CANNES: Steve Carell is an Oscar Lock for ‘Foxcatcher’ (Analysis)

Foxcatcher Cannes 2014

The actor gives one of the most transformative performances of the year

The Oscars are eight months away still, but the unofficial kickoff to awards season happened on Monday morning in Cannes, when Bennett Miller’s new drama “Foxcatcher” was screened to journalists at the Lumiere.

The knockout performance in a cast of great performances is Steve Carell as John du Pont, the schizophrenic millionaire who in 1996 murdered Olympic wrestler David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) after befriending his wrestler brother Mark (Channing Tatum).

SEE ALSO: Cannes Film Review: ‘Foxcatcher’

Carell is barely recognizable in the part, wearing a prosthetic nose (a la Nicole Kidman in “The Hours”), false teeth and a receding hairline. It’s not just the physical transformation that’s so impressive. Carell inhabits the character from the inside. He interprets du Pont as a modern-day Norman Bates mixed with Jay Gatsby, and he prepared for the part by studying hours of footage of the real man.

“I watched as much as I could, I read as much as I could about him and tried to get semblance about the type of person he was,” Carell said in the Cannes press conference following the film. It turned out there was a lot of material to choose from, because du Point was such a narcissist, he commissioned documentaries about his own life. He made his Pennsylvania estate into a training ground for American wrestlers and called himself a coach, even though he didn’t know much about the sport.

Miller said that there was nothing in Carell’s comedic career that suggested he could pull off such a rigorous character study. But after a lunch, Miller was convinced he had it in him. “I think all comedians are dark,” said Miller.

SEE ALSO: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum in ‘Foxcatcher’ Teaser

Sony Pictures Classics, which releases the film on Nov. 14, will enter Carell in the lead actor category in the Oscar race.

“Foxcatcher” also showcases career-best performances from Tatum (the film’s other lead) and Ruffalo (in a supporting role), and both should be considered strong bets for Oscar nominations too, as well as Miller (who made trips to the Academy Awards with “Capote” and “Moneyball”) in the directing and best picture races. “We prepared pretty intensely for about five to six months,” said Tatum, adding that the wrestling practice left him and Ruffalo with bum knees. It was worth the sacrifice: “Foxcatcher” is already one of the big success stories out of Cannes.

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  1. Al Wills says:

    Worst movie, God awful boring performance by one of my favorite hard working nice guy actors!!! Interesting story that was totally ruined by the movie!!! Yuck!

  2. KayGR says:

    This was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and the cast was full of people I like very much. Steve Carrell’s performance was one I have been striving to forget, and I ordinarily love love love all of the things he is in. That this movie has received Oscar nomiinations is unbelieveable. I wanted those hours of my life back.

  3. Reilly Reilly says:

    As someone who lives several miles away from where this all took place, I am looking forward to the film. Steve Carrell looks a hell of a lot like John du Pont. And even though the man killed someone, he was a genius. He studied birds. shells nature, opened a museum in Delaware of all his artifacts. He was the most foreknown philatelist who held the rarest stamp ever. He was quite an interesting character.

    Would love to hear the story.

  4. Ian says:

    I agree it’s surprising when people are taken aback by comedians who do drama and knock it out of the park. Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Monique, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana, Will Forte, Will Ferrell, Hugh Laurie, Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard, Maya Rudolph, Jamie Foxx, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds, Tom Hanks… all these actors made some great transitions to drama, many of them drew major awards for them.
    Frankly, it’s more surprising when serious actors turn out to be good in comedies. I’d give Denzel Washington another Oscar right now if he could pull off an all-out comedy.

  5. PETER says:

    Right, well I don’t believe it and think these overly positive comments are from Seve’s publicist! You folks have no idea who will be nominated nor whom the nominating committee even is yet. What you might do is begin e-mailing those FOXCATCHER free screening invites to Academy members but also SAG members and schedule all concerned to attend Q and A’s. And,Channing, I want an autograph and photo with you!

  6. cadavra says:

    Everybody always seems surprised when comedy actors successfully take on dramatic roles. How often do we need to be reminded that comedy is MUCH harder than drama?

  7. Carrell first knocked it out of the park as a dramatic actor in Little Miss Sunshine. This might be the first time he’s done a character study, but never a doubt that he had the acting chops.

    • KEN says:

      He was BRILLIANT in Little Miss Sunshine (too bad Alan Arkin stole all the awards attention that year); that was the first time I sensed some real acting chops in him. Am seriously looking forward to Foxcatcher.

  8. SkinsMD says:

    Good to hear. Carell is a highly underrated dramatic actor. I thought his performances in Dan In Real Life and Crazy Stupid Love were remarkable.

    • Blonde, blue-eyed Jesus says:

      And don’t forget The Way, Way Back and one of the great TV roles of all time as Michael Scott on “The Office.” He showed amazing range over the years as Michael Scott. He’s basically on the same trajectory as Tom Hanks, so we should definitely take him seriously.

      • misery chick says:

        YES!!!! You are the only other person who has commented on Steve’s incredible range as Mr. Michael G. Scott–any actor who could find ANY likeable notes in that awful character def has serious acting chops. Michael would show 3-4 emotions simultaneously and you would be revolted, empathetic, touched while trying not to burst out laughing.

        I’m BEYOND THRILLED about his nomination this morning!

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