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Wednesday October 4th 2023

Foxcatcher | 2014

Foxcatcher film location: Morven Park, Leesburg, Viginia
Foxcatcher location: the exterior of the palatial Du Pont Mansion: Morven Park, Leesburg, Virginia | Photograph: wikimedia / Acroterion

Another (slightly disputed) based-on-real-life story brought to the screen by Bennett Miller, director of Moneyball and Capote, with rich-as-hell but socially inept John DuPont (Steve Carell), ornithologist, philatelist and philanthropist (the film omits conchologist) vainly attempting to use his family fortune to guide the US wrestling team to gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Much of the film is set on the vast du Pont family estate, which stood in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, until it was torn down in 2013. The land where the estate stood is now part of the Liseter housing development.

The film was made almost entirely in Western Pennsylvania apart from the palatial du Pont mansion exterior, which is Morven Park, 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg, Virginia, 35 miles west of Washington DC.

Standing on the northern edge of Leesburg, the 1,000-acre park, once the home of Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis, is open to visitors and boasts three museums, historic buildings and formal gardens.

The interiors, stables and grounds of the estate, though, are all in Pennsylvania.

The mansion’s elegant red-walled library, in which Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) has his first awkward meeting with the inscrutable and near-monosyllabic du Pont, is Wilpen Hall, 889-895 Blackburn Road, Sewickley Heights, northeast of Pittsburgh. Much later, it’s in the same house’s dining room that the two pose for publicity photos.

Wilpen also supplies ‘Foxcatcher’s’ impressive iron entrance gates and tree-lined driveway, and its spring house was used as the home of Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and his family, outside which the final unexpected tragedy takes place.

Wilpen was built in 1900 as a summer home for William Penn Snyder (hence the Pickfair-like name), and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

Du Pont’s office and bedrooms are those of Linden Hall, 432 Linden Hall Road, Dawson, 38 miles south of Pittsburgh. The 35-room Tudor Revival house, dating from 1911, is now owned by the United Steelworkers Union and used as a conference centre, wedding venue and golf course. Tim Robbins’ 1992 mockumentary Bob Roberts also filmed at Linden Hall.

The stables of du Pont’s mother’s (Vanessa Redgrave) beloved thoroughbreds are those of the (now closed) Rolling Rock Farms, on Darlington Rector Road, Ligonier, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh on Route 30.

The Schultz brothers are first seen training in the shabby ‘Wexler’ gym at the ‘University of Wisconsin’, which was the old gym at the West Mifflin Middle School, 371 Camp Hollow Road, West Mifflin, just south of Pittsburgh. Amazingly, the same gym was redressed for the production to become the smart, new and slightly antiseptic state-of-the-art ‘Foxcatcher’ wrestling facility.

Gus Van Sant’s 2012 Promised Land, with Matt Damon and Frances McDormand, also featured the disused school, which was scheduled for demolition in 2014.

Mark Schultz’s humble ‘Wisconsin’ apartment is 2711 Fifth Avenue, near the intersections with Fawcett Avenue and Lincoln Way in McKeesport. The scene where he wolfs down a sandwich was also filmed in McKeesport, at the old Arby's on Long Run Road. McKeesport is no stranger to the screen – scenes for Michael Cimino’s Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter were filmed at its cemetery.

Another famous screen cemetery is the one at Evans City, east of Pittsburgh, used for the opening scenes of George A Romero’s original Night Of The Living Dead. Coincidentally, a private home In Evans City became the luxurious stone chalet on the du Pont estate into which Mark Schultz moves after accepting the squillionaire’s financial offer.

At a lavish Citizen’ Defense fundraiser dinner, du Pont excruciatingly shows off the Olympic Gold Medal winner as if he were a trophy wife. The posh do is held in the two-tiered ballroom of the Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Downtown Pittsburgh. The film’s hotel scenes were also filmed in the Omni’s rooms.

John E du Pont sets up the ‘John E du Pont Regional Freestyle Championships’, at ‘Phoenix, Arizona’, in which John E du Pont himself competes and – crikey! –  wins the First Place trophy. The less-than-thrilling spectacle was filmed at the main gym of Trinity High School, 231 Park Avenue, Washington, Pennsylvania.

Mark takes part in the slightly more prestigious Olympic trials at ‘Pensacola, Florida’, which were staged at the California University of Pennsylvania Convocation Center, 250 University Avenue, in California, a borough south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River.

After losing in the first round, the angry and frustrated mark retires to his hotel room to binge on cake and, in an unscripted moment, savagely head-butt the mirror. The scene was filmed in the Comfort Inn, 2731 Mosside Boulevard, Monroeville. And, yes, that’s the same Monroeville whose shopping mall famously provided the setting for Dawn Of The Dead.

Foxcatcher film location: Petersen Center, Terrace Street, Pittsburgh
Foxcatcher location: the ‘1988 Seoul Olympic Games’ venue: Petersen Center, Terrace Street, Pittsburgh

Despite that first loss, Mark bounces back to win a place in the team at the Olympic games but, being based on true events, there’s no Rocky-style moment of triumph.

The disappointing ‘1988 Seoul Olympics’ were filmed in the Petersen Center, Petersen Events Center, 3719 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, which previously became the ‘Atlantic City’ tournament venue for the climax of Gavin O’Connor’s 2011 film Warrior, with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as a pair of wrestling brothers.

With the dream over and the ‘Team Foxcatcher’ project ending horrifically, the angry and shaven-headed Makes makes his debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league. For the tawdrily showbizzy mixed martial arts match, a fight cage and grandstand were built within the Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville.