcatcher Estate…

    “Eagle” – John E. Du Pont [Steve Carell] getting caught up in his megalomania, surrounded by wrestling trophies, speaks to the camera in a self-aggrandizing video…

    Photo by Scott Garfield © 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


 "Every room, every part of a set, whether it ended up on camera or not, gave credence to the story and to the actors. When there is this degree of reverence given to the depiction, you have to honor it...

Director Bennett Miller

 

Bennett Miller’s psychological thriller FOXCATCHER, a tale of abject loneliness and competitive drive, tells the fascinating story of Olympic gold medal-winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and their tragic relationship with eccentric multi-millionaire benefactor, John du Pont.
 

Mired in obscurity and poverty, Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz [Channing Tatum] is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move to his lavish estate to form a wrestling team and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Schultz seizes the opportunity to step out of the shadow of his revered older brother Dave [Mark Ruffalo], a prominent wrestling coach and Gold Medal winner himself. With his vast financial resources and state-of-the-art training facility at Foxcatcher Farm, du Pont appoints himself head coach of the team, eager to win the respect of his peers and the approval of his condemning mother [Vanessa Redgrave]. But du Pont's mercurial personality and psychological gameplay begins to weigh heavily on Mark's shaky self-esteem, undermining his abilities on the mat. When du Pont's favoritism shifts to brother Dave, who possesses the authority and confidence both he and Mark lack, the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen.                           –Sony Picture Classics

 
Miller talked with SET DECOR during the busy multi-festival release of the film, which is garnering accolades everywhere. His responses to some key points give behind-the-scenes insight into the making of this searing true-life account of three men grappling for their versions of the American Dream.
 
Re: The importance of set decoration to the film…

 
“…The whole film is about people trying to fit into worlds where they didn’t belong. In essence, each of these worlds became characters as well. So the depth of production design and set decoration were not only integral, but essential to this film. When we walked onto those sets, it was into these worlds.”
 
“…And these worlds were fully realized. Beyond the performance of the actor are all those details that give us the history, the singleness of that place and a background into the characters.”
 
“…I’m often asked about the performances in my films. What people don’t realize is how much the performances are aided and formed through the surroundings…all the details that are there for the actor to absorb and use…”
 
“…There’s a respect given on our sets, a quietness…no cell phones, etc. It’s an immersion into the scene, which has been put together with such deep research and attention to every detail, it’s as if people actually lived there. Every room, every part of a set, whether it ended up on camera or not, gave credence to the story and to the actors. When there is this degree of reverence given to the depiction, you have to honor it.”
 
“…It’s like a Zen garden. There are the carefully placed rocks you see, creating this artistic meditative space, but with many of those rocks we are only seeing a little of the surface. The rest is buried beneath. This story reflects that. We have a sense that more, much more, lies beneath. And the sets give us some of that under layer, much of which we can’t catch on camera…”
 
“…Jess Gonchor designed my first two films, CAPOTE and MONEYBALL, and now this one. I’ve known Jess for so long, I trust him implicitly. You need to be able to talk about the whole film with people you can trust. We explored it with Cinematographer Greig Fraser, Set Decorator Kathy Lucas and the other keys.”
 
“…As for the set decoration, Kathy Lucas’s attention to details and ability to fill the room with the essence and history of the characters constantly blew me away. For instance, look at the scene in du Pont’s office where Mark receives a $10,000 check. When we were blocking out the shot, the actor sat in the chair and then looked at the objects on the table next to him. There was an 18th century voting machine with different colored marbles to indicate your vote, an early Gatling gun, significant antiques and then magazines of the era that du Pont might have been reading that day—all great details to inform both the actor and the audience. And, it was clear that Mark did not fit in there.”
 
More details about the Foxcatcher Estate…
 
“…When Mark first meets du Pont in the formal library/living room with the ancestral portraits, the oils paintings of horses and all the sculptures and silk furnishings, he was like a bull in a china shop. Then du Pont takes him downstairs to the trophy room which is a little more informal, with the plaid couches and walls of shelves filled with trophies, which is the only thing Mark can identify with—it’s like his one shelf with trophies in his otherwise claustrophobic apartment. The trophies here, though, come from du Pont’s mother’s obsession with horses, and her prized Foxcatcher Stables, not from du Pont’s accomplishments.”
 
“…There’s the exuberance of Mark’s move from the dumpy apartment in Wisconsin to the Foxcatcher Estate, and yet it’s obvious from the moment he walks in the door, that he doesn’t belong there. The bathroom scene with the portrait of the mother looking at him while he’s using the toilet is a great statement of his unease. There are eyes staring at him from portraits in every room. While waiting for du Pont, he’s perched on that antique French settee beneath another huge oil painting. Then there’s the inquisition, he’s almost crushed in that small room with the lawyer and the bright lights, being interrogated until DuPont appears. No sense of comfort at all.”
 
“…The guest chateau is another world in that world. He clearly doesn’t belong here either.”
 
[Editor’s note: The chateau has a classic French hunting lodge theme with beamed ceilings and vitrines filled with stuffed birds, because du Pont is an ornithologist and has amassed a huge collection. It’s as if Mark is surrounded by death, certainly by dead things, as well as a life style he doesn’t even begin to understand.]
 
“…There’s the sad little moment when he tries to put his old toaster in this elegant kitchen. And as he sits on the bed in the chateau, there is another portrait staring down at him. He spends a long time looking back at it. In essence, trying to find himself, to find a way for him to be able to fit in this strange world.”
 
“…In contrast, there are all the wrestling competitions where du Pont is desperately trying to fit into a world that he doesn’t belong.”
 
The wrestling world…

Foxcatcher Wrestling 

“…There’s the state-of-the-art wrestling facility that du Pont has built on the estate, in hopes of sponsoring and becoming the coach of the USA wrestling team. It was sparkling clean and bright, and unlike anything Mark or most of the American wrestlers had experienced.”
 
Wrestling World Championships
“…For the first competition, the World Championships at the Pan American games, we wanted to show that du Pont did not fit at all, that it was so completely foreign. Jess did a great job with everything coming at them…all the different languages, different colors, a sort of cacophony of color and sound.”
 
US Olympic Wrestling Team qualifying trials
“…The entire set was like a trial—a long, extended table of judges, everything dark with stark light on the center. Only one mat, instead of 3, as if you were on trial. And Mark was, essentially. The crowd was hushed and watching closely. Du Pont again not fitting in, completely out of place.”
 
1988 Olympics
“…The 1988 Olympics were the downfall. Trying to assume the mantle of coach, obviously ineffective and inappropriate, du Pont was once again out of his element…emphasized by the garish blues and the harsh lighting…”
 
Senior title wrestling match
“…We also had du Pont’s competition, a match with an older man held in an elementary school, with the over-bright primary colors and the kids competing all around them. These men stood out, an absurd match. It was as if John were trying to regain the childhood he never had—certainly his childhood dream—but once again, he’s in the wrong world. The whole thing seemed quite childish. Adding to that, his mother gives him permission to put his trophy in the trophy room, but not in the prized case.”
 
Visual representation of “family”…
 
“…The mother always fit her surroundings. You really see it in the scene in her red bedroom suite, where she and her son are seated across from each other in red silk chairs having tea. Sitting in this very proper room, with the perfect teapot that Kathy had found to go on the perfect teacart next to him, du Pont is in a shiny polyester blue and gold tracksuit, completely out of place. It’s a scenario that must have been repeated over and over throughout his life.”
 
“…The contrast, of course, was that Mark’s brother Dave had what Mark and du Pont were missing, that sense of family. A truly benevolent soul and a complex guy…in the film, we got a glimpse after he died of the interior of his home, the warmth and love conveyed.”
 
Miller muses, “…It was a long project, but it never lost interest for me. As strange as the story is, I found things in it I recognized. And like the Zen garden, we keep finding more beneath the surface.”
 

 



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