EXCLUSIVE: 'I could have easily snapped his neck': Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz reveals he once plotted to kill John du Pont, but now feels sorry for the millionaire who killed his brother - as he details real story behind movie Foxcatcher
- Olympic champion Mark Schultz was left devastated by his brother Dave's 1996 murder at the hands of their eccentric benefactor John du Pont
- He says his brother was his 'savior' and that he followed in his footsteps to become a wrestler, leading them both to win gold at 1984 Olympics
- Their story is now the subject of the movie Foxcatcher and Mark has written a memoir about his 'extreme' life
- Mark says: 'Now the movie has come out, I’m starting to learn more about John and his life before I met him and he had some really hard things to deal with'
- Steve Carell plays du Pont in movie - and Mark says: 'For a fraction of a second, I thought du Pont had come back to life'
Their faces are ruddy and aglow, their heads each crowned with a wreath.
Wrestler Mark Schultz beams at the camera, his eyes crinkled up, while his brother Dave, another talented wrestler, stares down, smiling at the gold medals the pair have just won at the 1984 Olympics.
Now, it’s just Mark, a two-time World Champion, who is left to tell their story. His brother Dave was murdered on January 26, 1996, by the very benefactor who came forward to pay their bills and provide training facilities on his sprawling Pennsylvania estate - millionaire John du Pont.
In the new movie Foxcatcher, slated for Oscar success, Steve Carell makes an astonishing turn as the eccentric du Pont, while Channing Tatum plays Mark and Mark Ruffalo takes on the role of Dave.
Mark too, has written his own book, also called Foxcatcher, which details his humble beginnings to the Olympics and the tragedy that was to befall his family.
In an exclusive interview, Mark tells MailOnline that he thinks about his brother every day, and how, while he may not ever forgive du Pont - and, in fact, admits there were moments he plotted to kill him (‘I could have easily snapped his neck at the trial’) - he now realizes just what a sad life the reclusive millionaire had.
Mark, now 54 and about to become a grandfather for the first time, first wrote down his life story in 1997 so his three children would know what he did, saying: ‘I’ve had a very extreme life with so many highs and lows, I’ve been carrying all this stuff in my head so I thought we should put it down on paper. I thought ‘well, I really need to tell my kids at least if no-one else’.
‘I think about Dave every day – I have a huge picture of him in my house, so I can’t escape him! There have been a lot of stories about my life, but this book is 100 percent from my perspective.'
Mark’s parents divorced when he was three. There was just 17 months between Dave and Mark and the Schultz brothers spent their childhoods shuttling between California, where their dad Phillip lived, and Oregon, where they lived with their mom Dorothy.
‘Dave was kind of a savior to me in a way’, Mark says: ‘We came from a broken home and Dave was the only constant in my life. He was older than me and much bigger, he protected me from the bullies in the playground and taught me what it takes to be a man.
‘He was real hard on me, but that was a blessing.’
Having followed his brother into wrestling in high school, Dave known as a master technician and Mark full of strength, heft and vigour, the pair both won gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
It was then that du Pont, a scion of the munitions dynasty, came calling.
The philanthropist called when Mark, despite his Olympic win, was living in a humble apartment that he rented within his dad’s house. His brother Dave and sister-in-law Nancy also lived in the house.
Near broke and still in training, the wrestling champion was flown first class and then by helicopter to his 800-acre estate, called Foxcatcher Farm, in Philadelphia. It was there that du Pont, a frustrated sportsman irked by his failure to ever be good enough to compete in the Olympics, offered Mark the chance to build a wrestling program at Villanova University in Philadelphia and be the assistant coach.
Du Pont wanted to breed a stable of US wrestling champions he nicknamed Team Foxcatcher – after his father’s thoroughbreds - recruiting pentathaletes, swimmers, triathaletes to the farm.
Taking the job for $24,000 a year, Mark moved in. His brother Dave, who had been approached by du Pont previously – refused the job, staying on at Stanford University as a coach.
Mark soon discovered he had made a mistake, telling MailOnline that when he first met Du Pont, he was a bloated, eerie figure in his late 40s.
‘He was absolutely on drugs when I first met him’ Mark says: ‘He looked like someone who had given in to the pleasures of the flesh, ate too much, took too many drugs, drank too much and didn’t work out.
‘He had dandruff caked on his head, there was food caked on his teeth.’
Du Pont, looked ‘as if he had borrowed Ronald McDonald’s bottle of hair dye, but hadn’t maintained it. Grey roots extended about an inch from his scalp before the bright red took over,' Mark noted.
As Mark tells MailOnline: ‘I thought, ‘If this guy has so much money why hasn’t he paid people to take care of him?’
‘We went on to Villenova and he showed me the wrestling room. And I thought ‘man, this guy’s got so much money, we can do anything - we can build a dynasty at Villenova, we can dominate.’ It just seemed like a dream come true…
‘Du Pont told me ‘America has not honored you and we need to remedy that’ and so he got work to find wrestling partners for me.’
But the relationship between du Pont and Mark was troubled. Ahead of the 1987 World Championships, Mark said he had to knuckle down and work, no matter how much he hated du Pont or the job.
‘It was real financial desperation,’ he says: ‘I couldn’t have a job and compete with the Eastern Bloc wrestlers. I had to figure out how to survive somehow and at the time du Pont was the only person who was paying us to compete….one of the things he liked to say was ‘I’m moving obstacles out of the way so you can focus’, but for me, he was the one giant obstacle.’
With du Pont snorting lines of cocaine in front of Mark – once even taking the drug from a police bag clearly marked ‘evidence’ (the millionaire was a benefactor of the local police) , his mind became more addled.
‘There was never a period when I was around John that he was not on something, whether it was alcohol, prescription meds, or cocaine’, Mark writes in his book.
Mark then lost out on gold at the 1988 Olympics, and with that his wrestling career was over.
He tells MailOnline: ‘After I lost I realized I didn’t care about wrestling any more, so I left Villanova and du Pont.
‘Du Pont was angry, I brought Dave to help me move my stuff out of storage, and he said ‘So you’re going to gang up on me, huh?’ He threatened me and I threatened him back. He said ‘thanks for teaching me a lesson’.
‘I really regretted my decision to go there, I just couldn’t believe all the stuff that happened. I was left penniless and my wrestling career ruined, I was really depressed for about eight years.’
Switching on a documentary on the Discovery Channel that du Pont had paid to have made about himself, Mark writes in his book: ‘My contempt for du Pont ran so deep within me that partly because of that documentary, I thought about killing him in 1989. ..I couldn’t have felt lower than when I saw his name appear over my image on the documentary he had paid to have made and aired. That served as the final reminder than he had taken advantage of all my pain and suffering to gain prestige and power, and then ruined my career. I wanted revenge.
‘I bought a miniature crossbow and placed a plastic milk jug on a stick and imagined the jug was du Pont’s head. I practiced enough to where I was good at hitting the jug from fifty feet, which I knew was the distance from a group of bushes at his mansion to a person walking up the steps from the driveway.’
Mark even planned the crime in such detail he said he planned to sell everything he owned, drop out of society, sleep in his car and wait for du Pont to leave his mansion before killing him.
He said he would then move to Brazil and have a child with a Brazilian woman so he could avoid deportation.
He ultimately decided against the plan.
That’s when Dave called Mark to say he was taking du Pont up on a job offer at Foxcatcher.
Dave moved on to the estate with his wife Nancy and their young children, Danielle and Alexander and things went well for him – because he had his family with him and other great wrestlers were at Foxcatcher on the back of Mark’s success.
Mark moved to Utah, where he married his ex-wife Kristy and took a job as a coach at Brigham Young University. He spent 11 years there and his children, son Mark David – named for his brother – now 21 and a personal trainer, and daughters Kelli, now 19, married and pregnant, and Sarah Jessica, now 15, were born there.
He also converted into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But as Mark’s life got back on track, Dave was left at Foxcatcher, where du Pont wandered around the property clutching guns, fearing spirits and Nazi spies he thought were at the estate.
It was on January 26, 1996, that du Pont pulled up outside Dave’s house and when greeted by his coach, said ‘You got a problem with me?’ Dave wasn’t given a chance to answer as du Pont pumped him with three bullets, including one in the back as he tried to get away.
As Dave's wife Nancy ran outside, du Pont drove off, prompting a 48-hour standoff with police as he barricaded himself in the property.
Devastated after being told of the news of his brother's death by his father, Mark was banned by cops from going to the estate.
He then went through the ordeal or facing du Pont every day at a trial . Du Pont pleaded ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’, but this was thrown out by the court and on February 25, 1997, a jury found him guilty of third degree murder but mentally ill. He was sentenced to 13-30 years in jail.
Mark tells MailOnline: ‘It was hard sitting there 20 feet away from him, with just a 3ft wooden bench between me and him. I could have easily jumped over the barrier and snapped his neck, but Dave’s kids needed to be taken care of in a settlement.’
And he muses: ‘Would I have gone through with it?…..it would be a very big step to commit a capital crime.’
Following the guilty verdict, Nancy Schultz, Dave's widow, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against du Pont. She reportedly won a $35 million settlement and brought up her children in California.
But still, this did not stop du Pont from trying to reach out to the family whose lives he had shattered.
Mark says: ‘Du Pont sent a private investigator to my house and I opened the door with a video camera and when I asked what he wanted he said he wanted me to tell him anything I could do to help du Pont…he wanted to get out of prison and he was willing to do anything at that point.
‘I closed the door and sent the tape to the prosecutor’s office.’
Du Pont died aged 72 on December 9, 2010 at Laurel Highlands jail in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and Mark says: ‘Du Pont died the day he killed my brother in my mind, so for him to actually die was just a formality to me.’
Oscar-nominated director Bennett Miller then started developing what would become Foxcatcher in 2006.
Mark is an associate producer on the film and was on set to see not only his brother bought back to life – but also his brother’s killer.
He says: ‘I had no doubts the film would honor the memory of my brother and treat him fairly and it does. I love the film.
‘Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Dave is incredibly accurate, the hard thing is to watch the end of the movie, of course.
‘Mark even got the unique way that Dave held himself, and he’s actually wearing Dave’s glasses in the movie.’
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo went through grueling wrestling training for seven months, while Carell undergoes an incredible transformation as du Pont. Mark admits: ‘I hate to say that I had contempt, but initially, I kind of ignored Steve. I knew it was Steve dressed up – but for a fraction of a second I thought du Pont had come back to life.
‘Then I spoke with Steve for quite a while, he’s a real nice guy, but I didn’t want to bother him. He was focused on staying in character, so I kind of left him alone. But he really got du Pont's mannerisms and speech pattern.’
Mark adds: ‘It’s a beautiful movie. The last time I saw it, I kind of let the past go.The movie is not based on my book – it’s based on the darkest parts of my life story.’
Interestingly, Mark says: ‘Now the movie has come out, I’m starting to learn more about John and his life before I met him and he had some really hard things to deal with.
‘You think having a lot of money is a blessing, I don’t think it was – if you’re the heir to a fortune that you didn’t earn, It can be a corrupting influence. He didn’t have a father and I feel bad for him….all these years later, I see the potential he had to really help a lot of people and he did, when he put money into a trauma center, helped USA wrestling and sponsored athletes.
‘Yesterday, I watched a video John had made, a documentary about me when I first came to Foxcatcher and there was a side to him that wasn’t all bad, he really was a lonely person, he didn’t have any friends. He was lonely and isolated and that can have a detrimental effect on anybody.’
Having become the first Olympic Gold medalist to enter Mixed Martial Arts under the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship helped Mark conquer his past, he says, adding: ‘I won and that was the way I always wanted to go out and be remembered. I got my happiness back and wrote my story.’
He is now a life coach, speaking at universities and corporations, using the very skills he learned in sports, and says: ‘It’s funny because when I was younger I thought that being Dave’s brother was a curse and now looking back, it was the greatest blessing.
‘He was real hard on me, but when it came to defending me against the rest of the world, he was my staunchest ally.’
If the film does win awards, Mark says: ‘It will be an honor because more people will know what a great man Dave was.’