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Palmer: Documentary film on Dave Schultz in works

Mark Palmer

9/4/2013
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

The wrestling community is eagerly anticipating the release of "Foxcatcher," the movie about legendary wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. The Hollywood movie -- starring Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz, and Steve Carell as John du Pont, Dave's murderer -- is slated for release to theaters Dec. 20.

However, wrestling fans may not be aware that a documentary about Dave Schultz has been in the works for a number of years, a project guided by Nancy Schultz, Dave's widow, along with filmmaker Jon Greenhalgh, and executive producers Jeremy Bailer and Ben Hatta. This documentary -- yet to be officially titled, but referred to by those working on the film as "The Dave Schultz Project" -- has an anticipated release date within a month or so of the "Foxcatcher" movie arriving in theaters at Christmastime.

Years in the making

Dave Schultz
This documentary is NOT a quick response to the upcoming "Foxcatcher" film, directed by Bennett Miller ... but a long-in-the-works project by individuals who have long been a part of the wrestling community.

"We've been working on this project for about five years," said Nancy Schultz. "However, I was hesitant to give John du Pont any more publicity. He continued to harass us even from prison, having our kids followed."

"Once he died, it opened the door to really move forward with the project."

John du Pont died in a Pennsylvania prison in December 2010.

In addition to Nancy Schultz, other major players in the Dave Schultz documentary project include filmmakers Jon Greenhalgh and John Hyams, who worked together on "The Smashing Machine," the well-received 2002 documentary on former wrestler-turned-MMA phenom Mark Kerr. Jon Greenhalgh is also the son of Sonny Greenhalgh, who, for decades, was in charge of the wrestling program at the New York Athletic Club.

Executive producer Jeremy Bailer also has deep roots in the sport of wrestling.

"I started wrestling in the third grade," Bailer told InterMat. "I grew up in northwest New Jersey, and wrestled in high school. I played other sports too but wrestling was the only sport that gave me the skills to use in the real world."

"That's why I'm doing this documentary. Our film -- along with "Foxcatcher" -- will help others see the value of wrestling."

Bailer went to the University of Pennsylvania, where, as he put it, "my coach was tight with Dave and Nancy. Many of the other Penn wrestlers had worked out with Dave when I was a freshman." (The Foxcatcher estate, where John du Pont lived and had established a training facility for international wrestling, is located outside Philadelphia, home to Penn.)

Years later, Bailer established his career as someone who raises funds to make independent films.

"Nancy was working on trying to raise money for a documentary," said Bailer. "I wanted to help Nancy."

"Our project has been well underway for at least a year-and-a-half to two years."

The structure of the documentary

When asked to describe the structure of the Dave Schultz documentary, Jeremy Bailer responded, "It's essentially the same story as 'Foxcatcher.'"

A key element of that story would be the Jan. 1996 murder of Dave Schultz as he was working on his car in front of the house where he, Nancy and their two young children, Danielle and Alexander, lived on the Foxcatcher estate where he served as wrestling coach. Schultz was shot in the head by John du Pont, owner of the estate and the training facility, and financial supporter of international-style wrestling in the U.S., who then barricaded himself in his mansion on the estate grounds until he surrendered to police days later.

Both Bailer and Nancy Schultz stated that the "Foxcatcher" movie is based on Mark Schultz's story, and is based on his perspective as the younger brother of Dave.

Nancy Schultz
As Nancy put it, "'Foxcatcher' is very much Mark Schultz's story, based on truth. In our documentary, we want to focus on Dave, how he got started, and all aspects of his life, without forgetting his great personality that made him a hero in places like Russia and Iran."

"We will have interviews with Dave's high school coach, his teammates back then and in college. We'll also show our kids today, and show how the wrestling family has done such a great job taking care of us."

Bailer's goal for the documentary is to tell the story of two brothers in wrestling to be from a multi-dimensional perspective, saying, "I want to see Nancy's story, Mark's story, Dave's story, and other wrestlers' stories."

"From the beginning, we wanted to be respectful of Nancy."

"We're going to have an awesome film," said Bailer. "It'll be an intense portrait of what happened."

The executive producer continued, "It's not a wrestling movie, it's a murder documentary. A high-profile, rich-man murder documentary."

"We've been doing interviews with family members, wrestlers who were on the (Foxcatcher) farm as well as high-profile wrestlers and coaches of that era, along with prosecutors, lawyers and others."

To provide a sense of the scope of the project, Jeremy Bailer told InterMat, "We've shot over 800 hours of footage."

Nancy Schultz echoed Bailer's statements by saying, "Jon Greenhalgh and John Hyams have interviewed hundreds of people, the D.A., prosecutors, John's (du Pont) lawyers, wrestlers."

"We have tons of film, including home movies, and wrestling footage from Olympics, Goodwill Games, and more," Schultz continued. "I just spent five days in Boise (Idaho) with the guy who was USA Wrestling's videographer, who has a garage-full of tapes. Over the years, I think we've taken twelve to sixteen trips just to find footage."

"We plan to incorporate action footage and still photos to tell the story. To transport you back to Foxcatcher during time period from 1986 to 1996."

Cooperation, not competition

It would be easy to imagine -- incorrectly -- that there might be some competition between the team putting together the Dave Schultz documentary, and those working on the "Foxcatcher" Hollywood movie.

Instead, there is a spirit of cooperation.

"Nancy and Mark Ruffalo have worked together on 'Foxcatcher'" according to Jeremy Bailer.

"I've been on the set of 'Foxcatcher' a few times," added Nancy Schultz. "Everyone working on that movie is fantastic."

"Both Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum have said they'd help promote our documentary."

A positive experience

In talking about the long process in assembling the elements of the documentary, Nancy Schultz told InterMat, "It was exciting to put together. Very rewarding."

"It's been so much fun to introduce folks to each other. Wonderful to see how open people are to sharing their stories and experiences."

"The highlights are incredible," Schultz added. "Jaws will drop. We have thousands of photos to share."

"It's been 17 years since Dave's death, and people are still very much interested in it."

"Our film will answer questions, and ask others," Schultz continued. "We want to let people come to their own conclusions."

As Jeremy Bailer put it, "Without John du Pont, we would not have had the success we had in international wrestling in the late 1980s and into the 90s. So, a prime question has to be: How did du Pont go from being a philanthropist to a crazed murderer?"

"We're getting closer to the finish line. We're working to be done by the end of the year," said Bailer.

"We need to get the film down to a final cut, then shop it around," said Bailer. "Our goal is to have it in theaters, but TV is an option."

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