It took David O. Russell 6 years to find the voice of cinema that he wanted to make, and since he did in The Fighter (2010), his movies have collected a whopping 25 Oscar nominations and scored 3 wins. 10 of these nominations were bestowed on his recent crime caper American Hustle.
But in a TV interview I conducted with him for BBC Arabic’s Alternative Cinema, on the eve of the Academy Awards ceremony, Russell insists that awards don’t feature in his mind when he makes his movies. “My movies come from the heart, from my passion and personal feelings,” he says. “Everything is personal in my films. I feel every character personally. I want their predicament to be human and deep. I love the music of language and feelings.”
That music of language and feelings is truly what distinguishes the Oscar-nominated director’s movies. His actors work like an orchestra, bouncing witty lines and revealing deep emotions, convivially and lightheartedly. Even the most tragic moments are colored with humour, yet without comprising its emotional substance and depth. “The humour for me comes from the same place tragedy comes from,” he says. “It’s just a real human commitment. So the actors are passionately and emotionally committed to whatever they are in, and that sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s heartbreaking.”
Russell is one the Hollywood’s rebels, who has shunned the studio system and sought out finance and support from independent backers. His movies are made cheaply by Hollywood standards, but they have been very rewarding in the box office. “We have created commercial cinema,” he enthuses. “They are about people, romance, rebirth and passion. This is not what the studios are built for, but we did it.”
For the third time, an Oscar win alluded the 56-year-old auteur last week. In fact, American Hustle didn’t take any golden trophies home. It did however collect 3 Golden Globes in January.