Late last month, I had the opportunity to chat for about 40 minutes on the phone with the writer-director David O. Russell, who recently received a Golden Globe nomination for his direction of “The Fighter” (Paramount, 12/10, R, trailer), and who is — along with his film, lead actor Mark Wahlberg, supporting actor Christian Bale, and supporting actresses Amy Adams and Melissa Leo — among the top Oscar contenders of the year.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AUDIO OF OUR CONVERSATION!
Russell is someone who has always fascinated me. Over the last two decades, he has directed five of the most unconventional films to come out of Hollywood — “Spanking the Monkey” (1994), “Flirting with Disaster” (1996), “Three Kings” (1999), “I Heart Huckabees” (2004), and now “The Fighter” (all of which he also wrote except for “The Fighter”) — and yet even the most informed Hollywood insiders know only snippets about him, his background, and his creative process. If people know anything, it’s that he had two brief but spirited disagreements years ago with actors (both of whom subsequently professed their admiration for him as a filmmaker), one of which was leaked online –where a fleeting moment in time can live on forever as if it happened yesterday — and generated a lot of negative attention for him. Over the ensuing years, Russell, who hadn’t made a film since “Huckabees” until “The Fighter,” has said very little publicly about those incidents or anything else. It is, perhaps, for that reason that perceptions — or misperceptions — of him had begun to be accepted by many as incontrovertible facts.
Now, though, thanks to the tremendous response to “The Fighter” and the film’s resulting publicity campaign, Russell is finally speaking directly to people about his own life, work, and outlook. He is defining himself instead of allowing others to define him, and he is coming across as a very smart and pleasant, if somewhat intense, guy. During our interactions this year — at a luncheon for the film, at a Q&A with him and his stars that I moderated, and during the aforementioned telephone interview (the audio of which you can hear below) — he spoke very softly, often took long pauses to consider his thoughts and words, came across as genuinely contrite about his past shortcomings (the topic of which was raised by him, not me), and, above all, seemed pleased to at long last have the opportunity, in the form of “The Fighter,” to remind people that he is much more than just the unwitting star of a viral video. Indeed, he is one of our finest filmmakers.
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