Director with a bad reputation

Director with a bad reputation
(L-R) Actor Christian Bale, Film Director David O. Russell, Actors Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and Bradley Cooper

David O. Russell has a fearsome reputation in Hollywood.

While the director, 55, is beloved of critics and audiences, who have lapped up films such as Silver Linings Playbook (2012), The Fighter (2010) and Three Kings (1999), he has acquired a rather unsavoury reputation for being a chaotic and sometimes abusive presence - physically and verbally - on set.

That reputation is evidently trumped, though, by his steady output of popular, award-winning films that continue to attract A-list talent, including repeat collaborations with the likes of Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, who worked with him on Silver Linings Playbook, a comedy drama about characters coping with mental instability, and Christian Bale and Amy Adams, who both appeared in the boxing biopic The Fighter.

These same names populate the ensemble cast of his new movie, the crime caper American Hustle, which has done well since opening in the United States earlier this month, and is shaping up to be one of the frontrunners going to the Oscars next year.

At a recent press event in New York, Russell thanked the cast for putting up with his unusual approach to film-making.

"The trust of these actors is everything to me. Without it, I can't do the work and we can't do this film. It's the greatest privilege ever," says the writer-director, whose auteurial calling card has been his irreverent, darkly comedic take on a broad range of subjects from the Gulf War (Three Kings) to mental illness (Silver Linings Playbook) and incest (Spanking The Monkey, 1994).

Spanking the Monkey, his debut independent film, won the 1994 Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival and put him on the radar as a film-maker to watch.

Russell has developed his own trademark style of film production, which seems to involve a sort of controlled chaos on his sets, where actors are often shooting a script that he is constantly rewriting.

Russell alumni have also spoken openly about having cameras shoved in their faces and the director standing just off to the side, barking instructions in their ear or through a megaphone, often right in the middle of a scene (his voice is edited out later).

That, coupled with his track record of belligerent and despotic behaviour, has become the stuff of legend.

On Three Kings, his hit satire of American troops misbehaving in post-Gulf War Iraq, he got into a physical altercation with George Clooney, who took issue with the director's bullying behaviour towards the cast and crew, which culminated in Russell headbutting the actor and putting him in a headlock.

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