The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Wrestling with Foxcatcher

It was once assumed that wrestler Mark Schultz’s legacy would be his Olympic and World Championship Gold Medals. Those outside the sport may know nothing else about him, but many will always remember his shining time as the best wrestler in the world.

Schultz, though, has expressed fears that his legacy may be in jeopardy after the release of the film Foxcatcher in November 2014. Foxcatcher is playing at FilmScene, 118 E. College St., through Feb. 12. Showtimes are listed online at

Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film tells the story of brothers and wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz and the time they spent on eccentric millionaire John du Pont’s Foxcatcher Farms. Du Pont murdered Dave Schultz, 36, in 1996.

Though supporting the movie throughout filming, Mark Schultz took to social media following its release to bash the production, calling it inaccurate and saying he hated director Bennett Miller. Some believe Schultz was outraged by critics’ assertion that the movie implied a homoerotic relationship between him and du Pont, and others question if Schultz’s outrage was a promotional stunt meant to increase sales of his freshly released book, Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold.

Schultz, though, contends he felt he had a right to speak out against Foxcatcher, even after apologizing for the way in which he did so.  

“I will gladly go to any lengths to protect and safeguard the integrity and truth of my story, my life, my character, and my legacy,” he said on his Facebook page. “If that’s not worth fighting over while I’m still alive, I don’t know what is." 

So what parts of his portrayal did Schultz not like?

There were smaller complaints, such as being shown as an “inarticulate meathead,” but his biggest issue was in his imagined relationship with du Pont. 

The film shows du Pont as Schultz’s hero, pulling him from poverty, obscurity, the shadow of his older brother, and becoming close as they prepare for the 1987 World Championships. When Channing Tatum’s Schultz wins the Worlds Championship in the film, he immediately hugs du Pont (Steve Carell). They seem to be quite fond of each other, hence the suspicion that the film is implying a relationship that goes beyond the traditional coach/athlete bond — a serious contention, considering that du Pont once had charges of sexual abuse filed against him, and a former assistant coach for du Pont claimed he was fired for refusing the multimillionaire’s advances.

Schultz called the allegations of romance and even friendship between him and du Pont as false and “insulting.” Some were quick to contend that Schultz was only upset because his sexuality was in question, but his outrage may be a bit deeper than that. Du Pont murdered Schultz’s older brother in cold blood, the man Schultz described as his “savior,” and this film, which has the possibility to define Schultz’s legacy for audiences, shows him as desperate and dependent on du Pont in many ways. 

At one point, Tatum nearly cries on the airplane to World Championships as he tells Carell (du Pont) that he doesn’t want to let him down. In reality, Schultz maintains, he always knew something was off about du Pont and spent as little time as he could with the man. Seeing a fabricating bond this strong between him and the man who robbed him of his older brother would be understandably traumatizing for Schultz.

As wrestlers who trained at Foxcatcher Farms leave the sport and grow older, the truth of the tragedy that occurred there will be slowly lost. It has been 30 years since the Schultzs’ Olympic dominance, so Schultz may have seen Foxcatcher as his chance to preserve his brother’s memory and their legacy as athletes. 

Wrestling fanatics and history buffs will read his book, but a star-studded movie with award buzz will reach a much larger, broader audience; many of whom will only ever see the great Schultzs in this light. 

It is not unreasonable, then, that Schultz would be so passionate about his and his late brother’s portrayal. Here’s hoping the madness of du Pont and this story doesn’t take anything else from Schultz.