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Wrestling legend Mark Schultz: New 'Foxcatcher' film a greater accomplishment than Olympic medals

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MMAmania.com spoke with Olympic gold medalist and wrestling legend Mark Schultz about the new Bennet Miller film based off the lives of he and his brother called "Foxcatcher," as well as the decision to cast Channing Tatum in the lead role, why wrestling is the hardest sport in the world, and so much more.

Steve Carell as John du Pont and Channing Tatum who plays Mark Schultz
Steve Carell as John du Pont and Channing Tatum who plays Mark Schultz
Sony Pictures Classics

The story based on the real-life events of the Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion wrestler, Mark Schultz, will be heading to theaters on Nov. 14, 2014 through Sony Pictures Classics. Titled Foxcatcher, the film was directed by Bennet Miller, who was behind the lens for his second-straight sports film after Moneyball, which was nominated for six Academy Awards back in 2012.

Foxcatcher stars Channing Tatum as Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as his brother David Schultz, and Steve Carell as John du Pont, the schizophrenic millionaire and founder of "Team Foxcatcher." The early reviews have been positive with US Magazine calling it a "Surefire Oscar contender" and The Hollywood Reporter saying it is "Mesmerizing" and that Miller has surpassed the fine work of his two previous films including Capote.

The National Wrestling Hall of Famer is still quite shocked and overwhelmed that the movie -- which took over eight years to create -- has finally come to fruition.

"It is a surreal feeling of almost disbelief," Schultz told MMAmania.com. "I wake up every morning stunned that this is even happening. Honestly, I think Foxcatcher is one of the greatest performances of modern film. Each of them (Tatum, Ruffalo, Carell) had very difficult roles to play and each of them performed like champions. It's uncanny how accurate they are in their portrayals."

Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group, will be releasing an autobiography with the same title by Schultz, that he wrote along with award-winning sports journalist, David Thomas. While the film touches more on the tragedy of his brother David, the book takes you through the triumphs of his athletic career, the personal struggles that led him to join up with du Pont, and a true inside perspective of what really went on at Foxcatcher Farms.

The trailer to the movie reveals a very dark tone and there are many ripping and guttural moments within Foxcatcher that took their toll on Schultz during the filming process, since it forced the Hall of Fame wrestler to revisit some tragic moments from his past. The most trying being the recreation of the murder of his brother, who was also an Olympic medalist and his role model.

"It was very tough on me," said Schultz, who served as a producer and also plays a weigh-in official in the film. "It was extremely tough on me, the actors, and the director. To quote Channing Tatum, he said, 'Most movies you do are fun. This one was not fun at all.' Mark Ruffalo said the same thing. They suffered and I suffered watching them recreate the worst part of my life. I had to actually walk out of the set when they were filming, it was so painful. I couldn't watch it. An article came out about Foxcatcher and they said 'there is not a hint of fiction in this movie and it's the scariest monster movie of the year.'"

Schultz, 53, raved about the actors saying their "performances are incredible." The wrestling legend said Mark Ruffalo had to gain 30 pounds for the role and that he was actually a "pretty good" high school wrestler. But it was the alteration of the actor that is bringing his role to the screen that he was most impressed with.

"I don't think people appreciate how difficult Channing's role was," said Schultz, who retired from mixed martial arts (MMA) after defeating Gary Goodridge at UFC 9 in Detroit, Michigan. "He had to actually transform his body. He widened his lats. He thickened his neck. His arms, his shoulders, his legs all got bigger. He looks much different than he did in Magic Mike. He looks better in my opinion."

Schultz is lauded among wrestlers and mixed martial artists and has long been considered one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport. He won three national titles at Oklahoma, and his famous match against Ed Bannach -- where he stopped the Iowa Hawkeye from winning his fourth-straight NCAA title -- was the lone match televised on ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1982.

Nowadays, MMA has allowed wrestlers to shine as several UFC titleholders all come from a wrestling background. It has also brought a ton of attention to the NCAA wrestling tournament that is televised every year now, as writers and fans are tuning in to see the talent level of those athletes who are going to turn pro and compete inside the world of MMA.

"What makes wrestling so great is that it is the hardest sport there is," said Schultz, who recently signed with Keppler Speakers and is expected to be a highly sought-after self-help guru of sorts.

"There is nothing harder than going through a Division-1 NCAA wrestling season. Nothing. Maybe being on the front lines of a war, or dying from cancer, or being in isolation in prison or something. Even those guys don't know they are going to suffer every day like wrestlers do."

Foxcatcher is assuredly going to bring you deep into the world of the competitive spirit and anguish of Schultz and his brother David and it will shock you to hear exactly how much the two-time Olympic medalist cherishes this film and holds it in a higher esteem than his legendary athletic accomplishments.

"It is the greatest thing that has happened in my life," he said. "Easily the greatest. Even greater than the Olympics."