DES MOINES, Iowa — In researching wrestling for the upcoming film "Foxcatcher," director Bennett Miller kept coming back to a simple question.
Miller wondered what drove wrestlers to suffer through tremendous hardship, dedicate themselves so completely and compete so intensely despite little promise of tangible rewards. Miller, an Oscar-nominated director perhaps best known for directing "Moneyball," found the answers "deeply moving and highly personal."
The experience quickly turned him into a supporter of a sport now fighting for its Olympic existence.
"The reason why people wrestle felt more pure to me," Miller told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Wednesday. "If you're in that sport, you're not doing it for money and you're not doing it to become famous. I found that an impressively high concentration of people were in it the intrinsic values of it."
Those efforts could lead to one of the most influential movies ever connected to wrestling.
"Foxcatcher," which is set to be released in late 2013, tells the story of John du Pont, the chemical fortune heir who killed Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Dave Schultz at his estate near Philadelphia in 1996. Schultz, a 1984 gold medal winner, had come to live and train at the state-of-the-art Foxcatcher National Training Center that du Pont had built on his 800-acre property.
After the shooting, du Pont barricaded himself inside his home for two days, but was taken into custody when he left his mansion to fix a boiler police had shut off. Found guilty but mentally ill in the slaying, he died in prison in 2010 at the age of 72.
The movie features Steve Carell as du Pont, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz and Channing Tatum as his brother, Mark Schultz. Miller, the cast and the crew spent years working on the movie, and the experience persuaded Ruffalo to assist the U.S.-based Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling.