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This story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Top filmmakers rarely if ever accept unsolicited material from strangers for fear of lawsuits. But don’t tell Bennett Miller, 47, whose Foxcatcher originated in a most unusual manner on its way to a May 19 premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
The movie, which stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, recounts how John DuPont, heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, became a wrestling coach and ended up killing his friend and Olympic champion Dave Schultz.
STORY: Steve Carell’s ‘Foxcatcher’ Gets Release Date
In 2006, Miller, coming off acclaim for Capote, was in New York at a small in-store signing for the DVD release of his documentary The Cruise. After waiting patiently in line, a man came up and introduced himself. “I’m Tom Heller, and I’ve got the rights to a story that I think you would like,” the man said, holding a packet with press clippings and other materials. Miller said he couldn’t accept anything for legal reasons. But Heller, a producer who would go on to work on 127 Hours and Precious, left the envelope on the table, and Miller ended up throwing it into a box with other clutter to take home. A month later, Miller was doing some housecleaning and came across the envelope. After forgetting where he got the materials, he read the articles, and a feeling blanketed him: “Oh, I’m going to do this,” he recalls. Miller says he then called Heller, and after a chat, he began the process to acquire life rights to Mark Schultz (Dave’s brother, played by Tatum) and his unpublished autobiography, which Heller controlled.
Eight years later and after several delays, the film — with Heller and his partner Michael Coleman serving as executive producers — will play Cannes and hit theaters Nov. 14 via Sony Pictures Classics. “This could not be a more backward, eccentric, weird way of getting a movie [started],” says Miller. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”
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