The LDS Convert Whose Tragic Story Was Turned Into a Movie Nominated for 5 Academy Awards

Editor's Note: LDS Living is in no way endorsing this movie. We are merely discussing the fact that it tells a compelling true story about an LDS man.

Nominated for three Golden Globes (Best Movie, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor) and five Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Hair and Makeup), not many would have guessed the critically acclaimed (and R-rated) 2014 film Foxcatcher had close ties to an LDS Olympian and convert.

But the movie captures one of the most tragic moments in Latter-day Saint Mark Schultz's life.

Growing up, Schultz was an all-around athlete, setting 20 school records. As a sophomore in high school, he became the Northern California All-Around Gymnastics Champion. However, Schultz followed in his big brother's footsteps, taking up wrestling in his junior year.

Though his brother, Dave, won the state, national, and international titles in his senior year, Mark had a mediocre first year of wrestling. However, Schultz's skill improved, and as a senior he won the state title.

In college, Dave and Mark teamed up together to train which greatly improved Mark's skill, allowing him to win three NCAA Championships. The Schultz brothers became the most-winning brother combination in American history when it came to NCAA, US Open, World, and Olympic titles. They also became the only American brothers to win World Championship and Olympic gold medals.

Dave won the 1983 World Championship and brought home an Olympic gold medal for the 1984 Games. Mark won his Olympic gold the same year, 1984, and the World Championships in 1985 and 1987. He retired from wrestling after placing sixth in the 1988 Olympic Games.

Just 17 months apart, Mark and Dave were nearly inseparable. “Their family life wasn’t perfect, so they really bonded,” Dave's wife, Nancy, told The Guardian. “They were so close, they were never separated. . . . They were never more than 20 feet apart.” 

In the 1980s, Mark was short on money. He'd just lost a job as an assistant wrestling coach at Standford and USA Wrestling didn't pay its athletes. So when a multimillionaire, John du Pont, approached Mark to join a wrestling program at Villanova University that would pay $24,000 a year and give Mark a home on du Pont's 800-acre Foxcatcher estate, Mark took the job. Later Dave joined his brother on the du Pont estate, despite du Pont's sometimes violent outbursts and many oddities.

Eventually, Mark left Foxcatcher, and in 1991, Mark Schultz began working as BYU's assistant wrestling coach where he became a convert to the LDS Church.

Then, suddenly, while training for a second Olympic bid in 1996, Dave Schultz was shot three times by John E. du Pont in his home at Foxcatcher Farm, dying in his wife's arms. Mark had suddenly lost “his best friend . . . and life-support system," Nancy Schultz told The Guardian.

It was only with the help of his LDS faith that Mark was able to overcome the hatred and anger that built inside him after his brother's murder. “My anger over time has turned to pity and my pity has turned into compassion for John,” he says. “I feel like I’ve gotten to understand him better, as odd as that sounds about a man who murdered my brother. I can forgive him,” he told The Guardian.

At the time, Mark was the head coach of Brigham Young University's wrestling team. And just four months after Dave's death, Mark competed in the Ultimate Fighting Competition IX, winning $50,000 and the competition.

The emotional and exciting details of Mark Schultz's life caught the attention of Director Bennett Miller, who captured it in the film Foxcatcher starring Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as Dave, and Steve Carell as John E. Du Pont.

Lead image of Mark Schultz at the 87th Academy Awards from Getty Images.
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