The bleak film is an adaptation of an autobiography written by Mark Schultz, portrayed by Channing Tatum, that chronicles the events surrounding the murder of his brother Dave Shultz (Mark Ruffalo) at the hands of an increasingly paranoid and delusional John Du Pont (Steve Carell). Mark and Dave were at the apex of the amateur wrestling world having won Olympic medals and World Championships in the same year, but were otherwise broke and struggling to keep their careers going.
John du Pont, an heir to the du Pont fortune, offered Mark to live and train on the du Pont estate at a state of the art training facility for the 1988 Seoul Olympics as part of his plan to “coach” or otherwise be associated with world class athletes to affirm or gain perceived respect from his friends and mother (Vanessa Redgrave). The film was directed by Bennett Miller whose most notable work includes Moneyball, 2011 and Capote, 2005 for which he received a Best Director nomination.
Miller has been working on making this project for several years. He commented that Carell was “way out of his comfort zone” in his portrayal of Du Pont as a paranoid schizophrenic heir to the Dupont fortune who inexplicably murders Dave Schultz in the presence of two witnesses. Carell described a meeting that he had with Bennett several years ago when the first discussed this project and that the “final product was exactly what
Mark Ruffalo described the meaning of the film as being, “what happens when everything has a price tag or everything is for sale. What happens to people that value everything at a price…monetize their talent at a cost.” Referencing the brother’s relationship with du Pont and their desire for fame and fortune, versus du Pont’s obsession for relevance at any cost, that ultimately cost Dave his life, nearly cost Mark his career, and cost du Pont a long prison sentence.
Channing Tatum stated that he did a lot of research and was fortunate to have the ability to spend a lot of time with Mark Schultz to pick up on physical mannerisms and to understand how he thought in preparation for the film. So much so that when the filming began he, “came in with a plan and after the first day felt like he ruined it…[but] found the truth while doing the film..” He described the evolution of the process that included daily in depth meetings between the cast and Miller discussing the complexity of each scene up until it was shot.
Miller stated that the film was not intended to take any political position or have a moral lesson it was a view into the lives and circumstances of the characters.