CANONSBURG – Drew Headlee has been a frequent competitor in the Dave Schultz Memorial Wrestling Tournament, held annually to honor the wrestler who was shot to death in 1996 by John du Pont on the Foxcatcher Farm in Newtown Square near Philadelphia.
Now, Headlee hopes to be one of the individuals who can honor Schultz by participating in a movie, “Foxcatcher,” which will detail the life and ultimate death of the former Olympic gold medalist.
Headlee, who is coaching wrestling at the University of North Carolina, was included in a small group of invitees to audition for a part in “Foxcathcer” at Canon-McMillan High School Saturday morning.
The movie is directed by Bennett Miller, who received an Academy Award nomination for directing the movie “Moneyball.” The release date for “Foxcatcher” is set for January 2013. The movie chronicles the life of the Schultz brothers, who each won Olympic gold medals in 1984, and recounts the events leading up to Dave Schultz’s murder by du Pont, who was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Du Pont was sentenced to 13 to 30 years and died in prison at age 72 in December 2010.
The auditions at Canon-McMillan lasted until late afternoon and were divided into two groups: by invitation only and open audition. Headlee was in the latter. Handling the wrestling choreography was John Giura, who was a two-time World Cup Champion and three-time NCAA All-American, and Jess Jantzen, an NCAA champion at Harvard.
“I’m good friends with John Giura, and he told me about the filming,” said Headlee, whose father, Ron, is now the head coach at Waynesburg University after a high school career in which he coached Cary Kolat to four PIAA championships at Jefferson-Morgan.
“I just happened to be home this weekend to go to the Steelers-Jets game. I don’t know if I’ll (get called back). I hope I will. I’m still training, so I knew I could still hit a double-leg (takedown in the audition).”
Headlee was not in the previous movie about wrestling filmed in this area, “Reversal,” but his brother, Ethan, was, and so was Derrick Nelson, who also is a graduate of Waynesburg High School.
“It’s cool that they are filiming it here,” Headlee said. “With all the films that are being made in Pittsburgh, it’s nice to see them bringing attention to the city.”
Ken Chertow, an Olympic qualifier for the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, also was on hand for an audition. He felt it was important to come, considering his friendship with the Schultz family.
“I was around Dave Schultz all my life as an athlete,” said Chertow, who conducts clinics and has a number of instructional videos avaiable. “I’ve never been in a movie other than the wrestling I did on my videos. It’s a unique challenge. Getting in front of a camera is getting in front of a camera.
“I was very close to Dave Schultz. He helped me perfect my freestyle skills. I’ve always considered myself a Dave Schultz protege.”
Jason Robison, who is a former head wrestling coach at Washington & Jefferson College, was hoping to get called back for one of the coaching parts, but he would take anything offered.
“I told them I could do anything,” said Robison, who until recently was working in commercial sales. “I’ve been a commercial with Bruce Baumgartner at Edinboro when he was training for the Olympic team. If I wasn’t here, I would have been at the gym with my wife doing strength training. So I thought. ‘Why not give it a try?’”
“Foxcatcher” is scheduled to be released in early 2013 and will star Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.
Carell recently starred in the hit television series, “The Office” and played Brick Tamland in “Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story.” He also had prominent roles in “Bruce Almighty” and “Get Smart.” Tatum, who is expected to play Dave Schultz’s brother, Mark, starred in the film adaptation of “21 Jump Street” and such movies as “Step Up” and “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Ruffalo, who will play Dave Schultz, has appeared in 60 films, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2010 movie “The Kids Are All Right.”