Directed and co-written by David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), American Hustle is his second consecutive film (following Silver Linings Playbook) to be nominated for Academy Awards in all four acting categories. “Things evolved naturally for me, starting with The Fighter with Amy [Adams], Christian [Bale], Mark Wahlberg and Melissa Leo,” says Russell. “That was a real revelation for me. [These actors] are very emotional and straight, and I find them fascinating how they live and [how] they love life.” As a filmmaker, Russell is all about delivering a great movie, not only for film audiences but also for the actors who pour their hearts and souls into the script’s characters. He has said that once you’re real with the characters, the comedy and heartbreak will naturally come out to create the story. For American Hustle, Russell met with each of the lead actors individually to discuss their characters, and he crafted the characters with nuances of the actors portraying them. “I’m not drawn to cynicism,” says Russell. “I’m drawn to what I love about each of these people, and I write the movie from each of their points of view. It’s a very musical movie to me. That’s the trifecta; the holy trifecta is emotion and character, camera movement and music.”
After shooting Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper was enthusiastic to work with Russell again. He notes that the filmmaker likes to light his actors at 360 degrees, so there’s no such thing as one person’s close-up. “You have to be ready for the camera to come at you at any point,” Cooper explains. “And it’s also a very communal experience. When I think about the scenes I’ve had with everybody, I don’t just think of the actors. I think of David right next to the monitor. I think of Geoffrey Haley or Dave Thompson, the camera operator; the gentleman with the China ball lighting the eyes. We’re all moving around. It’s really like this little nucleus. We’re the mitochondria of this cell powering everything, and it really does feel like this incredible generator and that’s very exciting. It has this self-propelling energy, so we are all infused with this energy because literally people are moving around all the time.”
The collaborative efforts between the actors and director are seen through the brilliant performances on screen. We’ll see if the academy thinks the same come Oscar night.