Every few years movie lovers take note of collaborators whose natural chemistry as director and muse brings out the best work behind and in front of the camera. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, David Lynch and Laura Dern, Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst all come to mind in creating a formidable body of work.
The Tribeca Film Festival has highlighted similar relationships for their Tribeca Talks series and last night, had David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence on hand to discuss their history.
Over the last 7 years, director-writer David O. Russell has joined a different rank in filmmaking due in part to how Jennifer Lawrence captures his spitfire dialogue with locomotive-like delivery. Under Russell’s direction, in 2012, Lawrence earned her first Academy Award and a second overall nomination for "Silver Linings Playbook.” The pair went on to make "American Hustle" and "Joy" together.
Their unique friendship — built on effortless riffing — was on full display last evening for the Directors Series. After their first initial meeting at an American Film Institute luncheon, Russell, who is creatively fueled by characters with complex humanity, was later struck by the kind of energy and raw authenticity Lawrence brought to his set at the young age of 21.
The feeling was mutual, as Lawrence was quoted as saying she wants to “work with David O. Russell until he dies." The actress revealed her favorite movie of Russell’s is the 2004 quirky comedy "I Heart Huckabees," which initially shocked Russell when she admitted it to him years ago.
When she finally made it on to his set for “Silver Linings Playbook,” she said she felt like a vessel.
Lawrence expanded on that thought. "I was so young and inexperienced. You shaped me and it’s interesting that you can see how everything I’ve learned from you I’ve taken into my entire career. I was so amazed by you and open."
The crowd laughed, as Russell, known for having banter with his leading lady, quipped that he didn’t quite see it that way.
The director attributed her natural ability for why she’s so captivating in his films: “I would put it this way. She showed up and she was a raw talent that had no neuroses and no self-consciousness," he said. "She has the energy that you hadn’t seen in movies in a while. It’s simultaneously young, wise, old, loose, but with a very powerful focus."
In both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Lawrence shows up twenty minutes in and is the most magnetic presence on screen.
Robert De Niro, who appeared in both films, made a surprise guest appearance to discuss what he remembers from Lawrence’s performance in "Silver Linings Playbook," particularly during the first climax when Tiffany sweeps the floor by confronting Pat Sr. when he accuses her of giving "bad juju" to his beloved Eagles.
"She’s great in the scene. She hits all the right notes, all the right moves.” As for working with Russell, he described it as a "full contact sport."
While she was considered a new talent for most mainstream audiences in "Silver Linings Playbook," by the time "American Hustle" rolled around Lawrence had multiple commitments with various blockbuster franchises. It was those commitments, Russell says, that made it a near miss when he was looking to cast the role of the loud New Jersey housewife and brilliant manipulator Rosalyn Rosenfeld. What sold the deal for Lawrence was the opportunity to "be crazy" and to have the "big hair and long nails."
In 2015’s “Joy,” about the single mother turned entrepreneur, one theme that stuck with the filmmaker was "the simplicity in what it means to be successful," and the chance to see Lawrence through various stages of life in a single performance.
Throughout the hour on stage, it was obvious to see these two truly had met their creative match. For those who want to see more, the filmmaker revealed he’s currently writing a new script for Jennifer Lawrence.