IAR INTERVIEW: Steve Carell and Channing Tatum Talk 'Foxcatcher'

Thursday, 13 November 2014 10:13 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Steve Carell and Channing Tatum Talk 'Foxcatcher'

Foxcatcher is going to completely change how audiences see Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.

Both actors are already household names, but both also occupy curiously specific niches. 

Carell is the genially comic leading man capable of unhinged goofiness (Anchorman), family-friendliness (Despicable Me), and undeniably funny roles that he gives some depth (The 40 Year Old Virgin).  Tatum is the beefcake action hero (G.I. Joe) and romantic figure (The Vow) who has also shown comedic chops (22 Jump Street) and hinted at real dramatic depth (Magic Mike).

In Foxcatcher, both established actors pull the pins on their respective images with career-best performances that have been earning ecstatic awards season praise for months now.

Directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball), the movie tells the true story of Mark Schultz, a former Olympic wrestler who receives an invite from the fabulously wealthy John du Pont to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics on du Pont's massive, old money estate.  Both men are driven to achieve sporting glory: du Pont for some weird, Oedipal reasons and Mark, to escape the shadow of his celebrated older brother Dave.  Before long, the relationship between Mark and du Pont gets strange and self-destructive, which isn't helped when Dave begins coaching du Pont's wrestling team.

Tatum plays Mark Schultz, while Carell plays du Pont and Mark Ruffalo also makes a strong impression as Dave Schultz.

IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand at the Los Angeles press day for Foxcatcher, where Steve Carell and Channing Tatum thoughtfully discussed their roles, hopping between genres, cinematic wrestling, and playing real people in this presumptive Oscar nominee.

All three central performances are tremendous achievements, but discussion of Foxcatcher's acting is bound to be dominated by Carell.  Buried underneath makeup and speaking with an odd rhythm as du Pont, he's unrecognizable and undeniably unnerving.

"Oh yeah, I am very dark. I am very dark inside," Carell said with a laugh at the press conference. 

"I didn't question it. It is not a part I would have campaigned for. Had I read the script and looked at that I wouldn't have thought I need to get in touch with Bennett and throw my hat in the ring. At the same time when Bennett called me in and we discussed it," he continued. "I trusted him frankly. The fact that he thought that I was capable of doing it allowed me to believe the same."

Tatum, meanwhile, has shown his facility with an impressive range of genres in the last several years. "They’re all different muscles. Comedy doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve only done two movies that are really comedy styled films. I have to work at them and it’s just as scary in a way," he said.

"I hate labeling all these things – comedies, love stories, whatever – they’re all just different muscles," Tatum continued. "This one, I’ve only played one other person that was real before and it is, the stakes are very, very high. And I have to live with Mark Schultz in the world and hoping that I did some amount of justice for him. Things are a bit more tangible and they’re not just in some make-believe high stakes make believe game that movies are."

Our man Philbrick asked Carell about his preparation for the role of du Pont, to which the actor replied, "I thought a lot about what a sad person he was. He’s a guy whose parents divorced when he was two. He grew up in this enormous house, essentially with just he and his mother, who by all accounts was a pretty chilly person. So I thought a lot about that, whom he was growing up surrounded by wealth and I think insulated by that wealth. I think he was lonely and in need of things that he didn’t have the tools to acquire."

"So starting with that I think that helped me along the way. That’s at least what I thought about in preparation. I’m trying to think, he was somebody that I think was in need of assistance," Carell explained. "He was somebody that didn’t have a circle of friends. He had a circle of employees, so no one was going to intervene. He didn’t have anyone that was there to see the red flags. And that is incredibly sad and tragic to me. So I never approached him as a villain, I thought of him in that way."

Carell's prep was mostly emotional, but to play the Schultzes, Tatum and Ruffalo spent months learning to wrestle, working with professionals and enduring grueling training over months.  Even all his training didn't prepare Tatum for the intensity of the wrestling sequences, however.

"You can't fake wrestling, we learned very very quickly. You can fake a  punch, and with camera lines, you can fake it," Tatum said. "But with wrestling, you just have to go ahead and do it. You really need to see the hand hit the side of the face, the headbutting, everything.  It was by far – and I don't say this lightly – the hardest thing I've ever done physically. I've done a lot of sports, a lot of martial arts. It was a suffocating and very painful thing, but I gotta say at the end of the day I'm so just in awe of those athletes, and very very proud to been given such time and focus by the most amazing athletes I've ever worked with. It was a blessing."

As for his co-stars, Tatum said, "I was in awe just to get to work with them; they're so in control of what they do, acting wise.  Steve's ability to stay in a scene where I was confused and just being like 'Wow.' The way Bennett shoots is he does reels; he turns on the camera and you just go. And Steve's ability to stay in (character) pretty unbelievably unique."

"Mark, he's pretty much my big brother now," Tatum enthused. "I've said it to him, 'Whether you want it or not, I'm your little brother now.'"

Obviously, Foxcatcher represents a shift for both actors.  Carell addressed the accolades his performance has been receiving, saying, "The change for me is that I want to do more of this. It was challenging and exciting and exhilarating and I felt like it meant something. So much of the response that the film is getting, it’s very rewarding that it is resonating with people. The change for me is that this is something that I want to, I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything at this level again, but I would aspire to, because it’s been a great feeling."

"It’s really the journey that you get to go on with the people that you do them with I think is part of it," said Tatum. "Then, you are playing someone else, but ultimately they’re just versions of the person. You have to go do them. I can’t put everything that Mark Schultz is in a ninety-minute movie. It doesn’t work like that."

"I’m really just telling Bennett’s story. Try to be as honest as you can possibly be on the walk, and keep digging every day. And I don’t say this as a bad thing, I don’t think we left a day feeling amazing, feeling like, 'Oh, my God, we crushed that scene!' You just don’t. On a movie like this, it’s a constant 'I think we did all right. I think we got the scene. I think it’s in there.' It is precious, and you just keep digging," he concluded. "I think the satisfaction after walking away from it (is) knowing I just left it all out there. I know I gave all the colors I could possibly give so that now someone can go paint a picture."

Foxcatcher opens in select cities tomorrow, November 14th, and will expand to more theaters in the following weeks.

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