Bennett Miller is no stranger to taking insane-yet-true stories and turning them into successful movies, but his newest movie, "Foxcatcher," might just be the most bonkers thing he's dealt with.
It tells the story of Olympic wrestler brothers Mark and Dave Schulz (played, respectively, by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), and their eccentric millionaire coach, John du Pont (Steve Carrell).
In case you were wondering, "Foxcatcher" is not a comedy. This .gif of Tatum smashing a mirror with his face is pretty representative of the intensity and darkness of the movie.
Tatum has told reporters that, "For some reason, on this movie it was as if we just all signed an invisible contract with each other to never say when." We spoke the screenwriters who helped make sense of the story's madness.
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, the two screenwriters on "Foxcatcher," dropped by The Frame studio to talk about writing a movie over eight years, creating a script from an insane true story, and the politics of rewriting.
"Foxcatcher" took eight years to make. Dan, do you think that that amount of time was a benefit to the final version of the movie?
Futterman: Yes, it's always a benefit. It's torture at the time, but there's something that is really effective about putting something in the drawer and then coming back to it. There are things that you thought were working that, upon examination a year later, are not actually working and need some more attention.
So, ultimately, it benefited the script, and it also benefited from the fact that Bennett had met this young actor in 2007 named Channing Tatum, who had been in one movie at the time. He would have been an interesting choice for Mark Schulz at the time, but [the question was], Would that help the movie? Would it not? Now, Channing Tatum is this whole other thing and is a great actor — his performance is astonishing in the movie — and he was actually helpful in getting the movie made. So there were certain huge benefits from it taking a long time.
You two wrote "Foxcatcher" separately. Typically, writers who don't collaborate together on a project, ... well, they end up hating each other. How did you two make it through this project unscathed?
Frye: Uh, Dan is just really cute [laughs]. You know, Dan and I have been doing this a long time, both of us ...
Futterman: You longer than me, Max.
Frye: [laughs] That's true. But we understand how the business works, and many times writers are rewritten, and many times you're asked to do rewrites, so you get into this place where you understand it. I have to say, in my experience, that it's never a pleasant thing to be rewritten, for the most part. When I read what Dan had done — which actually I'd seen a draft pretty early, ... I was ready to cry. [laughs] But I read it and was like, "Wow, this is really great!" The characters seem to be the characters that I wrote, and the tone seemed to be the tone that I worked on.
Yes, it had been rearranged some, and there was different dialogue and some different scenes, but it just flowed really well, and I was really surprised, I have to say. So when it came to the end, and the movie was going into production and then finished, I sent Dan an email and introduced myself, because we'd never met, and said, "Hey, listen, I'm happy to share credit with you." So we've kind of become writing partners in an odd way; not that we wrote together, but we're very much in sync on the script, and I'm happy that he's on board, honestly.
Futterman: Yeah, Max's work opened my eyes as to what the movie was supposed to be, and so whatever work I was doing felt like I was continuing in that same vein. His work was really groundbreaking in figuring out the structure of the movie and how these characters were playing off one another. I think a lot of the work I did with Bennett [Miller, the director,] is work that Max and Bennett would have done had I not come on, had Max been available. And it continued for many years. Yes, there was a lot of throwing stuff out, rewriting stuff, but it all felt like we were on the same page and I never took Max's name off the title page because I felt like he had done incredibly eye-opening and inspiring work. It did feel like a continuation of the same process.
"Foxcatcher" is currently in theaters.