Across his last three films, “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” David O. Russell has turned into a huge Oscar season player. Combined, the trio of movies have earned twenty-five nominations, but perhaps the more intriguing number, is that eleven of them were for acting. Indeed, Russell has become known as a filmmaker who can guide an actor or actress toward a genuine chance at taking home a statue on Oscar night, but the director himself doesn’t like that his reputation has become staked on that.
Asked by The New York Times what people misunderstand about him, Russell reveals that he’s uncomfortable being seen as only one kind of filmmaker. “That I’m an actor’s director,” he answered. “I don’t like being painted with that brush, quite frankly. I think it’s true to some degree, but it’s pigeonholing me. What I’m doing is as much about the cinema, it’s as much about camera and script. I don’t want those to be overlooked and say, well, it’s just about how I got a performance out of an actor. Unlike Cassavetes, there is no literal improvisation in my movies. Everything is planned out, even if we change it. I’ll sit with the actors for half an hour and go: ‘O.K., let’s redo this. Everybody agree?’ We never go onto the playing field not knowing what’s going to happen.”
And it’s a fair point. Often overlooked in his recent pictures are how well crafted they are beyond the performances, and it must be said, not every director could jump from a realist boxing drama, to a screwball romantic comedy, to a period-set ensemble piece and knock them out at such a high level. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what direction Russell takes with his upcoming “Joy” in terms of style, tone, and approach — he’s certainly a direct never to get too comfortable doing one thing.