The singing started early.
Yesterday afternoon, the majority of the “Joy” cast took to a private room in the swanky midtown bistro Le Grenouille to celebrate their upcoming feature and talk about the production of the loosely fact-based feature version of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano’s life. The mood was lively from the start, and it stayed that way throughout the afternoon.
Star Jennifer Lawrence was not on hand for the festivities, but director David O. Russell, star Bradley Cooper, “special guest” Robert De Niro and a generous showing by the rest of the film’s talented actresses rounded out a full panel, squeezing into a double row of chairs when it came time for a half-hour panel about the film.
But first, cocktails and lunch.
Within minutes of her entrance, co-star Diane Ladd swiftly introduced herself to her table, before going around and inquiring for everyone else’s names, which led a discussion about the group’s respective astrological signs (upon meeting a fellow Sagittarius, Ladd took the opportunity to expound on their clumsier characteristics). After discovering that table-mate Celia Weston had just celebrated her own birthday (Weston is, at it turns out, also a Sagittarius), Ladd led her fellow diners in a quick and heartfelt rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Cooper barely had a minute to sit down before he was pulled into the next conversation, seemingly eager to squeeze in as much chatter as possible before an early (but scheduled) departure. Fellow Russell regular Robert De Niro managed to conduct a series of quiet phone calls before it was time to chat about the film at hand. Actresses Virginia Madsen, Dascha Polanco, Isabella Rossellini and Elisabeth Rohm circulated through the packed room, which included guests like Bob Balaban, Megan Ellison and Geoffrey Fletcher.
When it was time for the packed panel, Russell took to the makeshift stage with a full wineglass in hand, which he would soon use to punctuate his statements with a well-timed tilt forward (he did not spill).
The wide-ranging discussion touched on a variety of aspects of the film, but Russell and his cast lit up when talking about the collaborative nature of the feature and the “real family” formed by both recurring Russell stars (like Lawrence, De Niro, Rohm and Cooper) and relative newbies (such as Polanco and Ladd).
“It’s like a family, I mean, it really is,” Cooper said early in the discussion, a sentiment that De Niro later echoed. “I knew that David likes to have people around that he’s worked with before, he feels comfortable,” De Niro said. “Just a family feeling, a theatrical troupe feeling.”
Russell, however, couldn’t help but joke about the occasional repetitiveness of his cast. “[‘Joy’] was offered to Jennifer and I together, and our first thought was, jeez, is it too soon? Is everybody going to say, ‘oh, these guys again?,’ but when I look back on some of my favorite collaborations, I don’t think I ever thought about that,” the filmmaker said.
Still, the big attraction was the fresh new twist on those collaborations. “We were taking new chances,” Russell said. “I’ve never done a story with a woman at the center, I’ve never done a story that was unglamorous in the respect that, what she was doing wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was so difficult to accomplish.”
Having the team along for the ride only made the process that much smoother for Russell, who doesn’t seem eager to pick up a new troupe any time soon.
Before dessert could even be served, Russell and company were already back among their guests, dispensing hugs and holiday wishes to a joyous crowd.
“Joy” opens nationwide on December 25.