In the last seven years, if you tracked every project filmmaker David O. Russell was linked to, you’d likely find over a dozen films that he was seemingly intended to direct. Even in the two years since “The Fighter,” Russell’s been ostensibly attached to myriad projects — “Mission” with Brad Pitt,” “American Sniper” with Bradley Cooper and a biopic of former Rhode Island Mayor Buddy Cianci, just to name a few.
But when asked about it, the filmmaker shrugged and said “mentioned in connection” is the operative phrase. “Eh, but that’s all just talk and things that people say,” Russell said, suggesting some of these “attachments” aren’t exactly real. “Sometimes they’re biting on my name to keep [a project] alive and sometimes it's something that I really wanted to make happen.”
One of the those projects that’s quote unquote real and one that he wants to return to is “Old St. Louis,” a comedic drama about a traveling salesman and absentee father whose life changes when his daughter becomes part of his life. It was set to star Vince Vaughn, Scarlett Johannson and Chloe Moretz. “My Dad was a salesman and his Dad was a salesman and it was really based on his Dad's experiences as a salesman and it's a great story. We're still talking about it,” the director said. "I wanted to make that happen, but [Vaughn’s] own schedule us kept not being able to do it and so then that’s what happened with that. You know there's always a specific reason for every story.”
The pair almost worked together on “2 Guns,” Universal’s adaptation of a Boom! Studios comic book (that comes to theaters next year starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington with Baltasar Kormakur directing) and suffice to say the director has Vaughn in mind often. “Oh yes, I'm thinking about [him and I working together] all the time. I have a couple of times and obviously we almost have,” he said. A collaboration certainly sounds inevitable.
While known for comedic human dramas, Russell, who directed the action-oriented “Three Kings,” flirted with many overt genre projects in the last few years, including the adaptation of the video game “Uncharted” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” “Yeah, I thought, 'Let me try and make a proper living,’ you know?” he said with a laugh.
The interesting thing about his almost-adaptation is that it led him to Bradley Cooper, and along with would-be co-star Scarlett Johansson, they campaigned the studio to get Russell on board. “The zombie's one that was a fun thing that was the second thing I ever adapted and I thought that could be fun, but we disagreed over budget,” he explained. “You know they promised me one at Lionsgate. That's where I got to know Bradley because he was pursuing that. He and Scarlett Johansson went to the studio to try to get me. That's how passionate they were about trying to do the movie with me — to try to get the budget that we needed at the time.”
But over time, Russell has learned to not sweat the small stuff and thinks perhaps it's better that it didn’t come to pass. “Then after a little while it wasn't meant to be because there was too much zombism everywhere,” he said. “I wanted to do some funny shit in that movie! Well, you know what? Now I'm going to get some opportunities that are maybe what I'm meant to do. I was knocking at all of those doors it just didn't come together at the time.”
Indeed, there are some great opportunities on the horizon, including his next film, formerly titled “American Bullshit,” that boasts the outstanding cast of Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner (you can read some of the details Russell gave us on this “intense, funny and insane” drama here). Now untitled, this FBI Abscam film is scheduled to hit theaters in the fall of 2013, likely making it yet again another contender in the autumn Oscar season.
For more David O. Russell, be sure to check out our long-form interview with the director. “Silver Linings Playbook” is now playing in limited release.