In the annals of actors wearing radical facial prosthetics is Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carell as millionaire and wrestling enthusiast John Eleuthère du Pont, boasting a fake schnoz that requires its own zip code. The film, co-starring Channing Tatum, hit theaters this week. Our own Jason Bailey called Carell’s performance haunted and harrowing, and explored the tragic real-life story behind the movie. Foxcatcher is based on the 1996 murder of Olympic champion Dave Schultz in 1996 by his wrestling coach, John Eleuthère du Pont, who had displayed bizarre behavior leading up to the crime. This is the first time the story has appeared on the big screen. We gathered other movies based on true-crime cases that you might not realize had real-life roots.
In 1929, Peter Kürten, best known as the “Vampire of Düsseldorf,” went on a murder spree committing a series of brutal killings and sexual assaults in the German city. For years, cinephiles referenced the terrible crimes whenever Fritz Lang’s iconic Peter Lorre thriller M came up, citing that the filmmaker was inspired by the child murderer. Lang denied this over the years, but also claimed he studied the many serial killers stalking Germany at that time — including Kürten, Fritz Haarmann (nicknamed the “Vampire of Hanover”), cannibal Carl Großmann, and Karl Denke. Lang also prepped for M by spending eight days in a mental institution, visiting murder scenes, interviewing prisoners and detectives, and hiring real criminals as extras (many wound up being arrested during the shoot).