In case you’re unaware, Bennett Miller’s critically acclaimed “Foxcatcher”— which came in at number three on our 20 Best Films Of 2014 staff poll list — is based on a true story. It’s about the Olympic championship wrestlers Mark and David Schultz, and the wealthy philanthropist and heir John du Pont who took the athletes under his wing, before it all lead to a tragic finale. Steve Carell (who plays DuPont), Channing Tatum and Marc Ruffalo are absolutely terrific in the movie. In fact for our money, while Carell and Ruffalo are solid in the movie, its Tatum as the younger Mark Schultz who is a revelation; it’s easily his greatest performance to date. Rendered as insecure and struggling with self-worth, Tatum shoulders this baggage astonishingly and you feel every inch of wrestler Mark Schultz’s uncertainty, self-doubt, and anger.
As for the real Mark Schultz, he’s been an avid supporter of the film since Cannes where Miller won the Best Directing prize — just go through his Twitter feed back even a few weeks, let alone months for evidence. But that narrative has greatly shifted. In a long (it must be said homophobic-sounding) rant on Facebook, Schultz railed against the film, and mostly because of what seems like the opinion of a few critics who have read into the film some sort of gay subtext between the Mark Schultz and John DuPont. Of course, Schultz’s Facebook rant has been cleaned up and edited, but here’s the original version:
I was already an Olympic and WORLD Champion before I met du Pont. The director took my 1985 World Title away in the film. I was not emotionally fragile as critics suggest. I didn’t move to Pennsylvania to wrestle for Foxcatcher. I took an assistant coaching job at Villanova. I never looked up to duPont as a mentor, leader, father figure. He was a lot dirtier the first time I met him and he was drunk. He told me he would have nothing to do with Villanova which was the only reason I went there. du Pont was a repulsive sickening freak. I could barely stand looking at him. I never touched him except for a photo at the hall of fame and when I threw him in a headlock for a documentary. I never showed him any moves or taught him anything about wrestling. I never coached him in a wrestling match. I never read any speech he gave me. I never dyed my hair. Dave was my older brother, not a father-figure. After I won the NCAA’s and Dave took 2nd, Dave started asking me about technique and calling himself Mark Schultz’s brother. I was a 3x NCAA Champion. Dave won once. After 1986 I started beating Dave in practice consistently. I never worked out in the new wrestling complex duPont built in the film. If du Pont ever slapped me I’d have knocked his head off. I never wrestled after Dave moved onto Foxcatcher Farms. I was doing Jiu-Jitsu at BYU. Dave was never a head coach anywhere. I was a Division I University Head Coach for 6 years. Dave was intelligent but no more than me. Just coz I wasn’t filling the silence with superfluous noise all the time doesn’t mean I was inarticulate. I earned a masters degree with a 3.6 gpa. I’m a corporate speaker and life coach. The movie doesn’t show hardly any of my victories. It focuses on only my losses. The personalities and relationships between the characters in the film are primarily fiction and somewhat insulting. Leaving the audience with a feeling that somehow there could have been a sexual relationship between duPont and I is a sickening and insulting lie. I told Bennett Miller to cut that scene out and he said it was to give the audience the feeling that duPont was encroaching on your privacy and personal space. I wasn’t explicit so I didn’t have a problem with it. Then after reading 3 or 4 reviews interpreting it sexually, and jeopardizing my legacy, they need to have a press conference to clear the air, or I will.
The part in bold at the end of the original harangue is gone and now replaced with this:
The movie doesn’t show hardly any of my victories. It focuses on my losses. The personalities and relationships between the characters in the film are primarily fiction and, although Channing is outstanding, the personality is not accurate. However, I think Channing played me the only way it was possible to play me due to the confines of the director’s vision.
So if Mark Schultz was threatening a press conference, it appears he’s not anymore. And it really does seem like the Olympian is stuck on a few critical interpretations of his sexuality in the movie (which is not one this writer shares or any other writer on this site I’ve heard of; we’d argue it’s a complex relationship that has father figure-like problems to it, mixed with emotional dependency and manipulation). Schultz then followed the Facebook bluster with an tirade on Twitter that he has since deleted (you can see it all below).
Meanwhile, in an interview in November with AXS TV (via Rope Of Silicon), Schultz is asked, “Would you say the movie is very close to what actually happened?" He responds: "Yes, I would… The director is a genius. He is a master filmmaker. It’s like he was able to condense everything down and compress everything down, and he used fictional, narrative techniques to get to the heart and truth of the story."
Now Schultz alleges that he was coached into his comments. “I’m also under contract to support the movie until the oscars. After that I’m going to tell the truth to @katiecouric,” he wrote four days ago. Schultz has since apologized for his Twitter outburst, but does not "regret standing up for" himself.
Perhaps more troublesome, as Schultz now disavows “Foxcatcher” and essentially turns his back on the opinion he held of the movie a few months ago (at least publicly), his top pinned tweets (and several other tweets along his timeline) are now promoting his new book, “Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold” published on November 18, 2014. The timing of it seems rather convenient, especially as Oscar ballots just went out to Academy members last week. Thoughts? Weigh in below. [Original Tweets captured by HitFix]
Update: Mark Schultz has apologized for the "harshness of my language," but stands by this assessment of "Foxcatcher." Here’s what he had to say on Facebook:
— Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) December 30, 2014
— Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) September 6, 2014