Mark Schultz, of 'Foxcatcher' fame, still grapples with Hollywood spotlight

Mark Schultz, of 'Foxcatcher' fame, still grapples with Hollywood spotlight
Mark Schultz on his deck in Medford, Oregon. (Amy Kaufman / Los Angeles Times)

"Wake up, Turbo," Mark Schultz said, talking to his phone. The Droid Turbo didn't respond.

"Wake up, Turbo," he prodded again. "Wake up, Turbo! Call Bennett Miller."

The screen remained blank, so he sighed and dialed the "Foxcatcher" director's number manually.

"Mark? Is that you?" a young woman said brightly through the speakerphone. It was Miller's assistant. She asked how Schultz was.

"Things are going good," he replied. "My fiancée's visa was denied, so I have to get an attorney to refile that."

"Oh, no!" she cried. "That sucks! I hope you get it taken care of. Well, Bennett isn't here. He's out at a lunch. Do you want me to tell him you called? Did you try his cellphone?"

"Just tell him to give me a call when he gets around to it," Schultz said. "I don't want to bother his lunch."

Schultz, 54, put his phone back in a holster on his jeans and squirted more ketchup on the side of hash browns he'd ordered at a diner where the theme was black bears.

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"He's not gonna call me back," he said. "He never calls me back."

It was two weeks before the Academy Awards, and Schultz wanted to find out whether he was going to be given a ticket to the show. He thought he deserved an invitation. After all, a movie about his life, "Foxcatcher," is up for five Oscars. Cheryl Strayed, whose solo quest on the Pacific Crest Trail inspired "Wild," is flying to Hollywood to walk the red carpet Sunday, just as the real-life inspirations behind films such as "127 Hours" and "The Blind Side" have in years past.

But it didn't look as if Schultz was going to be at the Dolby Theater on Oscar night.



— Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) Dec. 31, 2014


When he first found out that Miller wanted to make a movie about his life, Schultz was ecstatic. He and his brother, Dave, had been two of the most successful wrestlers in U.S. history, the only siblings to win both World and Olympic championships in the 1980s. But Schultz's legacy was tarnished after he was invited to join Team Foxcatcher, an effort headed up by millionaire and wrestling devotee John du Pont.

In 1996, Du Pont murdered Dave, and everything the Schultz brothers had accomplished as wrestlers was overshadowed by the tragedy. A movie might be able to right some of it — showing the Schultzes' athletic prowess and Du Pont for the monster he was.

Plus, this wasn't just some B-list production. Mark was going to be played by Channing Tatum, People magazine's onetime Sexiest Man Alive. Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are All Right") signed up to play Dave, and comedian Steve Carell was cast against type as Du Pont, donning dramatic prosthetics and makeup to transform himself.

And then there was Miller, the Oscar-nominated director behind critically acclaimed films such as "Moneyball" and "Capote," behind the camera. This thing had Oscar written all over it.

It would be Mark Schultz's redemption tour.



— Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) Dec. 31, 2014


"I'm embarrassed to show you my house, actually," Schultz said, navigating his Toyota Tundra up the hill to his home. He explained that he'd recently been burglarized and his place was still in shambles.

He lives on the same road as his mother — Dark Hollow, which he said was given its name for how dark it gets in the winter. But on this day in February, sunlight drenched the farmland. His property, filled with hundreds of Oregon white oaks, looked out over it all, beautiful and peaceful and removed.

Inside, though, there were boxes, lots of them, filled with camera equipment he'd ordered to film his motivational speaking gigs. On an ironing board lay a stack of old photos of him and his brother that he was autographing and selling on his Facebook page. A big jug of protein powder had been left out on the kitchen counter. A picture of his 24-year-old fiancée, Roselyn, was taped on his media center.

He was in a hotel room in Manila with Roselyn last December when the tweets happened. He'd been surfing the Web, reading reviews of "Foxcatcher," when he came across a Washington Times article that said the film implied that Du Pont and Schultz "were rumored to be lovers in addition to coach and wrestler."

Before cameras began to roll on "Foxcatcher," Schultz asked Miller to agree to a deal: "You cannot make me gay."

The film doesn't show anything explicitly homoerotic between Du Pont and Schultz. But there is one scene in which Du Pont wakes Schultz and they wrestle in a dim practice room.

The Internet suggestions enraged Schultz, who says he was always physically disgusted by his brother's murderer.

"I don't want the LGBT community to come down on me," Schultz explained. "The fact that he's male is insignificant. He could be female and I'd be just as offended. You know how people get with their own number — like if you're a 10, you get with a 10? He's a 1."

So in that hotel room in Manila, Schultz believed Miller had broken their deal. Stuck in a foreign country, he couldn't reach anyone except through the Internet. So he started tweeting.

"I felt bad for Mark," Miller said in a phone call this week. "Having witnessed the polarities of his emotion in the past and seeing him experience backlash when he acted out, I was really sorry that he said things he was going to regret."

Sure enough, Schultz apologized in a barrage of tweets just a couple of weeks later.


"#Foxcatcher is a miracle. I'm sorry I said I hated it. I love it. I love my interpretation and will ignore the haters. I'm never getting mad"

— Mark Schultz (@MarkSchultzy) Jan. 15, 2015


From the moment filming got underway in Pennsylvania in 2012, Schultz and the "Foxcatcher" team butted heads. On set, Tatum has said, Schultz could be a distraction. He often made suggestions to Miller about how to correct inaccuracies in certain scenes — and not in a hushed tone.

"It was an issue," Schultz admitted, sitting in a recliner in his living room. After a few days, he says he was told he could stay, but only if he paid for his own hotel room. "Here's a multimillion-dollar company telling me I'm going to have to pay for myself. That's code for: 'Time to leave.'"

He wanted to "exercise his influence," Miller said, and that caused tension.

"He would cycle through being really collaborative and trusting, and then he wanted to grab the wheel," the filmmaker said. "It just wasn't appropriate. There's no disrespect in that. So I said I thought it was best if we didn't extend his trip."

Schultz was disappointed, but that didn't last long. Last May, he said, producer Megan Ellison bought him a tuxedo and flew him first-class to the south of France for Cannes. When the film received a standing ovation at its premiere, Miller pulled a teary-eyed Schultz in front of the crowd. He walked the red carpet, posing with Tatum.

But a few months later, at the Toronto International Film Festival, Schultz came under scrutiny again. He was reprimanded for "rushing" seats reserved for the film's talent at the "Foxcatcher" screening. According to one source close to the film, at a party held in the film's honor he began a conversation with 78-year-old actress Vanessa Redgrave by saying he might have to excuse himself due to "explosive diarrhea."

"Bennett Miller kept telling me I need to be a team player," Schultz said. "But I didn't feel like a member of any team. I felt like I was the enemy, in a way."

Schultz keeps his three most important medals at his mom's house, down the road. They're smushed into what looks like an old check box labeled with a Sharpie: "OLYMPIC WORLD MEDALS."

"This has to be welded back on," said Schultz's mom, Jean Saint Germain, holding up the ribbon that had broken off his gold medal from the 1985 World Championships. "Yeah, we should take it to a jeweler," Schultz agreed.

He went outside to put the medals in his truck. His mother picked up her dachshund, Winston, and carried him out to her deck.

"Mark keeps to himself a lot. More than I would like," she said. "But he's been through a lot. I think the thing I feel saddest about when I see the movie is not David's death — although that kills me every time — it's how cruelly Mark was treated and how badly he was taken advantage of. Destroyed, as he says."

Schultz said goodbye to his mother and started driving on Dark Hollow again. In the car, he started talking about his speaking gigs. Companies hire him to talk to their employees about overcoming adversity. He's been working with a coach and is already making about $8,000 per speech. Afterward, he says, people come up to him and give him compliments.

In fact, he has a gig lined up for this Sunday, the day of the Oscars. But he has an out in case he has to cancel. (Miller said he was working hard to get Oscar tickets for Schultz.)

"Of course it would be nice to go — especially when there's a film nominated about your life story," he said. "But if they don't want to bring me, that's their prerogative and they can live with that. I could go down there and crash the place. I might do that. How are they gonna keep me out?"

Twitter: @amykinla