More than 20 years after Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz was shockingly murdered by John du Pont, an incident depicted in Bennett Miller’s Oscar-nominated 2014 film Foxcatcher, a new Netflix documentary is trying to add to the understanding of the Olympic gold medalist’s life and death.
In Team Foxcatcher, directed by Jon Greenhalgh, Nancy Schultz and other wrestlers who trained at du Pont’s Foxcatcher Farms and knew Dave trace du Pont’s downward spiral, including a growing paranoia, that ultimately led to Dave Schultz’s murder on Jan. 26, 1996. The doc features interviews with Nancy and her children as well as those who knew Dave and home videos of the wrestling champion.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Nancy explains what she hopes people learn about her late husband from Team Foxcatcher, how du Pont’s drug and alcohol addictions contributed to the wrestling benefactor’s behavior and why Dave’s brother Mark, played by Channing Tatum in the Miller film, isn’t included in the doc.
How involved were you in putting this documentary together?
I was very involved. I basically worked side-by side with the director through the entire process, until it got to hands-on editing and even then I was going back to the editing studio off and on for years and helping him choose what to use and what not to use. I think the only thing I wasn’t involved in was the beautiful music.
What does this documentary add to the understanding of what happened between du Pont and Dave and what happened at Foxcatcher?
I think [this documentary and the movie Foxcatcher are] just two completely different things. One is a beautiful movie. I was on the set with Bennett Miller and acted as a consultant on that film, but it’s a completely fictionalized version. The acting was amazing, the characters beautifully done, but the relationship between the people and especially the biggest change of the timeline was a completely fictional timeline. In actuality, in real life, Mark Schultz and Dave Schultz were never at Foxcatcher at the same time. Mark Schultz was just at Foxcatcher about a year, in preparation for the ’88 Olympics. He left right after the ’88 Olympics. And our family didn’t arrive until July of 1989. And Mark never came back to the farm. And that’s the choice that our director, Jon Greenhalgh, decided to narrow the focus. It started out so broad and so much story and they just kept bringing it down, bringing it down and finally defined the time that we arrived at Foxcatcher in 1989 until shortly after Dave’s murder. So the narrow timeline ended up being that space.
You said Jon didn’t want to feature Mark at all because his time at Foxcatcher was before Dave arrived. Is that the only reason Mark’s not in the documentary?
We talked to Mark early on. He was actually involved in Foxcatcher and couldn’t work on our film at the time and by the time he was out of that and could work, we had narrowed the scope to 1989 forward. So he really wasn’t there [during the time period we decided to depict in the film]. And Jon Greenhalgh was really enchanted by the racing documentary Senna. One of the things that film does is it stays in the past, the entire time in the documentary and never moves forward. Although Greenhalgh didn’t exactly do that, one of the things that he wanted to do was get you on the farm and have you live with us for those years. And I think to go outside of that to Dave’s earlier days or to move past that really didn’t fit with what Jon was trying to do. He really wanted you to arrive on the property with us in 1989 and live on the property, on Foxcatcher, until Dave’s death. So we had to leave out lots of stuff, about his childhood and what we’re doing now in the wrestling community. All of that kind of got pushed to the side.
What was your first impression of du Pont?
I think everybody always knew John was sad, lonely and had his combination of mental-health issues. I know that when I first met him he had a severe drinking problem, so you always knew he was troubled. He was a lonely, troubled soul. And I think Dave always wanted to reach out and help him the whole time we were there. [Du Pont] was good for the sport. He was good for our athletes and he so much wanted to have family and friends. He grew up in such a lonely format that it never enabled him to have a social connection, and I think one of the things he loved most about wrestling was this really amazing camaraderie and sense of family that we all have. I think John loved that idea that he kind of had that instant family. It made him feel connected for a long time. And I think ultimately his exceptional addiction issues and alcoholism just brought him down.
The film explores some of DuPont’s paranoia and resentment he was feeling towards Dave, but still Dave’s murder just seems so shocking, even if you look at news reports of the incident.
I just don’t think we completely understood how bad. I mean, with long-term cocaine abuse, looking back at it now that I know more and researched more, it’s what happens: People become extraordinarily paranoid. So there doesn’t have to be a lot of real issues for the person to feel paranoid. Like [du Pont thinking there were] bugs in his skin and all of that. They were all long-term cocaine abuse issues. We definitely thought he was troubled, but we just didn’t think he was dangerous. His addiction, his swirling down into his addiction, was just worse than we thought.
What would you like viewers to take away from this documentary in terms of their understanding of Dave?
Dave got lost a lot in the way he was murdered and he had an amazing life regardless of how he left this world. For me, I just wanted people to get to know him and not just be the guy that John du Pont killed. He was an amazing ambassador to other countries, an extraordinary technician, like second to none in the history of wrestling. He had the ability to cross cultures and forge friendships all over the world. He was a wonderful father. I just really wanted to put something out in the world that provided a glimpse of this amazing guy Dave Schultz. And because it was his passion and our passion, a bit of a window into the sport of wrestling, the struggles, the technical aspects, just a little introduction because I don’t think most people understand it at all. So for me that was another bright side. Also it was nice to give voice to a lot of the people that loved Dave, including my own children, just to have a chance to speak about his loss.
With Foxcatcher and this documentary, there’s been renewed interest in what happened. What’s it been like for you living through that and having to revisit what happened during that time?
I don’t ever think of it as revisiting. After Dave died, I formed the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club and I led a huge, nationally funded wrestling club for 12 years. I’ve always been about keeping Dave’s memory alive. I think most of my healing has been done. But it was very enjoyable for me to go back and let Dave’s friends and family go back and talk about him and revisit the kind of person he was. It was really a gift.