Foxcatcher – Blue’s Beats #13
Blue’s Beats is a new blog series where we break down various nominated feature screenplays by identifying and discussing their important beats.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the 2014 biographical sports and true crime drama, Foxcatcher, written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. The film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards.
To view a .pdf of the screenplay, click here.
In a bid for the 1988 Olympic gold medal, millionaire John du Pont recruits famed wrestler Mark Schultz to head a winning team. Mark sees the opportunity to step out of his brother Dave’s shadow and find glory for himself. When du Pont’s increasingly tenuous grasp on reality begins to slip, Mark, Dave, and du Pont himself are propelled towards a deadly tragedy.
John du Pont, eccentric millionaire and heir to the du Pont fortune, reaches out to Mark Shultz at a vulnerable point in his life. Mark, mired in anonymity despite having won an olympic gold medal, is quick to accept du Pont’s offer to head up a winning wrestling team which will compete at the 1988 Olympics. Mark attempts to recruit his brother Dave at du Pont’s prompting, but Dave initially refuses on the grounds that his young family comes first.
PLOT POINT ONE
At Foxcatcher Farm, Mark Shultz and John du Pont develop and close friendship. John opens up to Mark, revealing that, as a boy, his mother had paid another boy to act as his friend. Du Pont also introduces Mark to cocaine, which he begins to use regularly. When Mark and his teammates decide to take a day off from training, du Pont begins to physically and verbally chastise Mark, declaring that he will recruit Dave by any means necessary.
Dave eventually gives in to du Pont’s insistence and agrees to move his family to Pennsylvania in order to help train the Foxcatcher team. Mark is resentful of the fact that Dave was brought on and begins to distance himself from both du Pont and his brother. Meanwhile, du Pont’s relationship with his elderly mother gradually weakens when it’s revealed that she believes that wrestling—her son’s obsession for years—is a “low sport.”
PLOT POINT TWO
Mark loses his first match at the Olympic trials and flies into a rage and subsequent eating binge. Dave finds Mark in poor condition, and frantically tries to help him recover enough to win his next match and make the Olympic team. Once the pair return to Foxcatcher Farm, Mark tells Dave that he can’t continues to live and train under du Pont’s influence, and urges Dave to leave with him. Having already uprooted his family once, Dave is reluctant to leave, but nonetheless encourages Mark to end his toxic relationship with du Pont.
CRISIS AND CLIMAX
Du Pont commissions a fictionalized documentary to be made about the founding and competitive success of Team Foxcatcher. Both Mark and Dave are prompted to flatter and compliment du Pont on film, and the resulting product serves only to artificially inflate du Pont’s ego and further skew his perception of reality. As du Pont sits alone in his trophy room watching the documentary, he calls for his bodyguard and together they drive to Dave’s residence on the estate. When Dave approaches du Pont’s car, du Pont rolls down the window and asks “Do you have a problem with me?” Du Pont then fires three shots into Dave’s chest at short range, killing him.
After a two-day standoff with police, during which du Pont barricades himself inside his mansion, he is eventually arrested when he ventures outside to fix his heater. The film ends with a short sequence depicting Mark entering an MMA cage-match while the roar of the crowd echoes in his ears.