David O. Russell and Robert De Niro Reminisce About 'Silver Linings Playbook' (Exclusive Video)

Last week in New York, I sat down with a large contingent of the team that made The Weinstein Co.'s best picture Oscar hopeful Silver Linings Playbook -- writer-director David O. Russell; actors Robert De Niro, Paul Herman and Shea Whigham; and one of its three producers, Bruce Cohen -- to discuss how the acclaimed dramedy came together. (You can watch video of our conversation above.)

Among the topics that we covered:

  • How Russell and De Niro -- both of whom have a child with special needs -- first met and became friends, and the emotional meeting years later that led De Niro to agree to star in Playbook;
  • The advantages of producing Russell's first film after the 2010 film The Fighter, in the view of Cohen, a best picture Oscar winner for the 1999 film American Beauty ("It was almost cheating... great actors wanted to be in David O. Russell's next movie");
  • Russell's rare ability to see things in actors before others do -- sometimes including the actors themselves (before Russell gave them a chance to show that they could be more, many dismissed Mark Wahlberg as just a rapper and underwear model and Bradley Cooper as just the funny guy from The Hangover films);
  • What it was like for De Niro to reteam with Cooper, his costar in the 2011 film Limitless ("We have a relationship already. ...There's no downside to that");
  • What De Niro made of Russell's famously eccentric directing style ("It gives it an immediacy, a spontaneity. ... It's a terrific way to work. You don't have time to think or edit");
  • Russell on De Niro and Herman, who have now appeared in 13 films together over 28 years, which made their characters' longstanding relationship and constant banter seem all the more believable ("I could listen to them talk all day. I could have made a movie about the two of them");
  • The show-stopping scene in which De Niro becomes emotional while talking to Cooper ("That scene, to me, called for that kind of thing, but I never demanded it of myself. ... I was very comfortable in just going for whatever I felt in the scene") ("He surprised us all on that day");
  • The unique talents of the film's female lead Jennifer Lawrence, in Russell's view ("She has a presence about her, and an authenticity, and a big heart, and it's all visible on her face. ... She could be 20, she could be 40 ... very special") and her pairing with Cooper ("Those two had a great chemistry. They had to go into two weeks of dance rehearsal right off the bat. They got to know each other very quickly");
  • What it's like to work with Russell and the very positive reaction to the film ever since it premiered and won the audience award at September's Toronto International Film Festival, in De Niro's view ("Working with David was a special experience. ... I'm just happy that people really like the film, and my work, and everybody's work");
  • What it was like for Russell to get to direct De Niro, one of his heroes ("Every day, he was the guy who was early and knew every line -- long monologues that are hard to remember and that were even evolving on the day").