Foxcatcher a Captivating Drama


Regan Guzik, Staff Writer

Foxcatcher, a captivating drama based on a true story, captures the attention of the wrestling world when one of the greatest Olympic wrestling champions makes a life-changing decision, as well as his coach. Directed by Bennett Miller, starring Steve Carell as John du Pont, Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, and Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz. After filming in Southwestern PA in 2012, the newly released film depicts a mentally unstable fanatic’s obsession.

Mark Schultz, an Olympic gold medalist, was in the shadows of his older brother Dave, but both had incredible talent, and both received gold medals. Dave was now a coach and Mark wanted to be the best wrestler in the world. Mark was struggling to make ends meet, until he was invited by the wealthy John du Pont to create a competitive wrestling team, at Foxcatcher Farms, his family’s estate in Pennsylvania.

This thrilling film allows for suspense and drama of Team Foxcatcher as it evolves. It shows the life inside a dedicated wrestler, a dedicated coach, and a man who tries to be something he is not – and fails.

Foxcatcher was filmed in Pennsylvania, starting in Pittsburgh and working its way to the Rolling Rock estate, where the majority of the film was shot. Wrestling coach, Tad Harbert had the privilege of working with some of the actors and extras in the film. Harbert’s brother’s home, located on the estate, was used for one of the most gut wrenching scenes of the movie.

After meeting with the director, Harbert’s brother offered the expertise of Tad Harbert, a 14 year coach at Greater Latrobe, and a three year head coach for the wrestling team. “Last year was the best year in school history,” Harbert said, as they placed second in the WPIAL, and second in the PIAA State Team Tournament. He also was fortunate enough to coach two state champions, Luke Pletcher and Zack Zavatsky. When Harbert’s brother offered the expertise of Tad, the facilities were offered as well. “He [Rufallo] was very impressed with the facilities here at Greater Latrobe and was very thankful that we let him use our wrestling room,” said Harbert.

In October 2012, Harbert was contacted by the director, Mark Rufallo, who plays Dave Schultz, Jesse and Corey Jantzen, two brothers who wrestled for Harvard, and John Giura, an original Foxcatcher team member, visited the facilities.

The following day, Mark Rufallo and Channing Tatum used the wrestling room incognito. Harbert said, “The experience of sneaking them in was fun because nobody knew that they were in town.”

Reece and Jordin Humprey, and JD Bergman were shared their expertise as extras. Reece was a 2009 NCAA runner-up for Ohio State and the United States World Team Trials Champion, taking 8th in the world. JD was a 2008 NCAA Runner-up for Ohio State, a 3X All-American, and the 2013 United States World Team Trials Champion.

In late October, Rufallo, Giura, and the Jantzen brothers practice drills on the same mats as Greater Latrobe grapplers. Although no students or wrestler were involved, the Harbert families had the privilege to meet most of the cast.

Harbert had the privilege to wrestle Rufallo while Tatum did circuit training. Harbert said, “Mark was the friendliest and most down-to-earth person I’ve ever been around. He was extremely humble for being a big-time movie star, and was very open to conversation on any topic. He actually went out of his way to speak with my wife, my sister-in-law, and my nephews and niece while he took breaks from learning the wrestling choreography for his role.”

He was impressed with Rufallo’s family man persona. Harbert said, “He is a great, great family man. Hurricane Sandy actually occurred while he was here training, and he was very concerned about his family back in New York City. He said my nephews and niece reminded him of his children back home, and was constantly on the phone checking to make sure everybody was safe.”

Harbert’s astonishment with Rufallo’s kind heart expanded. He said, “One night during a two hour workout, Mark became very frustrated with the wrestling technique he was being asked to learn, and told everybody in the room that he was quitting for the night. He apparently thought his small outburst was rude behavior, and he individually apologized to everyone in the room…especially my nephews and niece. The funny thing about this was that he never swore, yelled, or was being disrespectful at any time. He is just an extremely classy individual.”

Harbert had an overall two-week experience of getting to know the actors and extras in the film. He was humbled by the whole experience. He said, “On the last night that the actors came to the high school, Mark pulled me aside after the workout to thank me for my hospitality and for letting them use the wrestling room. As he left the wrestling room, he shook my hand and called me a Mensch. I googled the word when I returned home, and found out that it is Yiddish in origin, and means ‘a person of integrity and honor’. The term is used as a high compliment. I thought that was very very cool!”

The Golden Globe, Academy Award, SAG Award, and many more nominations soared for this true story of the Fox Catcher Team came to life in Southwestern PA.  It continues to make waves across the nation through social media, yet the unforgettable experience has left Harbert deeply touched and appreciative of the opportunity. Team Foxcatcher is no longer in existence. For more details as to why, check out the film in theaters near you or wait until March 3, the set release date of the DVD.