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On the same day that Steve Carell‘s usual comedy vehicle hit theaters — Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, opposite Jennifer Garner — the actor took to the stage at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater to shed light on his dramatic transformation into the enigmatic and destructive John du Pont for Bennett Miller‘s tragic sports drama Foxcatcher.
“He was a very tortured individual,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon, ahead of the film’s New York Film Festival premiere. “We spent several months doing camera tests to figure out what the right version of the look would be. Du Pont had a specific look to him, and I can’t help but think his look had an effect on the people around him. … Watching tape of him, how he carried himself, I think it was just part of who he was.”
“It was inadvertent that when I would arrive on set in that look, people treated me differently, and I just tended to separate myself from the rest of the cast,” Carell continued. “It’s only on these press tours that I’ve gotten to know these guys, and they’re really fun!” Mark Ruffalo then chimed in: “So are you!”
Channing Tatum began transforming into his own character, Mark Schultz, after having dinner with the wrestler, Miller and Ruffalo in New York. “[I] started hanging back, just looking at the way he walks. Such a beautiful indication of how he goes about the world. I started studying his movements, and that was the way in for me. He’s just a physical, emotional, tangible person — I didn’t try to get into his intellectual side. He’s such an emotional person, and that’s what I keyed in to, or tried to. “
The director — during a panel also featuring Anthony Michael Hall, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave — noted that many of the people with first-hand experiences of the situation were helpful in informing the characters and sharing their full lives beyond what’s shown onscreen. “I hardly encountered a person who was not generous and sharing whatever it was that they had, to an extent,” he said. Though the du Pont family wasn’t particularly forthcoming, they never stood in the way of the film’s progress.
Carell mentioned that while shopping at Target in North Hollywood, someone introduced themselves as a family member of the man he came to portray, and “he was very pleasant and was curious but not confrontational in any way.” Sienna Miller met Mark’s wife, Nancy Schultz, just before production began, calling her “incredibly resilient, strong and fascinating.”
Director Miller closed the panel by noting that though the film has a lot of moving parts, it’s not meant to settle on a particular takeaway (per his Moneyball and Capote filmmaking style). “The performance does conceal something — it does leave space to project onto, somewhat,” he explained. “It could easily tip over into a drug thing or sexuality thing. But when these things become too dominant, flagrant or spectacular, I find they erase the allegory and they invite a conclusion to things.”
“The film very much doesn’t want to wave its finger at the audience and conclude anything. Rather, to keep staring at these things that tempt us, I think, to react, to conclude, to label and designate the good and evil,” he continued. “Sometimes, making a film like this, you’re so tempted to grab at the low hanging fruit. You feel like a cat wanting to bat a dangling feather or something, but that’s cheap.”
Foxcatcher hits theaters Nov. 14.
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