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Talk about hustle. David O. Russell‘s latest awards contender, American Hustle, was shot in just 42 days, with the writer-director working on the script while he was still promoting his Oscar winner Silver Linings Playbook.
“I don’t know how he did it, but maybe it was a nice escape and counterbalance to what was going on in the other movie,” Bradley Cooper, who starred in both films, told The Hollywood Reporter on the black carpet before Sunday night’s premiere of American Hustle in New York.
But American Hustle‘s co-writer, Eric Warren Singer, said he was thrilled by the way Russell put his stamp on the screenplay.
“David took what I did and exploded it into directions that I never anticipated,” Singer, who had written a version of the script that Russell then revised, told THR. “A good example is I had written the microwave scene … pretty much as is. And then David takes that, he hands it over to [Jennifer Lawrence‘s character] Rosalyn and pays it off in a way that I never would’ve thought of doing.”
“That’s sort of how it worked, which was, he built this amazing sort of character framework on what I laid down,” he added. “When I saw [the movie] for the first time, I was just laughing because … I’m just like, ‘Holy shit, motherf—er, that’s awesome!’ “
Singer said that everyone was involved in the rewrite process, including himself, Cooper and co-star Christian Bale.
“It’s like this cauldron of creativity, and David’s the maestro who extracts all the nuggets, all the amazing moments and makes it pop,” he said.
Russell even convinced Louis C.K. to sign on as Cooper’s character’s straight-laced FBI supervisor, one of the many examples of the film’s actors playing against type.
C.K. told THR he agreed to be in American Hustle 10 minutes after meeting Russell.
“I got asked to have lunch with him, and he’s telling me this story … and it was 10 minutes into telling me, and I was like, ‘I’ll do whatever you want,’ ” C.K. said. “I didn’t even know what my part was. I just said, ‘Whatever, yeah.’ I wanted to be a part of it.”
C.K. said it was exciting to play such a different role: “It’s really fun to play something that’s not your usual thing. … And I trusted [Russell] that he wouldn’t give me something that I couldn’t do.”
Producer Charles Roven, who previously worked with Russell on Three Kings, said that Russell refined the approach he had on his earlier movies.
“He has refined his technique in a very interesting way that’s very iconic to him, and he just did everything he did great … a little bit better,” Roven said.
But the longtime producer conceded that the biggest challenge of the film was working in a compressed period of time.
“We really felt it was important to have the film out this year,” he said. “I don’t want to say that it felt rushed, [but] we knew going in that we were going to have to put in many seven-day work weeks, many long, long hours during those seven-day work weeks, particularly in the postproduction. And that turned out to be true.”
Fellow producer Richard Suckle said it was also a challenge to get all the lead actors’ schedules to work out so they could make the movie.
“The biggest thing I would say, honestly, was getting all the actors to figure out a schedule that was going to allow them to do the movie in a short window of time,” he said, noting that they’re all extremely busy.
“Jennifer [Lawrence], for example, was in the middle of doing additional photography for Catching Fire and then literally had to go shoot the next X-Men film,” he added.
In fact, the super-busy Lawrence didn’t make it to the American Hustle premiere, but her co-stars Bale, Cooper, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner walked the red carpet along with Russell, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, producer Megan Ellison and guests such as Michael Stipe, Chris Cornell and Carla Gugino.
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