When Sidney Pollack gave Russell Matthew Quick's novel from which the film is adapted some five years ago, the writer/director especially related to the material because of the struggles of his eighteen-year-old son Matthew, who is bipolar. "If it weren't for my son, I never would have made this movie," Russell said. "My son has taught me so many things. I've learned that some people can't afford a negative attitude. It's a luxury to have a sort of cynical or a negative attitude."
Russell wasn't the only one on set who had a family connection to the issues raised by Cooper's character. De Niro, too, has "a personal understanding about the situation," the actor said. "It's different, but you can still apply those things [to the work]. You use whatever works, as long as you don't hurt anybody or yourself."
Russell said that he's talked to De Niro over the years about having "members of our family who had various challenges" with mental health, and the two realized it provided them "an emotional gateway to the material." "It makes it very specific and personal to you," Russell said, "and you care about it and understand it, because this is personal for both of us."
Matthew previously performed in a production of "Aladdin" at Devereux Glenholme, a therapeutic boarding school in Connecticut which provides an education for students diagnosed with Asperger's, ADHD, PDD, OCD, Tourette's, depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities. It's a school his father fundraises for by auctioning off roles in his movies -- a girl who kissed Christian Bale at the opening of "The Fighter," and the judges in the "Silver Linings" dance competition won their parts this way.