As part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Directors Series, Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Joy) was joined on stage by actress and frequent collaborator Jennifer Lawrence to recap and explore their creative relationship (Russell has directed Lawrence to three Golden-Globe wins and three of her four Oscar nominations, including her Best Actress win for Silver Linings Playbook), covering everything from big hair and nail polish to dancing with Bradley Cooper.
The duo kicked things off by discussing Russell’s upbringing and his route into film making, — watching his father sell books made him want to be a writer but “writing novels turned out to be too difficult” — and his first impression of Lawrence when he first saw her at an American Film Institute lunch when she was just 20 years old and wearing a glamorous white dress, that could’ve been in a Hepburn movie. When he actually first spoke with her it was via Skype while she auditioned for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. “She had an energy that hadn’t been in movies for a while,” said the director. “She showed up and she was a raw talent with no neurosis and no self-consciousness, so she was completely fearless.” Lawrence was equally complimenting, telling him: “You shaped me. What’s interesting about watching our movies together, you can see how…I mean, everything I’ve learned from you I take into my entire career. I just was so amazed by you so I was just open. You were a genius and I was young and inexperienced.”
After airing some grievances about Russell spoiling a major plot point in Anna Karenina for Lawrence when she was reading the book on set, the pair was joined on stage by none other than Robert De Niro to discuss a scene in Silver Linings Playbook the two actors share. Russell had shown up early on set that day to start blocking it out and when De Niro got there he was mad the director had started without him. “Bob was already living in the energy of the scene,” explained Russell, while De Niro added: “I was all revved up” and went on to describe working with the director as a “full contact sport.”
The conversation then moved onto another Russell-Lawrence joint venture, American Hustle as the director recalled Lawrence wasn’t originally available for the role and he ultimately called her while she was on vacation to ask one last time if she could do it. He remembered telling Lawrence, “I feel I would be remise as your friend if I didn’t give you one last chance to say no to this role” and that in response Lawrence agreed to do it if she got to have “big hair, long nails and be crazy.”
The discussion circled back to Silver Linings Playbook towards the end, where Lawrence shared that she met Cooper for the first time in dance rehearsals, before they started shooting the movie. “That’s a hell of a way to get to know someone!” she said. “I’m such a bad dancer.” As much as she might not have taken to the moves with ease, Lawrence expressed that she wished she still remembered the routine. “I really wish that we’d never let ourselves forget it; it’d be so cool to whip that out,” she said. “We did Serena right after Silver Linings and we were bored on set one day and we did it. I mean, like, alone; nobody saw.”
Russell ended the conversation by stating that it’s a gift to know Lawrence and mentioning that he is writing something for her now.