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Carell impresses as 'Foxcatcher' debuts to rave reviews at Cannes Film Festival

| Monday, May 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Featuring a startlingly dramatic turn from Steve Carell, Bennett Miller's “Foxcatcher” premiered May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival to largely rave reviews.

“Foxcatcher,” which was shot in and around Sewickley in 2012, is based on the true story of Olympic gold-medalist wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). To step out from the shadow of his brother and fellow Olympian, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Schultz moves into a wealthy benefactor's Pennsylvania estate and training facility, Foxcatcher Farm. His relationship with millionaire John du Pont, whom Carell plays with a prosthetic nose and a creepy stillness, develops into a tragic psychological drama.

“It was so far outside of his comfort zone,” Miller says of Carell's performance. “I've never seen Steve do anything that would give any material evidence that he could do this. We just chatted, and I heard how he thought and was thinking about the character, and I had a vision for it working.”

The French Riviera festival is where many Academy Awards hopefuls debut, most recently exemplified by best-picture winner “The Artist,” which premiered there in 2011.

While this year's festival already has seen several films that could become award-season players, including Mike Leigh's “Mr. Turner,” “Foxcatcher” premiered with larger expectations — and generally met them. That reflects the fact that Miller's first two films, “Capote” and “Moneyball,” both received a bundle of Oscar nominations.

“The style of this film and my other films is not so much telling a story as observing a story,” Miller says.

Anticipation for “Foxcatcher” increased after its release was postponed from last year's awards season, so that Miller could spend more time finishing it. Sony Pictures Classics plans to release the film Nov. 14.

“Foxcatcher” boasts several fine performances. Tatum has never better combined his hulking physical presence with vulnerability. But Carell's non-comic turn is the most eye-catching.

“None of it felt like an acting exercise,” Carell says. “It was a different experience altogether, and I credit Bennett for that.”

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