Joy may be writer and director David O. Russell’s shortest film title ever, but it’s certainly his biggest project when it comes to scope and ambition.
“I wanted to do an epic, unexpected story about the interior life of one woman’s soul, from the ages of 10 to 40,” he says of the film, which is due on Dec. 25.
The title also refers to the owner of said soul, Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), a businesswoman who becomes the head of her family at the age of 27. To create the character, Russell was inspired by real-life mogul Joy Mangano — inventor and founder of Ingenious Designs — as well as the personal female influences of his youth, including his mother and her circle of friends.
“It’s my first film that really has the woman as the star,” he says. “What’s it like to become a boss and the godmother of a family and dynasty, both emotionally and commercially? You go inside that person’s soul, and it’s alternately hilarious, horrifying, and sort of joyous. Relationships are always complex, and nobody gets to success without breaking some of their own bones—and other people’s, too.”
Actors Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Edgar Ramirez, and Isabella Rossellini co-star alongside Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, who are Russell three-peaters after 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook and 2013’s American Hustle. “I have a shorthand with these actors,” Russell says of the trio. “We share an enormous amount of trust and affection, and it allows us to take risks.”