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David O. Russell’s ‘Joy’ Gets Christmas 2015 Release Date

By | Friday June 6, 2014 @ 1:47pm PDT

jennifer-lawrence-at-an-evening-with-david-o.-russell-at-afi-fest-in-hollywood_1Fox has set a Christmas 2015 release date for director David O. Russell‘s Joy, the rag-to-riches story that has Jennifer Lawrence attached to star. The film is based on the life of Joy Mangano, a Long Island single mother of three who sold her Miracle Mop invention and made millions. Clearly, the picture is being slotted at Christmas there to qualify for a possible Oscar run. Given that the duo are both Oscar favs, the expectation is there. The director has been nominated three times by the Academy for The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Lawrence won best actress for Silver Linings Playbook and was nominated again for Hustle.

On the schedule right now for the same date is the animated family film Kung Fu Panda 3 which Fox will also release and Paramount’s Mission Impossible 5. Joy is being produced by John Davis and John Fox via Davis Entertainment with Ken Mok and Russell from a script by Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids).

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David O. Russell Exits ABC Drama Project, Which Continues As Series, Casts 1st Actor

By | Wednesday February 26, 2014 @ 6:30pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

russellAmerican 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 up at ABC and a month ago, the network greenlighted it straight-to-series with a 13-episode order. That order remains in place following Russell’s exit, with the series, now titled Thhernandeze Club, locking in its first regular cast member, Callie Hernandez (Sin City 2). Russell, nominated for writing and directing Oscars for American Hustle, is rumored to have had issues with the script written by Erin Brockovich scribe Grant based on a story she co-wrote with Russell, and is expected to refocus fully on features. It is not unusual for big-name filmmakers to back out of a TV project. Ang Lee departed the pilot for FX’s Tyrant, which he was supposed to direct. Ben Affleck couldn’t direct Fox series The Middle Man as hoped (His role as a director was subject to availability, which was made impossible by his commitments to Gone Girl, Batman vs. Superman and Live by Night. He continues as executive producer on the project)

OSCARS Q&A: David O. Russell On ‘American Hustle’
2014 ABC Pilots

The Club is an upstairs/downstairs soap set at a private country club. Hernandez will … Read More »

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OSCARS: ‘American Hustle’ Nominee Jennifer Lawrence On Her Role And Chemistry With David O Russell

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The chance that Jennifer Lawrence will repeat as an Oscar winner, this time for Best Supporting Actress for her work Jennifer Lawrence American Hustle Oscar Racein 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?

american-hustle-clip-jennifer-lawrence-photo“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. Read More »

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OSCARS: Costumer Michael Wilkinson Puts The Boogie In ‘American Hustle’

By | Sunday February 16, 2014 @ 9:14pm PST

American Hustle CostumesMichael 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.

Related: SAG Awards Film: ‘American Hustle’ Gets A Big Boost, But Will These First Guild Results Impress Oscar?
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‘American Hustle’ Cashes In With $200M Worldwide

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 11:56am PST

american hustleDavid O. Russell‘s American Hustle just crossed the $200M for Sony Pictures and Annapurna today. The film which has received 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and all four acting categories has a domestic gross of $138.7M domestic with another $64M internationally. The Atlas Entertainment production has opened to No. 1 internationally in six territories, including UK, Australia, and New Zealand and is expanding this weekend. It is currently in 25 markets and will open in Brazil this weekend. The film has already become David O. Russell’s highest grosser surpassing Silver Linings Playbook ($132.1M) domestically last weekend. American Hustle has also now become the highest-grossing film, both domestically and internationally, for Annapurna Pictures. Its Panorama Media, is the sales rep internationally. The production company has been having a good year with two Oscar nominated Best Picture (the other being Her). American Hustle is also nominated for 10 BAFTAs which will hand out their awards on Sunday. The ensemble picture stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence. Producer Charles Roven, who produced with Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, also received his first Oscar nom on the film. American Hustle was released limited on December 13 and went wide during Christmas.

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‘American Hustle’s David O Russell, Jennifer Lawrence Circle Joy Mangano Story At Fox 2000

By | Thursday January 30, 2014 @ 6:47pm PST
Mike Fleming

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 jof 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.

Related: OSCARS: David O. Russell On Nomination Hot Streak: “I Don’t Know If You Could Force It To Ever Happen Again”

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2014′s WGA Award Nominees Share Thoughts On Screenwriting

wga-2014-beyond-wordsTuesday 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.’”

August: Osage CountyTracy 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. Read More »

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Soapy Drama From David O. Russell & Susannah Grant Gets ABC Series Order

By | Wednesday January 22, 2014 @ 5:10pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

russellEXCLUSIVE: David O. Russell is coming to television. ABC has given a straight-to-series 13-episode order to a drama project from the American Hustle writer/director and Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant. The series, developed by CBS TV Studios and studio-based Timberman/Beverly,  is an upstairs/downstairs soap set at a private country club. Russell and Grant co-wrote the story, with Grant writing the teleplay. The two are executive producing with Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly; CBS Studios is co-producing with ABC Studios. This marks the first TV series for Russell, the hottest filmmaker at the moment with rare back-to-back 108857367Best Picture Oscar nominees — American Hustle this year and Silver Linings Playbook last year  accompanied by best writing and directing nominations both times. Russell is on a streak, with his previous film, The Fighter, also earning a Best Picture and Best Director nominations in 2011.

Related: OSCARS: David O. Russell On Nomination Hot Streak: “I Don’t Know If You Could Force It To Ever Happen Again”

The ABC drama also marks the first series for an outside broadcast network for CBS Studios in its first season opening up its development to broadcast nets besides siblings CBS and the CW. Grant previously created and executive produced the CBS/CBS Studios supernatural medical drama A Read More »

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David O Russell Lands Santa Barbara Fest’s Outstanding Director Award

By | Friday January 17, 2014 @ 4:51pm PST

russellSanta Barbara, CA – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present David O. Russell with the Outstanding Director Award at the 29th edition of the Fest, which runs Thursday, January 30 through Sunday, February 9, 2014, it was announced today by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. The Tribute will take place at the Arlington Theatre on Friday, January 31.

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Deadline Awards Watch 59: The Oscar Nominations Podcast

By and | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 5:27pm PST

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.

Choose your preferred format here:
Deadline Awards Watch podcast 59 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Awards Watch podcast 59 (.M4A version)
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OSCARS: David O. Russell On Nomination Hot Streak: “I Don’t Know If You Could Force It To Ever Happen Again”

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 11:16am PST

Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage

russellhustleWith 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.”

Related: OSCARS: 86th Academy Award Nominations (Full List)

russellAnd 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.”

Related: OSCARS: Reactions To Academy’s Nominations

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No Shockers Among DGA Awards Film Nominees: Cuaron, Greengrass, McQueen, Russell, Scorsese

Pete Hammond

Today’s eagerly awaited DGA nominations are out and there are no surprises in the bunch. Gravity’s martin scorseseAlfonso 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.

BenAffleck_DirectorsGuildAward_GettyImagesGenerally 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. Read More »

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Will ‘American Hustle’ Continue David O. Russell’s Hot Streak At The Oscars? (Video)

By | Monday December 30, 2013 @ 11:47am PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: If ever there was a director who is on a roll there can be no doubt it is David O. Russell whose hot streakAmerican Hustle started in 2010 with The Fighter, continued last year with Silver Linings Playbook and now has gained more steam with the current American Hustle which won the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Picture and has been nominated for two SAG awards including Best Cast, 7 Golden Globes and 13 Critics Choice Movie Awards. Russell is up for Best Director at the latter two and shared the Best Screenplay prize of the NYFCC with Eric Singer who wrote the original screenplay for Hustle  as more of a procedural about the Abscam scandals of the late 70′s before Russell fictionalized much of it and took it in a more character-driven direction. Although he had success in the mid to late 90′s with Flirting With Disaster and Three Kings among others, his current streak is impressive, a comeback that has put him in the best place in his career, overcoming controversies that plagued some of his earlier work.

Both Fighter and Silver Linings won him Best Director Oscar nominations, were both up for Best Picture and brought Oscars to Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for the former and Jennifer Lawrence for the latter. In fact throw in Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings and Amy Adams for … Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: David O. Russell On ‘American Hustle’

By | Thursday December 26, 2013 @ 1:41pm PST

Exploring the complex inner lives of colorful characters has become something of a signature for AwardsLine.LogoBWwriter-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.

Related: OSCARS: A Crowded Field Vying For Directing & Writing Noms

American HustleAwardsLine: 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.

Related: The Contenders: ‘American Hustle’ Producer On Christian Bale
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OSCARS: A Crowded Field Vying For Directing & Writing Noms

By | Thursday December 26, 2013 @ 10:19am PST
Pete Hammond

From Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron to American Hustle’s David O. Russell to Inside Llewyn DavisJoel 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 AwardsLine.LogoBWhistory 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.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: ‘Llewyn Davis’ Helmers Joel & Ethan Coen
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‘American Hustle’ Leads Australian Acad’s International Nominations; 2nd Year In A Row For A David O Russell Film

aactaThe 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 american hustleyear, 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: Read More »

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‘American Hustle’ Gets Ensemble Award From Palm Springs Film Festival

American HustleThe cast of David O. Russell‘s fictional pic based on the 1970s Abscam scandal will be feted January 4 during an Awards Gala at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The Ensemble Performance Award celebrates the film’s cast, which includes Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Palm Springs International Film Festival 2014 -- smallRenner, Louis C.K., Michael Pena, Lis Rohm and Alessandro Nivola. “David O. Russell has created a viscerally powerful film,” said PSIFF Chairman Harold Matzner. “American Hustle grabs you from the start and is populated by a group of eminently believable characters as brought to life by this brilliant cast.” The festival’s 25th edition runs January 3-13.

OSCARS: ‘American Hustle’ Wows At First Industry Screening
‘American Hustle’ Best Film At New York Film Critics Circle Awards

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OSCARS: David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle’ Wows At First Industry Screening

Pete Hammond

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. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Producers Charles Roven, Richard Suckle & Megan Ellison On Character-Driven ‘American Hustle’

By | Monday November 18, 2013 @ 8:51pm PST

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.
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