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January 2016

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Page 35 of 53 32 POST JANUARY 2016 O S C A R buzz ince director/writer David O. Russell made his directorial debut in 1994 with the dark comedy Spanking the Monkey, he has amassed a small but diverse body of work that includes the Gulf War thriller Three Kings, the existen- tial comedy I Heart Huckabees, and the sports drama The Fighter, which earned him Oscar Best Picture and Best Director nominations. He repeated those nomina- tions with 2012's Silver Linings Playbook, a hit drama about bipolar disorder, and was again nominated twice — for Best Director and Best Writing, Original Screenplay — for his 2013 dramedy American Hustle, a fictionalized version of the real-life seventies political corrup- tion scandal known as Abscam. His new film, Joy, again takes a real-life story and gives it the David O. Russell treatment. Loosely based on the life of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano, the genre-blurring film tells the story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love pave the road in this intense emotional and human com- edy. Jennifer Lawrence stars in the title role, with a stellar supporting cast, in- cluding Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd and Virginia Madsen. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Russell talks about making the film, the challenges involved and his love of post. Did you set out to make an epic, or did it just evolve into one? "I wanted to make a story that's about someone's life, so I took half of the truth about this woman and her journey, and it's got very great detail about her life, and all of the details in the film that are the most specific and fascinating are true. So the whole bit with the gun range outside her father's garage, to the incidents in Texas and California, to the father being returned by girlfriends and the 900 num- ber, are all true. That stuff's too good to make up. And the other half is based on strong, fascinating women I've read about for years. And then for a long time I've wanted to make a film about the psyche of a child, so these were all new ambitions for me. I always ask myself, 'What are my new ambitions? What are my actors' new ambitions?' So for the first time I thought, I'll go from 10 years old to 43 years old, and tell these short little movies about her past, and play with the whole concept of time. So we'll see her as a little girl, full of dreams, and then at 27 in a sort of frustrated, trapped life, and like we did in American Hustle, you gradually learn about other characters, and go back in time and forward again, and then we keep going with the whole story." You seem to have this repertory company of actors you use — Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, De Niro — this is your third film with them. But this time Jennifer isn't the crazy one. "Exactly. She's this woman at the center of the story who changes a lot — from a vulnerable, rather anxious woman to a businesswoman who has to become a bit of a gangster. Some people completely forget the magic of their childhood, but she never does." You have a reputation for being loose and fluid on the set, and re-writing the script as you go. Is that how you work? "Yes and no. I start off like most other directors with a tight shooting script and go out to shoot that, but what happens is that it keeps moving. It keeps changing. And that's great. Look, we have to be disciplined, and there's no such thing as a true Cassavetes improvisation in what we do. Everything is planned and very often storyboarded. It can change, but it is planned, and sometimes the ambitions can keep growing, like with the soap opera segments. They're the idea of what they say to the psyche of the little girl, and we wanted the whole thing to feel timeless and beautiful, like all the films I love from the '40s and '50s. So the mother's quiet, hidden life with her soap operas was very specific, and it becomes the landscape of Joy's dreams, and things like the garage with its sign was very specific. You don't have to be literal with all this. They're emotional. It's the feeling of being trapped, which dreams often are. They're strange, what's happening? Then you wake up." What were the main challenges and how tough was the shoot since it was in Boston during record snowfall? "I loved the beauty of the snow. Adults have a lot of complaints about the snow, but kids love it, and it's magical to them, and I wanted to capture that sense of magic. The sheer amount of snow was bad as we had eight feet of it, and the roof of our stage was declared ready to collapse, and we had to evacuate and move to another, and we all got sick. But we used all that for the film. You must take these experiences and make them part of your story. And here's what I love about shooting in Boston; so much of the city and surrounding places are complete- ly untouched for 60 years. You can find all these amazing locations, like aban- doned city halls with amazing murals, and beautiful buildings you can repurpose into a Dallas location and hotel. And there's all this strange, very unusual flatiron archi- tecture, a treasure trove of it." You and DP Linus Sandgren usually shoot Steadicam, right? "Yes, we shoot it all on Steadicam and then we have to stabilize the shots as I want DAVID O. RUSSELL: JOY DELIVERING AN INTENSE EMOTIONAL AND HUMAN COMEDY BY IAIN BLAIR S David O. Russell directs star Jennifer Lawrence, whose character Joy is the center of the film. PHOTOS BY MERIE WEISMILLER WALLACE

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