Bennett Miller Brings His Laborious, Careful Process to ‘Foxcatcher’

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After directing two Best Picture nominated movies (Capote and Moneyball) Bennett Miller is back with the challenging, buzzworthy Foxcatcher, a film that took him 7 years to make and has, thus far, netted him Cannes’ Best Director award. Like his previous films, this one is based on a true story—that of eccentric heir John ­Eleuthère du Pont and his tumultuous relationship with two Olympic-level wrestlers that eventually led to murder.

Miller calls his movie the “narrative of a cult,” telling New York Magazine, “You’ve got all the essential ingredients—a disaffected community in these wrestlers who are unrecognized and unrewarded. A charismatic leader who belongs to another sect that speaks to them. A utopian vision. A geographical separation from the outer world, literally, by a gate in which their own order is permitted to be honored. And an underbelly of violence, because the natural course of a cult narrative is to end in flames.”

The long and laborious production of the film involved many, many drafts of the screenplay over a number of years. And still Miller insisted on having his stars (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo) improvise certain moments and scenes. “I guess it’s closer to what Mike Leigh does than to Aaron Sorkin. I like going into a scene knowing that the script isn’t quite finished, that there’s something that isn’t really going to reveal itself until something spontaneously occurs,” he says.

“It takes a long timeto gestate something like this, but that’s its nature,” Miller says of the types of movies he makes. “I imagine that maybe I’m doomed to this kind of laborious thing where there’s a lot of exploration and trial until you get there. You can write ten versions of a scene and then, on the day, discover that something in the original scene worked. It’s hard on writers. Hard on actors, hard on editors, hard on me, hard on the producers, who require patience and confidence. But I can’t get to the end without going through this process.”

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