Cannes 2014: Foxcatcher director admits apprehension over Steve Carell casting

New film sees Carell in serious role as eccentric millionaire

Television and film funny man Steve Carell has gone straight in a new true-life drama about an eccentric millionaire whose bid to train Olympic standard wrestlers ends in tragedy which premiered in Cannes last night.

The star of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Evan Almighty plays the role of John du Pont with Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum as wrestling brothers in Foxcatcher, the new film by director Bennett Miller whose previous work includes Capote and Moneyball.

Unveiling the film at the French festival where it is competing for the Palme d’Or, Miller admitted Carell, 51, was not obvious casting.

“It obviously doesn’t resemble anything he had done before. It was so far outside of his comfort zone. I had never seen Steve in anything that would give any material evidence that he could do it.”

But when they met, Carell’s thoughts on the character and vision for him convinced Miller he could do it.

Carell, who began his career in American TV comedies such as The Daily Show and won a Golden Globe for the US version of The Office, said: “I don’t think characters in film know that they’re in a comedy or a drama. I think they’re just characters in films.”

Tatum and Ruffalo spent six months learning to wrestle and training for the roles of Mark Schultz and older brother, Dave, who is eventually shot by Du Pont.

Vanessa Redgrave makes a brief appearance as Du Pont’s mother, Jean, with Sienna Miller playing Dave Schultz’s wife, Nancy.

The stars also spent time with Mark Schultz and friends of the brothers – though Tatum admitted to being rather spooked by being watched by the real-life Schultz as he played him on set.

He was “grateful and thankful” for his help but said: “At other times I was just terrified…when you’re literally looking off camera and the person you’re playing is there.”

He added: “I can’t imagine what it was like for Steve having Nancy and family around as he was playing this.” Carell said: “I met her in character which was doubly awkward.”