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Annie Mumolo: David O. Russell Rewriting ‘Joy’ Script Was ‘Heartbreaking,’ ‘Tremendously Scary’

Mumolo only received a "story by" credit on the film.

Jennifer Lawrence in "Joy"

Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”

20th Century Fox Film Corp/Everett Collection

Annie Mumolo was riding high off an Oscar nomination for “Bridesmaids” when 20th Century Fox and David O. Russell joined forces to tackle her screenplay for “Joy,” a biographical drama on Miracle Mop creator and self-made millionaire Joy Mangano. Mumolo only received a “story by” credit on the film when it was released, and she has never spoken out about what went down behind the scenes of “Joy” until now. In an interview with Variety to promote her upcoming comedy “Barb and Star,” Mumolo said the ordeal with Russell was “heartbreaking” and “tremendously scary.”

“Oh boy. That was a toughie. It’s a tough business,” Mumolo said. “Everything that happened with ‘Joy’ and the making of the actual movie is a movie in itself. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say.”

Mumolo was joined in her Variety interview by fellow “Bridesmaids” Oscar nominee Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote and co-stars with Mumolo in “Barb and Star.” Wiig mentioned that writers penning scripts for studios are often “not consulted a lot,” adding, “When the movie gets made, if a director steps in, or the studio, I know personally, and from knowing many writers, it’s really hard when you hand it over.”

“In that case, it was more than that,” Mumolo responded about “Joy.” “Having worn both hats, the writer’s hat and the actor’s hat, they are such night and day experiences. As a writer, you’re treated very differently than you are as an actor, in almost every way. I feel like it’s exponentially harder for that reason alone. The ‘Joy’ movie was a very heartbreaking experience for me, and I had to just sort of separate because of that aspect of things. When it was going in one direction, we got a phone call overnight that there’s a change happening. And then I was asked to do things that were against my morality, and it was very difficult. When I didn’t feel comfortable doing those things that were against my values, I was lambasted. I can’t say too much. I guess probably because I was living in fear.”

Mumolo stressed she could not go into specifics about what exactly happened with Russell and Fox. While writing her “Joy” script, Mumolo interviewed the real Joy Mangano, who she continues to have “such a love for.” When her contributions to the movie were erased, Mumolo said it reinforced how in Hollywood “the people who have so much power are people who shouldn’t.”

“It was tremendously scary and a life lesson,” Mumolo added about her “Joy” experience. “It was a lot of upheavals, and it was just very strange. It’s something I never saw coming.”

Mumolo continued, “You almost can’t talk about certain things, which is sad as a writer because anytime you speak up for yourself, people warn you, ‘You better not do that, fake people won’t want to work with you,’ and you’re just defending your basic human rights. I had many people approaching me at the time to come out and say things or talk about it. But then it was, ‘Oh no, you can’t because you won’t get hired. You might not get hired again because you’ll be perceived as being “difficult.”‘ I just kind of had to swallow it. It’s just one of those things about the writer’s position.”

While “Joy” earned over $100 million at the worldwide box office and a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, the movie earned mixed reviews from film critics, many of whom considered it a disappointment after Russell’s strong run with “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “American Hustle.” Mumolo and Wig’s “Bard and Star” opens February 12 in theaters and on PVOD, courtesy of Lionsgate.

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