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David O. Russell Talks 'American Hustle,' Enchantment, Opera, Musicals, The Immersion of Christian Bale & More

Photo of Rodrigo Perez By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist December 12, 2013 at 2:11PM

Filmmaker David O. Russell has energy and enthusiasm to burn. “The Silver Lining’s Playbook” director is three for three now in his new era that includes “The Fighter” and his latest picture, “American Hustle” (review here). Starring the spectacular all-star cast of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner on top of supporting turns by Robert De Niro, Louie C.K., Jack Huston, Elizabeth Rohm and many more, Russell’s latest is a colorful 1970s-set New York dramedy that centers on a con man (Bale), his partner (Adams), and the FBI agent who nabs them and puts them on the hook to cooperate in what becomes of the biggest conspiracy stings of that era that involved, mayors, senators and other government officials.
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The Bee Gee’s “I Started A Joke” is really sublime in this.
It's heartbreaking. That song was derided by me in my youth. We mocked it as the worst song ever. That’s the wonderful tipping point where you go, “I think I might love this.” That's the genius of it, it is a beautiful song, it's heartbreaking and [Melissa Leo and Christian Bale] sing it together in the car together [in "The Fighter"]. Likewise that [Bee Gee’s cover], “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” I would consider it operatically pushed. It's like opera. So that's the operatic emotion of Jennifer [Lawrence] coming out of that bathroom and Jeremy going up the stairs and Robert De Niro sitting there, all these events are happening in this opera. So that life is happening, emotion, tragedy, hope, deception, it's all happening as people are singing and wearing their clothes in the pageantry of life. That's something I love, there's something crazy and beautiful about it.

It sounds like you need to make a musical.
Here's the funny thing. If I'm in the house talking to Bradley or Christian or Jennifer like I'm talking to you, it's just happening, it's just flowing. Right? It's flowing. So then I go, I already wrote it and it's just a clerical act and I capture it. Likewise with a musical. If you said to me, “Are you going to make a musical?” That sounds really intimidating. But there are more and more musical scenes in every movie. People are starting to sing. Christian sings in this movie, Jeremy sings, Jennifer sings. I think I'm slowly tricking myself into a musical, I'm backing into it [laughs].

You've done this trilogy, starting with “The Fighter,” about these kinds of people and their stories of survival. What will you do next? Will that change?
I'm in love with a certain rhythm of people and story and I know it when I see it so I'm going to continue to make characters like this and I'm going to continue to work with an ensemble like this if I'm so lucky to.

I recently read that you’d you'd written a horror movie once and a sci-fi movie and I wasn’t sure that fit in with your new trajectory.
No, no, no. Those were just script jobs that I did a long time ago. There's a part of me that feels like you can do all kinds of different movies but it's a very beautiful thing when you hear certain music. Then you're not pondering or searching. You already know the kind of music you want to create and listen to. That's why I was saying to you all of those intervening years were leading to this because it's very different to be in the other place in your career. It's just different. I can't say it's better or worse. I'm certainly much happier now. I can't say that for every filmmaker, but I'm happy living amongst these actors and characters and the themes that I love, that I'm happy to carry the banner for.

“American Hustle” opens in limited release this Friday, December 13th and begins national expansion on December 20th.

This article is related to: American Hustle, David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook, Interviews, Interviews, Interview, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence


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