The Iron Claw Director Sean Durkin On Wrestling Tragedies And Making Grown Men Cry [Exclusive Interview]


So I occupy a very fun intersection in that “Martha Marcy May Marlene” changed my life and also wrestling changed my life. So this is a wonderful conversation to be having.

I should be interviewing you! [laughs] I want to know more.

[laughs] You’ve spoken a lot about how you grew up watching old tapes of the Von Erichs, but what is it about them that you gravitated towards when there are countless wrestlers that you could have fixated on?

Just as a team — three such different individuals who just worked so well in the ring together — the family aspect, the fun they were having, they just felt so connected and there was so much love in the ring when they were together. Images like Kevin barefoot coming off the top rope, that just grabbed me. And the Sportatorium itself, the feel, it just looked different, it felt different. It just felt real in this way and I just wanted to be there. I wanted to experience it.

I like that you point out the realness of the Sportatorium because a lot of film depictions of wrestling has this “WWE gloss” to everything. But I watch “The Iron Claw” and I’m like, “That’s wrassling.” So what was your approach in how to capture that feeling?

Wrestling is at its best when it’s storytelling. And so it’s the same thing where it’s just like, you’re telling a story, it just happens to be wrestling. And some of the ways we’ve got into that was to wrestle full matches and to have the story play out in a full match. We trained the guys to be able to do that. And we had a live audience, so we just fully immersed in the matches and in the place. My production designer and I just worked rigorously on trying to recreate the Sportatorium the best we could with the space that we had and the details. I always want to feel it. 

When I make a film, I always want to feel the place. And you can’t really articulate to somebody how to do that. It’s like an instinctual thing when we’re making it. It’s like, we’re looking at the monitor, watching the footage being like, “Are we feeling it? Is the texture coming across?” And it’s only something you see live and you make these little tweaks to make it happen. It’s hard to put into words. It’s just making sure it feels right.

It’s palpable. My brain knew I was watching Zac Efron, but then he went off the top rope and kayfabe took over.

Thank you.

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