We’ve reached a very strange point in the progress of cinema. With studios greenlighting and scheduling the release of sequels, often before the first film has even arrived in theatres, we have come to expect movie projects of all shapes and sizes to be produced and delivered at high speed. The fact that we count it as unusual when this expectation is not met only highlights the prevalence of this attitude of convenience. This attitude does not sway the filmmaker Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), however, whose latest movie Foxcatcher is finally headed for release after eight years of development.
The important point to make here is that – despite the lengthy production process, characterised as “laborious” by the man himself – the end result is widely regarded as nothing short of masterful. Screening with little advance fanfare at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Foxcatcher received a lengthy standing ovation, near-universal critical acclaim, and the Best Director award for Miller, to boot.
The real-life story is that of the disturbing and tragic relationship between multimillionaire John du Pont, the Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz and his brother Mark. Having invited Mark Schultz to train under his supervision and sponsorship for his own shot at the Olympics, du Pont developed a bizarre fixation on the brothers and the set-up, which ultimately spiralled to a devastating conclusion.
Miller has assembled a striking and surprising cast, with Steve Carell as du Pont, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz and Channing Tatum as his brother Mark. While these actors are now known to have excelled in these roles beyond all expectations, Foxcatcher could have been very different, were it not for the patience of Bennett Miller. Back in 2007, he was thinking of Ryan Gosling and Heath Ledger for the role of Mark Schultz, before spotting Channing Tatum in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. Tatum, however, was not keen – as he explained in a feature about the film and its director in Vulture:
“I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t know how to read scripts, I didn’t know anything about acting, and the way Bennett talked about this wildly dark character weirded me out a little bit, to be honest with you. I was super young and I just didn’t get it. In a way, I think, thank God it didn’t come to fruition then, because I don’t know what it would have turned out to be.”
What it turned out to be, evidently, is something worth waiting for. Miller explained:
“I imagine that maybe I’m doomed to this kind of laborious thing where there’s a lot of exploration and trial until you get there. You can write ten versions of a scene and then, on the day, discover that something in the original scene worked. It’s hard on writers. Hard on actors, hard on editors, hard on me, hard on the producers who require patience and confidence. But I can’t get to the end without going through this process.”
If the kind of quality on display here is the result of that process, then perhaps we could all benefit from a little more patience when it comes to cinema. Written by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, and directed by Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher reaches theatres on November 14th, 2014.
Source: The Playlist