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January 2014

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director's chair David O. Russell — American Hustle H By Iain Blair Shot on film, this feature has over 600 VFX. American Hustle was cut on an Avid. 12 OLLYWOOD — Director/writer David O. Russell, who made his directorial debut with 1994's dark comedy Spanking the Monkey, has since amassed a small but diverse body of work that includes the Gulf War thriller Three Kings, the existential comedy I Heart Huckabees, and the sports drama The Fighter, which earned him Oscar Best Picture and Best Director nominations. He repeated those nominations with 2012's Silver Linings Playbook, a hit drama about bipolar disorder. His new film, American Hustle, is a fictionalized version of the real-life '70s political corruption scandal known as Abscam, which once again stars Silver Linings' Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, along with Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Louis C.K. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Russell talks about making the film, the challenges involved, and his love of post. POST: What do you look for in a project and what made you choose this one? DAVID O. RUSSELL: "I always look for amazing characters who I find are fascinating, charming, flawed, romantic and in trouble. Those are the key elements I look for. And they have a very specific world they're in, as in The Fighter and Silver Linings. They're a sort of community, and they're having to reinvent themselves. So they're in trouble of some kind, but their world also has some enchantment in it that they love. There's love and passion and compassion in it. And then there must be a sizeable theme, and in this one it's not just about conning people, but reinvention. When Christian Bale and I first discussed this, we were both struck by the notion of his character's passion and the attention to detail — like a theater director or artist. And then there's the larger question of what roles and identities everyone plays everyday, the narratives they use to get through life. And everyone has to have one you believe in, or you're a bit adrift." POST: Do you see this and those two previous films as related? RUSSELL: "Completely. For me, this is the third part of a trio of films that all my work's been leading up to. I feel all the others were like preparation for this." POST: You mention "community." You seem to have this repertory company of actors you love to use — Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper. RUSSELL: "I love that idea of working with Post • January 2014 the same team on both sides of the camera, and having that continuity." POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? RUSSELL: "It's the same aim, the same voice, the same song if you will, as my last two films.You go into the humanity, and what comes can be heartbreaking and inspiring and also funny — and not even intentionally. It just comes naturally from the flavor of the characters." POST: What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot? RUSSELL: "It was pretty tough. On each of these last three films, it's been about briskness. deal for me in production to get a reliable monitor, as I'm always standing next to the Steadicam and moving through the scenes with a very large cast — the largest I've ever had. So we searched until we found this predigital monitor that turned out to be the most reliable for the image." POST: Did you shoot film or digital? RUSSELL: "Film, and DP Linus Sandgren shot the very last stock of Fuji film. And that's very sad to me, as I love Fuji stock. There was talk about going digital, and I'm a romantic and a little superstitious, and I love shooting film. And I've been told by a lot of people in post that even though cameras like the Alexa are Director Russell on-set (right): "We do very few takes, so everyone has to hit it right and just jump in." You must come from instinct, and we developed a team and a style of working. We shoot nearly every frame with Steadicam — sometimes using two — and that's because it's unobtrusive and moves fluidly through the compositions and spaces. We had Geoffrey Haley on The Fighter and again on this with Greg Lindstrom, so two operators this time who traded off. And we used the briskness as an asset, and it makes us come from instinct and passion and intensity. We do very few takes, so everyone has to hit it right and just jump in. And that gives us a lot of energy. There's no time to really over-think it or second-guess yourself too much. But we still have to make choices — do we play the scenes hot, medium or cool? So the actors get a chance to explore. In terms of the video tap, I don't do the video village ever, so it was a big pretty amazing, they still can't quite match the richness and depth of film, and often you end up spending more time lighting for digital. We tend to roll the mags — 10-minute, 20-minute mags on the Steadicam — and the very fact that we all know we're burning film and it's going to end adds to the immediacy and intensity of the process." POST: Do you like the post process? RUSSELL: "I love it. We have this great post team headed by [editor] Jay Cassidy and a great way of working. We have a rhythm that's very creative. We get into [it] quite slowly with the material. I don't like to look at a rough assembly, so we tend to cut it in sequences. Sometimes there's a sequence that has been assembled and Jay will say, 'Let's take a look' and it does come in handy, but in this case, we had such a short shoot — just 40 days — and we

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