Home Entertainment Extravaganza The Iron Claw: The Real-Life Von Erich Tragedies You Don’t See Onscreen – Monomaxos

The Iron Claw: The Real-Life Von Erich Tragedies You Don’t See Onscreen – Monomaxos

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So much tragedy befell the Von Erich wrestling family that when Sean Durkin wrote a film about them, he found himself excising whole deaths from the script.

“When we did our first round of research, laid out a family timeline, and looked at the big picture of what the film could be, it was so epic,” says Durkin, a lifelong wrestling fanatic who spent eight years making The Iron Claw, the heartbreaking A24 drama opening in theaters Friday. “I knew it was going to be a long journey to find a film within there. It was too much to include.”

The film wastes little time introducing viewers to the Von Erichs, a sports dynasty so famous for loss that they’ve been called the Kennedys of wrestling. Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany plays the strict patriarch, heavyweight champion Fritz Von Erich (né Jack Adkisson Sr.), who spent his life making the sport a family business with his wife Doris (Maura Tierney) and his adopted name, a nod to the Nazi heel (a.k.a. a bad guy, in wrestling slang) he portrayed in the ring.

Zac Efron plays Kevin, the protective oldest sibling after a freak accident killed Fritz and Doris’s firstborn Jack Jr., when he was age six or seven. Kevin tells us this in voice-over, explaining how far back the family curse stretches. Then we meet brothers Mike, David, and Kerry (Stanley Simons, Harris Dickinson, and Jeremy Allen White), only to see each felled by the end of the film’s run time. David dies suddenly in a Tokyo hotel room in 1984, before both Mike and Kerry take their own lives—Mike in 1987, by overdose, and Kerry in 1993, after shooting himself in the chest. 

In real life, there was another brother: Chris. Described by Texas Monthly as “the baby, the brother who didn’t look like a Von Erich,” who had been rendered “stunted and round” from chronic asthma treatment, Chris also died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1991, after a life spent like Mike’s—in his brothers’ shadows and unable to conform to Fritz’s ideal.

“It was the hardest decision I made,” the filmmaker previously told Vulture about his decision to remove Chris from Iron Claw altogether. “The movie just couldn’t withstand another brother’s death. It’s hard to say this from a human level, but from a narrative and character standpoint, there’s a repetition that’s just hard to take. Mike, Kerry, and Chris all suffered similar fates: They took a gun or a bottle of pills into a field on their ranch and killed themselves overnight.” 

There were other precious cuts too. For a while, Durkin contemplated including the 1959 death of Fritz and Doris’s firstborn child into the script. The story of that sad passing, per D Magazine:

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