Why “The Iron Claw ”only features some of the Von Erich brothers

Director Sean Durkin explains why youngest brother Chris Von Erich isn’t in his wrestling drama.

The Iron Claw is one of those stories that seems almost too unbelievable to be true. Sean Durkin's intimate A24 drama tells the story of the Von Erich brothers, a family of Texan wrestlers who conquered the ring in the 1970s and '80s. But their successes were also marked by tragedy, and of the six Von Erich brothers, five died young, succumbing to health issues, accidents, or suicide. (Kevin Von Erich, now 66, is the only one still living.)

Durkin's film focuses on four of the brothers: Kevin (played by Zac Efron), David (Harris Dickinson), Kerry (Jeremy Allen White), and Mike (Stanley Simons), all of whom followed their father Fritz (Holt McCallany) to become stars in the ring. The film also mentions the boys' older brother Jack, who died in a tragic accident at the age of 6. But the Von Erichs also had another brother named Chris, who isn't included in the film. The youngest of six, Chris was eager to follow his brothers into the ring, but he dealt with health issues throughout his life and never achieved the same level of success. He died by suicide at the age of 21.

A24 Harris Dickinson, Zac Efron, Stanley Simons, and Jeremy Allen White in 'The Iron Claw'
A24 Harris Dickinson, Zac Efron, Stanley Simons, and Jeremy Allen White in 'The Iron Claw'

Durkin tells EW that although he included Chris Von Erich in his original scripts, he ultimately decided to consolidate the brothers to four, purely for narrative reasons.

"That was one of the toughest decisions I had to make," he says. "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."

Instead, Durkin says, he wove parts of Chris' story and personality into the character of Mike, played by 22-year-old Stanley Simons. "We made a choice to narrow [the focus] while trying to keep the essence of him," Durkin adds. In the film, in theaters Dec. 22, Mike is the sensitive youngest brother, deeply loyal to his family but eager to pursue passions outside of the ring — like guitar and film. Mike eventually follows his brothers into the ring, especially after the death of David, but he never achieves the stardom that his brothers did.

"He and his younger brother Chris were both the younger brothers of these three huge, larger-than-life characters," Simons explains. "I thought that dynamic was interesting. You can see it in the videos you watch of him: He's obviously super supportive, and wrestling was such a big part of his life. But he also took the brunt of David's passing and was shoehorned into [wrestling] by his father, a little bit."

For more on The Iron Claw, read EW's full cover story on the film here.

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