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Foxcatcher in the news: Nancy Schultz profile, account of du Pont’s downfall

Left: 2007 photo of Dave Schultz family: daughter Danielle, wife Nancy, son Alexander; Dave's murderer John du Pont
Left: 2007 photo of Dave Schultz family: daughter Danielle, wife Nancy, son Alexander; Dave's murderer John du Pont
Both photos courtesy of, used with permission

Nearly two decades after the murder of Olympic gold medalist wrestler Dave Schultz – and three months before the movie “Foxcatcher” opens in theaters – two Philadelphia area newspapers offered in-depth feature articles on two of the individuals involved in the tragedy on Monday.

“The Philadelphia Inquirer” profiled Nancy Schultz, Dave’s widow, while “The Courier-Post” from nearby Wilmington, Del. provided a 1,500-word analysis of John du Pont, Foxcatcher Farm owner who was convicted of the January 1996 murder of Dave Schultz.

Nancy Schultz in the Inquirer

The Inquirer article opens with a description of how Foxcatcher Farm is being transformed from the site of the Foxcatcher Olympic wrestling training facility, into a new development from high-end homebuilder Toll Brothers now called Liseter, writing, “Most of the original buildings on the Newtown Square property, including the historic mansion where the eccentric millionaire barricaded himself for days after fatally shooting Olympic wrestler David Schultz in 1996, were demolished last year to make room for hundreds of luxury houses.”

The Inquirer continues, “The case, however, remains one of the most notorious in Pennsylvania history. And some of its key participants are bracing for a flood of attention, thanks to two films due out in the fall.”

One is “Foxcatcher”, the Hollywood film based on the autobiography of Dave’s younger brother Mark Schultz, also an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler, which is already generating considerable buzz, having scored winning reviews and “Best Director” honors for Bennett Miller at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and slated to open in theaters November 14. The second film is a documentary a tentatively titled “David”, a project of Nancy Schultz and filmmaker Jon Greenhalgh, which has been in the works since shortly after du Pont's 2010 death in prison. Nancy Schultz sees her project as a companion to “Foxcatcher” and is seeking a distributor to release her documentary to coincide with the movie starring Mark Ruffalo as her husband Dave, Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, and Steve Carell as John du Pont.

"A big part of me didn't want to create anything that would make du Pont more famous," Nancy Schultz told the Inquirer’s Allison Steele. "But a lot of us also wanted Dave's story told."

After du Pont was convicted of third-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to a prison medical facility in Pennsylvania, Nancy Schultz settled a wrongful-death suit against the multimillionaire murderer for what sources said was about $35 million. The settlement went into a trust for her children, Alexander, now 28, and Danielle, now 25.

du Pont's downfall

The “Courier-Post” story lays out the downfall of du Pont with these stark sentences: “du Pont, founder of the Delaware Museum of Natural History, had held a loaded machine gun to the chest of another wrestler, removed treadmills and bicycles from his estate because he thought their clocks were sending him backward in time and shot a group of nesting geese because he believed they were casting spells on him.

“The combination of du Pont’s unspooling life, his inherited wealth and his final violent act have brought the 18-year-old slaying at du Pont’s 880-acre estate in Newtown Square, Pa., back to the forefront in the form of a heavily anticipated, Oscar-caliber film due in November.”

Du Pont defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom told Ryan Cormier of the “Courier-Post”, “The case had crime, sports, mental illness and all the wealth in the world. It had everything. The only thing missing was sex.”

The “Courier-Post” story recounts a number of situations that make clear du Pont’s descent into madness, diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia.

Bergstrom said he will be watching the film with a keen eye this fall, hoping that producers portray du Pont’s mental illness properly, avoiding Hollywood’s sometimes-cartoonish depictions.

“I’m anxious to see if they do justice to his illness. It’s so easy to paint him as an evil man, but on the other hand the reality is that he was really a sick man,” he said. “From what I understand the film is pretty good. We’ll see.”

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