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David O. Russell ♥ "The Royal Tenenbaums". Rosie Perez ♥ "The Fighter"

When I lived in the northern Brooklyn, I used to hop on the G Train to visit the Museum of Moving Images in Queens with some regularity. I haven't been in years but they've redone the museum and they're holding special events and courting press. A few days back Spike Jonze interviewed David O. Russell about The Fighter. You can listen to the whole hour long event if you've got the time. But I thought I'd share two weird bits and two interesting anecdotes if you don't have the full hour.

David O. Russell and Spike Jonze discuss filmmaking

Two weird things

1. Spike Jonze's laugh is strange and delightful and just as weird as Natalie Portman's

2. About 34 minutes into the conversation Rosie Perez interrupts the interview because she has to leave the event early but doesn't want to leave without telling Russell how much she loved The Fighter "I laughed. I cried". There's just no mistaking that voice! (And there's one Oscar ballot to consider.)

Two anecdotes of interest

1. David O. Russell really really really loves Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). He claims to have seen it over 50 times. He talks about his change of heart with the movie.

When it first came out -- we were a little bit of group with Wes and Sofia [Coppola]. Wes shared the script with me and I didn't really get it. I was like 'Wes, I don't know if you know this but there's no 375th street in New York. He says "No, I'm making up New York."

When I saw the film I still didn't get it, still didn't really get it and I was a huge fan of Rushmore. The funny thing is how your feelings can change about cinema. So if you don't like any of my movies just give it ten years. [Laughter] Ten years later my son he loves The Royal Tenenbaums and I gotta tell you I just fell in love with it. I see so much brilliance in it. I think it's Gene Hackman's greatest performance and it plays constantly in my car.

He goes on to explain that he has a tv in his car and that he watches the movie while driving "Well, there's a lot of traffic" he says getting a big laugh from the room.

2. The second bit that stuck out for me is obvious but I had never really processed it. Originally Darren Aronofsky (who we were just discussing) was attached and Russell, in explaining what he was drawn to in the material, reveals just how different that film would have been. That's a big "duh" but it struck me nonetheless.

Right now what interests me most is something that's very real and emotional and raw and fascinating in a way that certain characters or people can be. Like, that's an amazing character. That's someone i could watch or look at or listen to for a long time. That's what interests me the most, characters that make my mouth hang open like "WHO ARE YOU?"

When I saw this family in their photo album the mother, you know, with the sisters. Darren's script didn't really have the mother and the sisters as much or the girlfriend. The women were much smaller and it was much more dark about Dicky's dark crime stuff.

David O. Russell with "the sisters"


Just try and imagine The Fighter without Melissa Leo's energy-sucking presence or Amy Adams' softbodied but hard living bartender. Try to imagine it without the sisters???. I mean, that film... NO! Russell returns to this line of thought much later in the interview when he reveals what a godsend the movie was for him; Mark Wahlberg was returning the favor bringing this to him since he brought Three Kings and Huckabees to Mark.

I had had a bumpy few years of writing many things and tying myself up in knots. That's hard. That can happen. I was happy to have a simple thing that I saw how it could be done, I had a clear take on it. Mark is very loyal to me and very much a protector of me so I knew I wasn't coming in somewhere where I was not going to be able to do what I wanted to do. That's the only way i know how to do things. So I came in and said this is how i see it, this is how I want to do it. They cleared the way and let me do that, the sisters and the mom and the girlfriend being more prominent. They were there in the earlier versions but barely there. They weren't pivotal.

I'm so glad Aronofsky departed. We got this movie instead AND we got Black Swan. It was literally a win/win for moviegoers.

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Reader Comments (12)

I love Rosie Perez. Is she an AMPAS member?!

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark B.

That is so weird and I even have a hard time believing that. Aronofsky loves women. From Burstyn to Tomei to Portman.

I agree, the women of the Fighter are the best parts of the movie. At the same time, if the female characters recede to the background (and I have a hard time saying that because I'm from the school of Bechdel), maybe they would have developed Micky's character better?

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Mark B -- i assume so since she was Oscar nominated in the 90s. But it's possible she's not. They don't always invite the nominees. Just usually. I still think it's SO weird that Michelle Williams wasn't invited after that Brokeback Mountain nomination.

Paolo -- well Aronofsky does sometimes give the women lots to do yes, but he also tends to be very focused on one character (Requiem being a major exception) so it sounds likely that Dicky with the addictions and delusions and obsessions would have interested him most.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

wait...they invited Abigail Breslin after her nomination and not Michelle Williams?

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

Imagine The Fighter without scenery cheweing, cartoonish Melissa Leo? Yes please! Okay I know that was a bit trolly but I can't really be the only one who felt that way, can I?

Interesting insight into Royal Tenenbaums though. I love the bit about "making up New York."

Also I'm bizzarely intrigued by David O. Russell's wardrobe as of late. Possibly because it looked so fittingly jerky in those viral Huckabee arguement videos but seems very restrained now that he's back in Hollywood's good graces. I'm just saying, the man is going to sweater vest his way to a nomination.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Thanks for sharing Nathaniel!

You're right about Spike Jonze's laugh. I loved at about the 6 minute mark of the discussion when he goes, "You shift tones in these major ways but effortlessly also ... wha-umm-wa-wha-wha ... WHY?"


January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick Tran

I gotta say I didn't get Wes Anderson until I saw Rushmore. I tried watching Royal Tennenbaums first and thought it was the most pretentious bullshit ever, turned it off after 10 minute Then I saw Rushmore and got it. I don't know why but I got it.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCity_Of_Lights

The perfect actress for Darren Aronofsky to work with is Jodie Foster. Her process in building her characters whenever possible is to make them loners.

Hammy, theatrical, attention seeking performances are so times closer to genuine human behavior than we’d like to acknowledge. I would like to work with David O Russell I could go full on Judy Davis.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11


January 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

Robert - Melissa Leo's Alice (?) telling Dicky's kid to go upstairs and that he can't watch Daddy has so much subtlety. So many little moments of the film when she doesn't have the volume up to 11. That's what makes her and the other performances so special. Despite that yes, I don't think she should win this year.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

I also really really really really really love "The Royal Tenenbaums".

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Amanda, me too. Haven't watched it 50 times but it really has improved with age (and it was already great when it came out! Definitely Wes's best film)

January 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R
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