“There is an old Chinese proverb: “There is your truth, my truth, and the truth.”
Director Bennett Miller has made three narrative features—Capote, Moneyball, and now Foxcatcher—inspired by real people and real events. How does he know when he has found his particular truth?
“It’s almost too good a question, because if I could answer that perfectly, maybe I wouldn’t make movies,” Miller says.
“I was seeking some sort of experience of what feels truthful to me about these sorts of relationships. For me, movies are most compelling when you can look at them and say, ‘That’s right. That’s life as I know it. That illuminates something I’m familiar with that had never been expressed.’”
Foxcatcher spins an American tragedy out of a true-crime tale, the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) by John Du Pont (Steve Carell), a deeply disturbed heir to an old money dynasty. Miller’s film traces the path to the killing beginning with Du Pont luring Dave’s younger brother Mark (Channing Tatum), who, like his sibling, won a wrestling gold medal at the 1984 games, to his Pennsylvania estate, Foxcatcher Farms, to train.
“I came to believe certain things about the story, including how lost and lonely John DuPont was and the discomfort of the lie he was living and the inability to process the unacceptable that life confronted with him as he tried to play this role,” says Miller.
“Those moments when you see him trying to charade as a coach in front of his mother, and not have one person acknowledge it is a different kind of loneliness. He was so friendless.”
Miller points out that there is a difference between what is factual and what is the truth. The latter is what he attempts to present in “Foxcatcher.” The film is not documentary; it is drama.
“There are all kinds of little details. This particular thing happened to a different wrestler, but this kind of thing happened to Mark. It’s a similar type of thing, but this works better in the story,” Miller says.
“This is cinema. It’s a narrative film and you’ve got actors playing roles and it’s necessarily fictionalized. There’s no way around it, period…There is some kind of truth to be derived from this story that can only be derived via cinema. Film can do something no other medium can do and in order to do it, it does employ artifice. That doesn’t diminish the validity of the truth that the medium can expose.
“Where do I draw the line? To the best of my ability, there’s nothing within the movie that violates the sense of who these characters were and the decisions that they made and the events that happened, so it’s essentially true. That’s my feeling about it.”—Pam Grady