|Bennett Miller holds up his best director scroll after Saturday's closing ceremony in Cannes. (Reuters)|
An upcoming film about the relationship and subsequent murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by millionaire John du Pont on his 400-acre Delco estate earned a top prize Saturday evening at the closing of the Cannes Film Festival.
Director Bennett Miller won the prix de la mise en scène (best director) for his film “Foxcatcher,” a new drama starring Steve Carell as du Pont set at the millionaire’s Newtown Square estate Foxcatcher Farm, where du Pont shot and killed Schultz on Jan. 26, 1996. This led to a standoff with police that lasted two days.
Miller was feted with the award by a jury headed by New Zealand writer/director Jane Campion, with Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe and Gael Garcia Bernal serving on the nine-member jury. Cannes is noted for being the premier film festival in the world.
“Foxcatcher” is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on November 14.
The film is the story of Mark, already a gold medalist from the 1984 Summer Olympics, trying to prove his worth under the shadow of his equally successful older brother, Dave. Du Pont extends an invitation to Mark to stay at his estate to train for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Eventually, du Pont’s volatile personality starts to take its toll and eventually throws him and the brothers in to an unspeakable tragedy.
Although the film has Delco roots, it was not shot at the site of the former Foxcatcher Farm located on Goshen Road. The mansion, and other buildings on the grounds, were torn down last year to make way for a new housing development.
The film was well-received by critics, gaining strong mentions for Carell – already being touted as a potential Oscar nominee for the performance – Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz, and Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz. Based on 10 reviews, the review aggregator site Metacritic assigned it a score of 91.
According to the film’s press kit released at Cannes, Miller traveled all over the country to find materials to form the story, speaking with Schultz family members, police and “anyone who had lived any part of the story.”
Upper Darby Police Captain Anthony Paparo and Parkside Police Chief Jake Egan, both negotiators during the du Pont standoff, met with Miller when the film was still in pre-production.
“At the time they were looking to get inside his mind and his demeanor, how he spoke,” Paparo told the NEWS Tuesday afternoon, “the things that we had gotten during our interaction with him during the standoff.”
Egan said he wasn’t entirely sure what the film was going to be about when he sat down with Miller back in September 2012.
“Bennett Miller wasn’t very forthcoming about what the movie was going to be. (He said) it was focused on the mental status and how we dealt with the mental status,” Egan said.
Egan, then with East Lansdowne Police Department, had met du Pont personally in the ‘70s when he was invited to use the shooting range built on the grounds. After the invitations to shoot ceased sometime in 1979 or 1980, Egan would not see du Pont again until the standoff, describing him as being “out there”.
Variety film Critic Justin Chang wrote favorably about the well-researched film in his review writing that “this meticulously researched picture feels as authentic in its understanding of character as it does in its unvarnished re-creation of the world of Olympic sports in the late ’80s.”
Although Paparo has not seen a print of the film, he has seen teaser trailers for it and it looks “intense”.
“Considering the movies (Miller’s) done before – ‘Capote’ and ‘Moneyball’ - I think it’s going to be pretty poignant. I hope it shows the eccentricities of du Pont,” he said.