First look: David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle’
The film is a fictionalized version of the 1970s FBI sting operation, Abscam.
With back-to-back Oscar-nominated films on his résumé, David O. Russell has cornered the American dream.
Now it’s time to hustle.
Following the success of 2010’sThe Fighter and 2012’sSilver Linings Playbook, the director will head back into the heart of awards season with American Hustle (in limited release on Dec. 13, in theaters everywhere Dec. 25), a fictionalized film based on the FBI’s Abscam sting operation.
Reunited with members of his Fighter and Silver Linings acting teams, Russell focuses on the intersection of the government and the Mob in the New York area in the late ’70 and ’80s, applying his textured realism to a world of entrapment, stylish swagger and raw humor.
Christian Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld, a brilliant Bronx con-man whose specialization in stolen art catches the attention of unhinged FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). (Those tight curls are “not a perm, just for the record,” says Russell, noting Cooper’s character emulates a style popularized by ’70s professional baseball players.)
DiMaso forces Irving and his British lover/accomplice Sydney (Amy Adams) into a web of New Jersey power brokers and the Mafia. Jennifer Lawrence is on hand as Irving’s loose cannon of a Long Island house wife, Rosalyn, who threatens the entire operation. “Everybody gets to do something we’ve never seen before,” says Russell. “That’s exciting to me.”
New to Russell’s orbit is Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito, a volatile New Jersey mayor keeping his community afloat in the midst of a recession. “That era was very much like our era now,” says Russell. “The economy was not in a good place and people had to struggle to figure out how to reinvent themselves.”
The real Abscam scandal ended on the national stage, with a U.S. senator and five congressmen convicted of corruption.
The American Hustleteam saw a different side of history in April, bearing witness to the Boston Marathon bombings. “We were shooting in an outlying area that day,” recalls Russell, who was told to stay indoors along with the cast as production shut down. “Christian Bale’s wife was the first one to get through to him (on set). It was very surreal. It was very upsetting.”
Russell is editing American Hustle, continuing what he describes as the year’s “intense” momentum (the film was in camera tests even as he walked Oscar’s red carpet). But Russell is confident the effort will pay off. Ever since The Fighter, he says, “I feel very clear about what I want to do.”