American Hustle writer/director David O. Russell has departed the ABC drama series he was to executive produce with Susannah Grant. Russell developed the project with Grant, CBS TV Studios and studio-based Timberman-Beverly for several months. It was quietly set …
EXCLUSIVE: The chance that Jennifer Lawrence will repeat as an Oscar winner, this time for Best Supporting Actress for her work in American Hustle, has grown stronger since she won the Golden Globe and then surprisingly took the BAFTA award for Supporting Actress.
While Lawrence probably ate more salmon than an Alaskan grizzly bear during last year’s endless awards circuit banquet campaign leading up to winning the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, she has been relatively scarce in this race, mainly because she has been busy moving between her role as Katniss Everdeen in the final two installments of The Hunger Games shooting back-to-back, and playing Mystique in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Lawrence was doing re-shoots on the latter when she won the BAFTA last week. It was David O Russell, who directed Lawrence in both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, who accepted the award in her place. “I’d sat with her at last year’s BAFTAs, when she didn’t win, and me being loyal to her, I was upset and that became a screen grab for everybody and so this year, it was my pleasure to give what might have been the most heartfelt speech ever on her behalf after Leonardo DiCaprio gave me her award,” Russell told me.
Where was Lawrence during all this drama?
“Oh, it was a big surprise,” she told me when she took a few minutes away from shooting. “I didn’t remember that the BAFTAs were happening that day. I certainly did not think I was going to win one so I put it out of my mind,” she said. “So there I was, in the middle of being painted blue, and someone said, ‘You just won the BAFTA!’ And I said, ‘Oh, go f*ck yourself!’ And then it turned out they were serious.”
This is the refreshing thing about watching this young actress grow up before our eyes. She is more fun to watch than a lot of veteran actresses who win, and act like it’s the first time even as you suspect they’ve already made room on the mantel for yet another trophy. With Lawrence, the coltish awkwardness and unpredictability seem genuine, and seem just right for a 23-year-old who has gotten her third Oscar nomination and who anchors one of Hollywood’s most lucrative film franchises in Hunger Games. In fact, these awards fill her with so much anxiety that she has found it refreshing to be working rather than going from one campaign stop to the next.
Michael Wilkinson, who is nominated for Best Costume Design Oscar for Sony/Annapurna’s American Hustle , began working with costumes on theater productions in Sydney when he was 17. After dabbling behind the scenes on several productions, his interest as a costume designer took hold and he eventually found himself working with director Jim Sharman (best known to American audiences for directing/co-writing The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Together they worked on such theater productions as Jean Genet’s Splendid and The Tempest at the Sydney Opera House. It was the opening night of The Tempest when the director gave him a book about Italian costume designer Piero Tosi, who had worked with such legendary directors as Federico Fellini and Franco Zeffirelli and was nominated for an Oscar in 1972 for his work on director Luchino Visconti’s Death In Venice. “He showed me that costume design is an art form,” said Wilkinson. The Italian master used texture, fabric and design to wrap the essence of the character around an audience, whether it be working-class people or those of the social elite. And Tosi’s artistry in that kind of diversity inspired Wilkinson.
EXCLUSIVE: American Hustle helmer David O. Russell is in early talks to rewrite and direct an untitled Fox 2000 film about the remarkable life story of Joy Mangano, a struggling Long Island single mom of three who became one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs with her self-wringing Miracle Mop invention. He wants Jennifer Lawrence to play Mangano. Lawrence, after winning the Best Actress Oscar for the Russell-directed Silver Linings Playbook, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for American Hustle. The project has a script by Annie Mumolo, who with Kristen Wiig got Oscar nominations for scripting Bridesmaids. This is a rags-to-riches story of a woman who worked three jobs to support her kids and who overcame long odds to finally get her due with an invention that became an HSN sensation and allowed Mangano to clean up. It is a strong empowerment tale.
Tuesday night at the WGA West’s annual Beyond Words panel, ten WGA Awards-nominated scribes assembled to talk screenwriting and commiserate over the scripting challenges faced on eight very different films. A common theme of the night was distilling fiction from real life, as in Terence Winter‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer’s American Hustle, Billy Ray‘s Captain Phillips, and Melisa Wallack and Craig Borten’s Dallas Buyers Club. Nebraska writer Bob Nelson‘s advice seemed to ring true with more than a few: “The best thing to do as a screenwriter,” he declared, “is to pillage your family mercilessly.” Nelson modeled Bruce Dern‘s cranky Midwestern senior citizen Woody after his own father, and June Squibb‘s domineering character after his mother-in-law. “When my brother saw the movie he said, ‘That wasn’t writing – that was dictation.’”
Tracy Letts, who adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County for the screen, echoed that sentiment. The contentious matriarch Violet, played by Meryl Streep in the film in an Oscar-nominated performance, sprung from Letts’ own memories of his grandmother. “She was a really monstrous figure in my mind,” he said. “When I started to write this I wasn’t looking to find a way to sympathize with her, necessarily, but I was trying to find a way to humanize her. .. what I found to my delight and surprise and horror was that she was your mother, too, and she’s everybody’s mother.”
“Jordan (Belfort) was very much based on my grandmother,” joked Winter, who recalled the task of filtering the real life Wall Street swindler into a protagonist that could win over the audience before revealing his true colors. “We have the most unreliable narrator in history and that’s basically license to tell the story in any manner that character sees fit. I wanted Jordan to sell us his story,” he said.
Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond talks with host David Bloom about today’s Oscar nominations, which produced a very strong field of competitors and inevitably left some worthy contenders on the outside looking in.
We’ll get Pete’s take on just about everything Oscar, from Best Picture to Best Boy, who got in and who didn’t and what it will all mean come March 2.
Among the most interesting tidbits: that Best Song nominee from a movie virtually no one had heard of; record-setters for Meryl Streep, David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence; disappointments for Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, and what may still be a seven-way race for Best Picture.
Separately, Pete also talks about two of this week’s movie debuts, the reboot of a durable Tom Clancy franchise, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with Chris Pine; and Ride Along, a cop comedy featuring rising star Kevin Hart trying to win over his grumpy future brother-in-law, played by Ice Cube.
OSCARS: David O. Russell On Nomination Hot Streak: “I Don’t Know If You Could Force It To Ever Happen Again”
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage
With 10 nominations for American Hustle (including all the biggies — Picture, Director, all four acting categories and screenplay) David O. Russell described himself this morning as “exhilarated — sort of a little busy, and exhilarated.” Last year his Silver Linings Playbook received eight nominations, including all of these major categories with one exception: Adapted Screenplay rather than Original Screenplay. Russell, tired and recovering from a cough, called the back-to-back recognition “extraordinary. It’s just kind of a momentum that built from from Silver Linings to American Hustle. I don’t know if you could force it to ever happen again.”
And not to forget 2010’s multiple nominee The Fighter, which Russell includes in the trajectory. “I wrote Silver Linings before The Fighter but didn’t make it until after The Fighter. About American Hustle he said: “This story has been circling [for a long time]. This was a very special moment, you could feel it. This was going faster than we realized, but there was an excitement. It was something that took many years to take shape.”
Russell also hinted today about his next project: ”I am writing an opus for a community that may involve many of these actors.”
Today’s eagerly awaited DGA nominations are out and there are no surprises in the bunch. Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron, Captain Phillips’ Paul Greengrass, 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen, American Hustle’s David O. Russell and The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Martin Scorsese were all odds-on favorites to make the five — and they did. Some might have questioned Scorsese’s chances since the film has become a lightning rod for controversy and was the last major release of the year, meaning the 15,000-member guild voters would have to see it in time to cast their ballot. But c’mon, he’s Martin Scorsese. There would be no denying this achievement among his fellow directors. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the guild and 10 other nominations with 3 wins in 3 different categories (The Departed in film, Boardwalk Empire in TV and George Harrison: Living In The Material World in documentary). He’s a god to this guild. Greengrass, McQueen and Cuaron are all first-timers here, while Russell was nominated for 2010′s The Fighter. However, Russell was passed over for a nomination last year for Silver Linings Playbook but went on to receive an Oscar nod for that film anyway.
Generally there is a strong correlation between the DGA and the Oscars. Only seven times has the winner of the DGA Award not gone on to win the Oscar . But the most recent time, last year, was also among the most infamous: Ben Affleck still went on to win the DGA Best Director award for Argo even after the Academy’s much smaller — and quirkier — Directors Branch threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings and snubbed Affleck in its nominations. Life Of Pi’s Ang Lee went on to win the Oscar after losing to Affleck at the DGA, while Argo took Best Picture. In addition to Lee the only agreement the Academy’s Directors Branch had with the DGA was Steven Spielberg’s nomination for Lincoln. It was one of the worst years ever since the DGA Awards were founded in 1948 in terms of a match-up between the guild’s list and Oscar (which also nominated Behn Zeitlin of Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Amour’s Michael Haneke in addition to Russell). I don’t expect the same thing to happen this year. This is a very strong lineup that includes all the likely frontrunners to grab an Academy Directorial nod as well. But as we all learned last year Oscar often has surprises up its sleeve. We’ll see.
Exploring the complex inner lives of colorful characters has become something of a signature for writer-director David O. Russell. Much like his last two Oscar-nominated films, 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, his latest work is less about the setting than the vivid lives of the people operating within it. American Hustle follows a con man named Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale, who gets caught up in a fictional version of the 1970s FBI sting ABSCAM. Bale is getting raves for his performance (and his elaborate combover), and Russell could earn his third directing Oscar nomination in a row.
AwardsLine: How did you change Eric Singer’s original screenplay?
David O. Russell: The romantic triangle (among Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper’s characters) was something that I wrote as fiction; the mayor (played by Jeremy Renner) wasn’t as robust. It’s about people and a community, and (doing) something that helped their town. People’s good intentions matter to me, not just their greed or their darkness. I want to know about the good part of their hearts.
From Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron to American Hustle’s David O. Russell to Inside Llewyn Davis’ Joel and Ethan Coen, writer-directors seem to dominate this season. And with so many in the race, there’s likely to be at least some overlap when Oscar nominations in the screenplay and directing categories are announced January 16. But these two categories can also be sources of surprise.
Last year saw the directors branch come up with one of the most astonishing twists of fate in Oscar history by trading Bens—Ben Affleck for Benh Zeitlin. Affleck was considered a frontrunner for Argo, but he was completely snubbed by his fellow helmers. Instead, the directing branch threw a curve ball into the race by nominating Zeitlin, the director of the indie darling Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Although Argo did go on to win best picture (and Affleck received a statuette for that as a producer), it became only the second film in modern times to achieve that feat without a directing nom, the other being Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. It makes you wonder what the quirky branch has in store this year.
‘American Hustle’ Leads Australian Acad’s International Nominations; 2nd Year In A Row For A David O Russell Film
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts announced nominees for the AACTA Awards last week with Baz Luhrmann’s locally-made The Great Gatsby and Oz filmmaker Kim Mordaunt’s foreign language Oscar contender The Rocket leading the pack. Today, the Academy has unveiled nominees for its International honors – and boy does the group heart David O Russell. This year his American Hustle is nominated in each of seven categories: Film, Direction, Screenplay and the four acting classes. Last year, Silver Linings Playbook also led the way with mentions in all of the races, ultimately scoring five prizes including Film, Direction, Actress, and the supporting categories. Running a close second to American Hustle is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave with six nods. Captain Phillips, Gravity and Blue Jasmine each received three nominations. The Great Gatsby turned up again on this list for directing and for Oz-born supporting actor Joel Edgerton. Dallas Buyers Club and August: Osage County were nominated twice. Other movies receiving mentions include The Book Thief, Philomena, Fruitvale Station, Rush, Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr Banks and The Wolf Of Wall Street. The AACTA International Awards will be held in Los Angeles on January 10th, 2014. Click over for the full list of nominees:
Another piece of the Oscar-season puzzle was unveiled Sunday night when Sony held the first major screening of David O. Russell‘s American Hustle at the Cary Grant Theatre on the Culver City lot. The packed crowd was largely made up of SAG and a few Academy members, plus select press. Since this and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (which begins screening at the end of the month) have been the two remaining question marks before we have a clear view of the complete competitive landscape, the unveiling of this one was hotly anticipated. It was definitely the place to be. In fact, one New York-based consultant working on the film flew in Sunday afternoon specifically for the screening and flew back on the red-eye immediately afterwards.
If rivals were hoping it would be a bust, or at the very least a disappointment, I hate to bring them the bad news. Although formal reviews are verboten until early next month, I can say that from my vantage point, Russell — whose last two films Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010) were nominated for Best Picture and Director, as well as taking some acting Oscars — has another winner with a film that will have strong appeal particularly in the actors branch and at SAG. I also think, even in this fiercely contested year, Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing and Costume nods could be in the cards along with any number of possibilities for its superb ensemble including lead actor Christian Bale, lead actress Amy Adams, supporting actors Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, and supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence. Especially Lawrence; she is simply dazzling as Bale’s wife, a total knockout scene-stealer throughout. If she hadn’t already won last year as Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, there is no doubt she might be unbeatable here. At 23 years old and the star of this weekend’s all-time November record breaker, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she may well become the frontrunner anyway to take back-to-back Academy Awards after this performance is seen. It’s prime Oscar bait. The actors, including voters I spoke to afterward, were clearly blown away. In fact the entire cast — which also includes a terrific unbilled one-scene cameo from Robert De Niro, who was nominated last year for Silver Linings — will certainly figure heavily for the SAG Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture award. One person connected to the film to whom I spoke said early reaction had been on the mixed side, but I couldn’t detect that at this screening. It was all upbeat. Time will tell.
OSCARS Q&A: Producers Charles Roven, Richard Suckle & Megan Ellison On Character-Driven ‘American Hustle’
Anna Lisa Raya is Deputy Editor of AwardsLine.
If the pressures of Oscar season are getting to American Hustle producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle of Atlas Entertainment and Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, they don’t show it. While they’re working hard at finishing David O. Russell’s latest film, which is loosely based on events and people surrounding the 1970s Abscam FBI sting, the industry is busy prognosticating and predicting American Hustle’s chances in the race. And why wouldn’t there be Oscar talk, considering the film’s pedigree? Not only is Russell coming off two consecutive best picture noms, with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, but the cast reads like any director’s wish list: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jeremy Renner. The film is set for a December 13 release, nestled firmly in the awards season sweet spot.
AwardsLine: How did each of you get involved with American Hustle?
Richard Suckle: It started (in 2009) with (screenwriter) Eric Singer. He pitched it to me, and then we pitched it to Chuck. We essentially got the (life) rights to Mel Weinberg, whose character is the inspiration behind Christian Bale’s character. (Weinberg) is the con man who worked for the FBI and created Abscam.
Charles Roven: Then we developed a really great script that was more procedural-based, in terms of the events that took place in and around Abscam. When David (O. Russell) got involved, he felt very strongly that rather than having the spine of the movie be Abscam, he wanted the spine to be character-based. So he rewrote the script and moved (it) in that direction, and it became more fictional as a result.
Megan Ellison: I stepped in when it was an Eric Singer draft, and David had just come on. I sat down with David, and he talked about how to shift it to be a more character-driven piece like most of his work. I don’t think any of us suspected the page-one rewrite that we ended up getting, which was really phenomenal. He took a lot of the work that Eric did and just fleshed out the characters.