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by Nigel M Smith
December 24, 2012 11:29 AM
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Honor Roll 2012: 'Silver Linings Playbook' Director David O. Russell On Making "Cinema That’s About Emotion"


Who was the first person that you cast in the film?

It’s very hard to remember the exact order… I think Mr. De Niro might’ve been the first, in this incarnation. And then he was someone who helped advocate for Bradley, because he knew him from “Limitless,” and he believed in Bradley as an actor. They had a good thing, in terms of father-son chops that felt organic. That happened like that. There were a lot of other actresses that we were talking to who we thought were finalists, and they are very fine actresses. Jennifer came in at the eleventh hour for a Skype audition, and she was probably the third piece to fall into place.

The reason I ask is because the dynamic between the ensemble is electric. What guided you in the casting of "Silver Linings"? Was it DeNiro?

What guides the whole thing is your feeling; you have a very strong instinct, and you have to trust in that. The work we do rides on the edge because it’s something that’s happening in real time, so, as it’s happening, you don’t know what it’s going to be -- but then, as you follow the feeling reveals itself to you. And then you know it’s right when -- well, we couldn’t have done it in 32 days if everyone wasn’t completely, passionately, in it.

"What guides the whole thing is your feeling; you have a very strong instinct, and you have to trust in that."
What do you feed off of when shooting on such a tight schedule?

It means you have to be very immediate and raw about the emotion. And very personal about it. Bradley's character has an immediacy and an intensity, which also fits the schedule. And the fact that he runs around town, reintroducing himself to people… Like, “This is the new me"-- that fits with who Bradley Cooper is now as an actor, I think. He would never say it; I say it. I think he’s embarrassed by it, I don’t think he would look at it that way. But I know that, as a director, that was a very useful weapon to me. To be like, “Who he is right now, as an actor, is very close to who this guy is in the movie -- in terms of having an intense appetite to be known more deeply by people who think they know him.” It’s hard to invent him. That’s a nice thing that lined up, really nice. Just like it lined up with Robert De Niro that he cried when I talked to him about this project because, as a father, he’s known these situations from people he knows. You can’t invent that. These are things that allow him to show up more.

We used to have to wait such a long time to see a new film by you, but "Silver Linings” came out right on the heels of "The Fighter," and you have a new film slated to open next year.  Why do you now feel the need to get films out at a quicker rate?

Part of it is the function of trusting a creative process that requires instinct. And genuineness. And I'm much better, I think. And being ponderous or overthinking things. That’s the kind of cinema that I feel like I’m really making right now. The next one, I’m going to do that again. Cinema that’s about emotion. It’s about people and emotions. Like I said, there are a lot of great films this year, but I think that’s what our film has, more specifically; it’s just about people and their emotions. I’m happy to be embracing that. I’m happy I have the clarity and the feel for that, right now. That’s what I have a feel for. It’s like being in love with somebody, when you can be in love with something… You’ve got to seize upon that. You’ve got to act on it. It’s very great energy. And also, as you get older, you realize what a privilege it is to just make a film, period, let alone films like these. We’re just fortunate to make films like this because it’s not like it was 10 years ago. It really isn’t. There’s not as much opportunity, or money, around to make films like this.

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