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NEW YORK — On an unseasonably warm November day in a cozy corner of the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca, the director David Russell was speaking confidingly over coffee. Soon, his new movie “American Hustle” would arrive on the awards circuit — just this week it took honors at the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle, where it won best picture. But as Russell, 55, eyed an oncoming tray of sweets (“Wow, that’s a lot of cookies”), he wasn’t speculating about the fate of “American Hustle” as much as marveling at the long, circuitous, sometimes punishing road it took to get here.
To hear Russell tell it, the whole thing started at MoMA, In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art invited Russell to inaugurate a new series featuring young filmmakers, honoring a career that ignited in 1994 with “Spanking the Monkey,” a daring, offbeat comedy about young adulthood, incest and identity, In short order, Russell followed up that auspicious debut with the equally well-regarded “Flirting With Disaster” and “Three Kings.”, It was on the heels of “Three Kings,” a whip-smart, hyper-kinetic Iraq womens yoga shoes war comedy starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, that Russell was invited to MoMA, an honor he was reluctant to accept, “I said, ‘It feels like I’m getting too much attention too young, I’ve only made three movies, and I don’t know where I’m headed,’ ” he recalls telling his hosts, “I felt that it would be bad luck, and it was bad luck.”..
The museum event, as it happened, was emceed by Lily Tomlin, who had appeared in “Flirting With Disaster.” She then co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in Russell’s next movie, “I Heart Huckabees,” an “existential detective story” that found the filmmaker — who studied English and political science at Amherst College — playfully splashing around the philosophical conundrums and theoretical loop-de-loops that had long fascinated him. Some critics cheered “Huckabees” for its idiosyncracy and willingness to take risks; others maligned it for maddening self-indulgence. (Later, “I Heart Huckabees” would become the source of instant Web notoriety for Russell, when on-set footage of him profanely berating Tomlin became a viral YouTube sensation.) In any event, audiences were indifferent, and so began what might fairly be described as the Danish Prince years.
“A period began where I was over-self-conscious and over-thinking things too much,” Russell says now, “You start down certain paths, you do the same thing as before the bubble burst, [so] I did a project with Vince Vaughn, because I just love his voice, I spent a lot of time working on that only to go Hamlet, so we decided not to make it, Don’t ever go too Hamlet, that’s what I say.”, womens yoga shoes By “go Hamlet,” Russell refers to the pondering, second-guessing and temporizing that are seen in many quarters as the artist’s prerogative, Meanwhile, his marriage was ending and his son, Matthew, was grappling with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, A political satire called “Nailed,” which Russell wrote with his close friend Kristin Gore, wasn’t completed, He began taking work-for-hire as a writer, that glittering night at MoMA a now-cautionary reminder of just how quickly life can circle back around and bite you in the backside..
“It’s like, okay, you’ve got to pick over everything and change your mind 50 times and torture over things, and then you get brought to your knees financially and emotionally, until you are writing to survive [and] support your family,” Russell says. “And you now have two households, and suddenly it’s not as easy as you imagined it would be. And Sydney Pollack offers you a chance at a writing job, as a writer for hire, to adapt ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ which I adapt as a job — no promises of directing. Everything is different now. The guy who was honored at MoMA is a humble person happy for a gig.”.
Russell was “wood shedding,” as he describes it, writing scripts for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Old St, Louis,” another Vince womens yoga shoes Vaughn picture, “and eventually Mark Wahlberg sends you a film that you couldn’t get the first time or the second time around because your stock had dropped, But because you’ve been good to him, he comes back and says, ‘I think we should let you try this.’ ”, That film, of course, was “The Fighter,” a scrappy, spirited boxing drama about a washed-up athlete that found Russell hewing to his familiar spontaneous shooting style but in service to a story that felt deeply personal and imbued with new, higher stakes, The film, which earned Oscars for stars Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, was widely hailed as a triumph, with Russell’s own comeback story uncannily echoing the arc of the film, Having survived his own bruising sixth round, the writer-for-hire on “Silver Linings Playbook” was able to cherry-pick that very film as his next directing project..
Even more of a critical and commercial hit than “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings” earned another Oscar, for lead actress Jennifer Lawrence. (It received seven additional nominations, including for best picture.) Immediately, Russell plunged into “American Hustle,” a stylish, anarchically funny caper set against the backdrop of the FBI’s Abscam corruption investigation in the 1970s. The film, opening Dec. 20, stars Lawrence, Bale and “Silver Linings” star Bradley Cooper as highly fictionalized versions of some of the scheme’s real-life principals. The movie possesses a larky, slightly wild energy, punctuated by a mesmerizingly unhinged supporting turn from Lawrence. But it also speaks to Russell’s re-invigorated sense of sincerity: An oft-repeated catch phrase, “from the feet up” is the director’s shorthand for the kind of truth, authenticity and big-heartedness he now strives for and insists upon in every project, regardless of genre or real-life roots.
With “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and now “American Hustle,” Russell has created what he womens yoga shoes considers a trilogy of films animated by the very defeat and tenacious will to survive that characterized those years in the mid-aughts, when he was grappling with the same obstacles and self-deceptions as his protagonists, “I feel like everything was preparation for these three pictures,” Russell says enthusiastically, And, whether it’s the Big Bout in “The Fighter” or the Big Dance Contest in “Silver Linings” or the Big Sting in “Hustle,” Russell has vigorously embraced the kind of unapologetic sentiment and sheer exhilaration — what he calls “enchantment” — that he might have pooh-poohed as a more self-serious young auteur..