April 25, 2024

Actors Stanley Simons, Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson, who star together as the Von Erich brothers, pose with WWE Hall of Fame member Kevin Von Erich, third from right, and director Sean Durkin, far right, for photos on the red carpet for the world premiere of the movie “The Iron Claw,” at the Texas Theater in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.

Actors Stanley Simons, Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson, who star together as the Von Erich brothers, pose with WWE Hall of Fame member Kevin Von Erich, third from right, and director Sean Durkin, far right, for photos on the red carpet for the world premiere of the movie “The Iron Claw,” at the Texas Theater in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.

ctorres@star-telegram.com

“The Iron Claw,” the movie based on the Dallas-based Von Erich wrestling family, is nearly here.

The Von Erich family were wrestling royalty in the 1980s, performing across North Texas in their heyday and living on a ranch in Denton. Led by patriarch Fritz Von Erich, five of the family’s six kids were wrestlers, and tragedy struck the family repeatedly during their reign.

By the time Fritz died in 1997, five of his six sons preceded him in death. David Von Erich died from enteritis in 1984, Mike Von Erich died by overdose in 1987, Chris Von Erich shot himself in 1991, Kerry Von Erich committed suicide in 1993 and first-born Jack Barton Adkisson Jr. drowned at just 6 years old in 1959.

Kevin Von Erich is the sole surviving son of the Von Erich professional wrestling clan.

Now, the Von Erich story is being told in the biographical picture “The Iron Claw” which held its world premiere in Dallas last month at the Texas Theatre. Kevin Von Erich was in attendance, along with stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and writer/director Sean Durkin.

The Star-Telegram saw the movie at the premiere and ahead of the film’s nationwide release on Dec. 22, here’s five things to know about “The Iron Claw”:

(L-R) Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich, Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich and Stanley Simons as Mike Von Erich in “The Iron Claw”.
(L-R) Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich, Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich and Stanley Simons as Mike Von Erich in “The Iron Claw”. A24

`1. Chris Von Erich does not appear in “The Iron Claw”

The sixth Von Erich child, Chris, is not mentioned nor does he appear in the movie.

Chris Von Erich (1969-1991) wrestled professionally just like his brothers, until he committed suicide in 1991. He was 21-years-old.

“Iron Claw” writer/director Sean Durkin told Entertainment Weekly that while Chris was included in the original draft of the script, the younger Von Erich was removed to consolidate the story.

Parts of Chris’ life were added into the character of Mike Von Erich, the fifth born son played by Stanley Simons.

“That was one of the toughest decisions I had to make,” Durkin told EW. “You could make nine hours of ‘The Godfather’ on this family. I didn’t have that opportunity, so I had to make choices of what could fit in a movie.”

2. The Dallas Sportatorium is featured heavily in the film

The now defunct Dallas arena — the Sportatorium — is the closest thing the Von Erich’s had to a home base of operations.

In the movie, the Von Erichs are seen wrestling in several matches at the arena, which is featured in the film’s trailer.

The now defunct Dallas Sportatorium makes an appearance in the trailer for “The Iron Claw”.
The now defunct Dallas Sportatorium makes an appearance in the trailer for “The Iron Claw”. Screenshot A24

“Iron Claw” writer/director Sean Durkin told the Star-Telegram at the world premiere, that it took a significant amount of time to recreate the arena.

Durkin and production designer James Price, went combing through photos and videos before actually visiting what remains of the Dallas site. In 2001, a fire burned down the historic building.

“It was actually really hard to find a space that matched well,” Durkin said. “We finally found an old furniture showroom and gutted it and built it in there.”

3. Other famous wrestlers appear in the “The Iron Claw”

The Von Erich’s are only as good as they’re opponents and a few make appearances in the film.

Wrestling legend Ric Flair is featured in the movie, who feuded with Kerry Von Erich in the 1980s. Actor Aaron Dean Eisenberg plays the role of Flair, seen in an image from the trailer below.

Aaron Dean Eisenberg portrays Ric Flair in “The Iron Claw”.
Aaron Dean Eisenberg portrays Ric Flair in “The Iron Claw”. The Iron Claw/A24

Other wrestlers featured in the movie include Bruiser Brody, tag-team The Fabulous Freebirds and The Sheik.

Professional wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr. portrays The Sheik and told the Star-Telegram at the “Iron Claw” world premiere that he knew the competitor well.

“I watched him my whole life growing up,” Guerrero Jr. said. “[The Sheik] was so maniacal and sinister. So I really wanted to bring that to the screen and hopefully I did that.”

March 15, 1980: Fritz Von Erich says the family “loves the heck out of each other.” Standing are Kerry, Kevin, David, and Mike; sitting are Doris and Fritz Von Erich, and Chris is kneeling. They are pictured in their home and two family dogs are seen in Doris’ and Chris’ laps.
March 15, 1980: Fritz Von Erich says the family “loves the heck out of each other.” Standing are Kerry, Kevin, David, and Mike; sitting are Doris and Fritz Von Erich, and Chris is kneeling. They are pictured in their home and two family dogs are seen in Doris’ and Chris’ laps. Vince Heptig and Ron T. Ennis Fort Worth Star-Telegram/UT Arlington Special Collections

4. The ‘Iron Claw’ highlights Kerry Von Erich’s Olympic run

Before he stepped into the ring of professional wrestling, Kerry Von Erich had his sights set on the Olympics.

After graduating high school in the late 1970s, Kerry attended the University of Houston where he threw discus. It was there where Kerry trained for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.

However, as depicted in the film, while in training, Kerry hears the news: President Jimmy Carter orders the U.S. to boycott the Summer Olympics because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

It was the U.S. Olympic boycott that ultimately sets Kerry on a path to professional wrestling — joining his brothers in the ring.

Zac Efron stars as Kevin Von Erich in “The Iron Claw”.
Zac Efron stars as Kevin Von Erich in “The Iron Claw”. A24

5. ‘The Iron Claw’ doesn’t hide or sugarcoat its tragic story

Some have called the Von Erich family story a “Greek tragedy,” full of pain and loss.

“The Iron Claw” portrays just that, the rise and fall of a family marked by painful loss.

Sure, the film depicts the highs of the Von Erich brothers growing up and competing together. But viewers should expect the eventual comedown.

Writer/director Sean Durkin’s film portrays the Von Erich brothers as lovable brutes in a dangerous and ferocious sport. Whether its in the ring or out, the family goes through hell together.

“The Iron Claw” hits theaters nationwide on Dec. 22.

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Brayden Garcia is a service journalism reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where he worked at the student newspaper, The Shorthorn. He previously covered education at The Dallas Morning News.


source: star-telegram

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