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Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo recall the pains and pleasures of wrestling for 'Foxcatcher'

Crédit photo : © Fair Hill, LLC. (Photo: Scott Garfield, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo recall the pains and pleasures of wrestling for 'Foxcatcher'
Mark Ruffalo spent high school training as a wrestler. The brotherly bonds forged through grueling training were a big part of his teenage life. So it would be safe to assume that playing a professional wrestler would tap into his long-shelved passion, right? In theory, yes. Until it came to the actual wrestling. “That’s when it all fell apart,” Ruffalo recalls with a deep sigh, when Nightlife.ca spoke to him at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I knew theoretically I could do it, until I got in the room and actually started doing it. The fantasy of myself quickly got beaten back by the reality of myself.”
 
Audiences who flock to Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher over the holidays will similarly find themselves psychologically battered by this tale of true-life crime. Nominated for three Golden Globes, the film is based on the shocking story of Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an Olympic gold-medal winner who trained with his equally illustrious gold-medalist brother David (Ruffalo) under the tutelage of a crackpot millionaire named John du Pont (Steve Carrell) in the late 1980s. Carrell, in a game-changing performance that required a prosthetic shnoz, high-pitched inflections and a major jolt of menace, transforms into the eccentric nut who coached the Schultz brothers on his humongous athletic compound… until he killed one of them in 1996.
 
Bennett Miller, who took home the Best Director prize at Cannes this year, couldn’t believe his eyes when he first read about the story. The acclaimed director, whose last two features (2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball) also reimagined compelling true stories, does a bang-up job of tapping into Foxcatcher’s unsettling takeaways about the dark side of America: the power and privilege afforded by wealth and class, the culture of entitlement and exceptionalism. “Part of what’s attractive about this story is that these characters embody conflicting characteristics of my country,” Miller said before a gaggle of film reporters gathered around a table. “It’s kind of an extraordinary story that you have one of the wealthiest men in America and these working-class, blue-collar, Middle America guys – their interests rubbing up against each other.”

Besides featuring some of the most authentic wrestling scenes ever put to screen, the Schultz brothers’ stormy emotional bond becomes the glue that holds Foxcatcher together. And that ultimately hinged on months of backbreaking training for Ruffalo and Channing Tatum, who described the experience as “painful and masochistic.” “[It involved] seven months of wrestling practice and just going to that gym every single day,” said Tatum. “There’s not that many people I could have kept doing that with, the literal beating your head into the wall… it just makes you insane. [But] we had to look these people in the face, the people who knew Dave and du Pont… And that mattered.”
 
As an introspective loner with a hot temper, Tatum is, against all odds, hauntingly good. The 21 Jump Street actor ably conveys his character’s struggle to connect with the outside world through rivetingly elemental body language and some seriously strenuous choreography on the mat. “Mark [Schultz] is just a wildly emotional person, and one of his exact words to me was that he wanted to hurt everyone in such a way that he could never be beaten. That was his biggest fear, I think. So he put up walls, and to let someone in was a very fragile thing for him.”
 
Ultimately, beyond Foxcatcher’s grisly murder and its deranged perp, the film builds toward a potent meditation on the pains and pleasures of wrestling, serving as a tribute to those with an unshakable resolve to doing the sport justice. “I learned a lot about life and overcoming adversity and being alone [through wrestling]”, recalls Ruffalo. “It was hard as a kid, but I learned a lot from it. So I understand what the life of a wrestler is, how lonely it is. From 13 to 17, that was [me]. Those guys live like that their whole lives.”
 
Foxcatcher
Now playing at Cinéma Excentris, Cineplex Forum and Méga-Plex Sphèretech 14