The Iron Claw isn’t just a biopic about the tragic Von Erich brothers, who met difficult fates while striving for success as professional wrestlers in the 1980s and 1990s. The new A24 film is also a study in toxic families, a topic director Sean Durkin thinks is under-explored — “which is part of why I’m so drawn to it,” he tells Consequence.
Starring Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, and Harris Dickinson as three of the Von Erich brothers, Durkin calls the Iron Claw ensemble “a dream cast — I’ve wanted to work with all of them for a long time. So it was identifying the core characteristic I was looking for and matching that to the right actor, starting with Zac and then building from there.”
Efron plays Kevin Von Erich, the oldest living brother of the clan and the key living witness to the story. There was no past project of Efron’s that inspired Durkin’s interest in casting him, though — says Durkin, “I’ve just always loved what he does, and I love the versatility that he has. And he has always got this sort of sweetness in his presence. I’m a big fan of his and have been for years, so I always wondered how it would feel, to put him into one of my worlds.”
The Iron Claw doesn’t lean on one single source of information for its source material: Instead, Durkin drew his portrait from in-depth research, including articles and interviews. When it came to the real-life Kevin, Durkin initially wanted to maintain a bit of distance, because “I was coming to this as a fan who loved him and loved the family, so I wanted to keep some space so that I could make tough decisions and not have to factor in those emotions.”
However, Durkin adds, “once I knew the movie I was making, I reached out, and he’s just been an incredible ally. He and his family, I’ve become quite close to them.”
Durkin knows that this is a film that will reach two audiences — wrestling fans intimately familiar with the tragedies of the Von Erich family, and those with no prior knowledge of the subject matter — who won’t be bothered, for instance, by the script not including youngest brother Chris Von Erich.