As soon as that first Foxcatcher trailer premiered, the talk started for all involved to receive Oscar nominations. The real life story features Steve Carell as John du Pont, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Shultz and Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz. Du Pont took the Olympic gold medal winning wrestlers under his wing for hopes of returning to golden glory… and their story would end in murder.
It’s a slightly different role for Tatum and we caught up with the superstar (most recently seen in 22 Jump Street) to talk about this powerful movie and immediately the conversation turned to his efforts to stay diverse and fresh as an actor. And despite how easy he makes it look on screen, nothing is simple for this man who might add Oscar nominee to his resume rather soon, thanks to Foxcatcher.
“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. I hate labeling all these things -- comedies, love stories, whatever -- they’re all just different muscles,” Tatum admitted.
Tatum reported that there was immense pressure he put on himself this time out, because he had to look Schultz in the eye when filming completed.
“I’ve only played one other person that was real before and the stakes are 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 game that movies are. I enjoyed going deeper than I’ve ever gone into a character, for sure, and I can’t say I want to do this forever, but I’ll just find the people that I want to do them with and then do them.”
The actor who was first introduced to the world in Step Up found that wrestling was a different onscreen animal than any action he’s ever done. “The hard hits ... I don't think they'll leave my body, for sure. You can't fake wrestling, we learned very quickly. You can fake a punch, 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 head-butting, everything. It was by far -- and I don't say this lightly -- the hardest thing I've ever done physically,” Tatum said.
“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 proud to have been given such time and focus by the most amazing athletes I've ever worked with. It was a blessing.”
And when it came to working opposite the man mostly known for his comic talents, Carell, and the actor, Ruffalo, who can do anything -- even being The Incredible Hulk in The Avengers -- Tatum could not have been more impressed and inspired.
“I was in awe just to get to work with them. They're so in control of what they do, acting wise -- and Steve's ability to stay in a scene, I was just like, 'Wow.' The way Bennett (Miller, director (Moneyball)) shoots is he does reels; he turns on the camera and you just go. And Mark, he's pretty much my big brother now -- I've said it to him, ‘Whether you want it or not, I'm your little brother now.’”
Ruffalo, Tatum and Carell also do a lot in Foxcatcher without saying much. It is a powerful mode of storytelling used by Miller, but it also fits the sport of wrestling itself.
“There's a lot being said to each other without talking, and you're in a quiet gym -- so all you hear is grunts and slams and slaps and breathing hard. And the way that you hand-fight is that it's a bit of a chess match -- you're constantly baiting and trying to set up something that you want,” Tatum said.
“It's really interesting that, I think, throughout Mark and I's sort of journey of finding these two men in us, we had to go through a lot of very humbling moments. I thought Mark and I were just there for each other, throughout that learning process. We learned on a very small level what it is to be really there for each other.”
Tatum said that there were countless pages that developed the brotherly relationship, but it all went out the window due to the sincere silence of the two wrestling each other in practice, a testament to the power of the acting in Foxcatcher. “You see it all in that one scene,” Tatum said.
“I think it has to do with all the time and friendship we created through wrestling.”