Many of us know what it’s like to work on a movie set with David O. Russell, because we have seen it, and if you haven’t or you’ve forgotten, here’s a refresher (go to the 1:08 mark).
Keep in mind, that’s Lily Tomlin. Lily Tomlin gives no fucks because she was in 9 to 5 and worked with Robert Altman and she doesn’t have to eat shit from a egomaniacal pissant, no matter how many critics love his movies. And that Lily Tomlin incident is not isolated. George Clooney came to blows with the guy on the set of Three Kings, and we’ve heard that Christian Bale had to step in on the set of American Hustle and get in Russell’s face because he was berating Amy Adams. And when Christian Bale gets pissed off about a director blowing his top, you know it’s bad, because Christian Bale has had his own on-set freakouts.
Adams now admits what had been rumored (or essentially confirmed in the Sony leaks), which is that David O. Russell had reduced her to tears on the set of American Hustle, as she tells British GQ:
“He did … I was really just devastated on set. I mean, not every day, but most,” she revealed to GQ. “Jennifer [Lawrence] doesn’t take any of it on. She’s Teflon. And I am not Teflon.” She then adds, “But I also don’t like to see other people treated badly … It’s not ok with me. Life to me is more important than movies. It really taught me how to separate work and home. Because I was like, I cannot bring this experience home with me to my daughter.”
What’s interesting/terrifying here is that there are some actors who have worked with David O. Russell on several occasions, even knowing what he’s like on set (leaked Sony emails characterized “stories of his abuse and lunatic behavior” as “extreme even by Hollywood standards)”. Wahlberg has worked with him three times. Bradley Cooper has stuck with him. Bale goes back to the David O. Russell well. Jennifer Lawrence has worked with him three times. Even Amy Adams worked with him a second time on American Hustle after The Fighter.
Why, if he’s such a raging asshole? Because unfortunately, he’s one of the few directors who can push those mid-budget prestige films through the studio system. You want guaranteed consideration when awards are handed out? Work with David O. Russell. Even Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for Joy, and nobody liked that movie. It’s The Revenant effect: The more you suffer, the more likely you are to be nominated for an Oscar, and no one suffers more than David O. Russell’s cast.
I suspect, however, that it’s finally starting to catch up to the director. He doesn’t have anything lined up at the moment (at least to my knowledge), and at some point, talent has to say, “It’s not worth the abuse. Let the prick suffer alone with his ‘genius.’”