David O. Russell is weighing in on Jennifer Lawrence’s wage-gap essay, in which she criticized Hollywood for paying female stars less than their male counterparts. Published last week in Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter, the essay found the actress reflecting on her unequal payday for American Hustle — a fact that was leaked to the public during last year’s Sony hack.
“I always support all my actors and all their opinions, and I want them all to get what they need,” Russell told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday at a fundraiser dinner for The Glenholme School held at New York City’s Bryant Park Grill. “I don’t really talk about the minutia of what goes on in my movies, but I believe the spirit of what Jennifer is saying is truthful to her heart. I support her and all women in that.”
The director — who has worked with Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and the upcoming film Joy — continued, “I understand what she’s saying, and I think people in the business do too, and I also understand people saying, ‘Well, let’s talk about the minutia of the deal.’ It’s hard to make a movie come together with a lot of big stars. American Hustle had a lot of big stars in it. We all contributed to help make it happen.”
“But I also respect that Jennifer is finding her voice, and I think it’s in service of something very important,” added Russell. “Jennifer’s character in Joy is about the same thing: maturity, learning what it is to have your own space and express your own voice and to have power. And that’s what she’s learning.”
Lawrence’s American Hustle co-stars have shared their reactions to the op-ed with the press while promoting their current projects. Jeremy Renner said he is in favor of actresses receiving equal pay but would rather focus on the craft of acting, and Bradley Cooper, though he hadn’t read the essay at that point, said he plans to start helping female co-stars negotiate their paychecks. “That’s interesting because if you think that you only deserve a certain amount, and that’s not correct, it’s about changing that mindset and sticking up for yourself,” said Cooper. “That’s a great thing.”
So did Lawrence discuss the essay with Russell before it was published? Her oft-collaborator laughed at the suggestion she’d even do so, saying, “Jennifer does what Jennifer feels like doing, and we say, ‘There you go, girl!’ “
At the charity event — which was co-hosted by Joy co-stars Isabella Rossellini and Dascha Polanco and attended by Robert De Niro, Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and Cristin Milioti, among others — Russell continued his annual tradition of auctioning off walk-on roles in one of upcoming films to benefit Glenholme, a special-needs boarding and day school in Connecticut. He also auctioned pairs of tickets to the Joy premiere in December — totaling $63,000, which Weinstein spontaneously matched — and reaffirmed his support for Glenholme “until the day I die.”
Russell told THR that he promises to make more movies with mentally-ill characters, following the positive reception Silver Linings Playbook received. The 2012 film was inspired by his experiences with his son, who has bipolar disorder and graduated from Glenholme.
“People are coming out of the woodwork, wanting to do stories like this,” said Russell of Hollywood’s shift over the past few years. “It’s a good thing, and I think, in the future, I will do more [films discussing mental illness], too.”