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David O. Russell is an Oscar-nominated director, writer and producer known for films like Three Kings, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.
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Born in New York, New York, on August 20, 1958, David O. Russell is a director, producer and screenwriter who, in 1994, released his debut feature-length project, Spanking the Monkey. He later directed the action drama Three Kings (1999) and the comedic I Heart Huckabees (2004). Russell has earned Oscar nominations for his directing work on 2010's The Fighter, 2012's Silver Linings Playbook and 2013's American Hustle.
"That's a wonderful thing, at least for me as I get older as a filmmaker, is to know what I want, to go from instinct, and you can just feel it when it’s happening or you can suddenly see it."
"The closer you stay to emotional authenticity and people, character authenticity, the less you can go wrong."
David Owen Russell was born in New York City on August 20, 1958. Russell's early career seemed to be at least partially influenced by his parents' work background; his mother was involved in political activism and his father worked in sales for a book publisher. Russell went on to attend Amherst College, graduating in 1981, before leaving the states to teach English in Nicaragua. He later worked as a teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, and then as a community organizer in Lewiston, Maine.
Having a passion for literature and language, Russell worked on screenplays outside of his day jobs and had started to direct his own film shorts by the mid-1980s. He was able to complete his first full-length feature, 1994's Spanking the Money, via a mixture of private funding and grants. The controversial debut, which had a comedic, Oedipal take on a teen's relationship with his mother, helped Russell to create industry buzz. He next directed and wrote 1996's Flirting With Disaster, a family-centered outing starring Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette.
David O. Russell scored a commercial hit with his 1999 film Three Kings, a tale of Gulf War veterans searching for treasure that starred George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg. The movie earned more than $100 million worldwide and became a precursor to the 2004 documentary on war veterans that Russell helmed—Soldiers Pay.
The year 2004 also saw the release of I Heart Huckabees, a philosophical, satirical dramedy that Russell produced, directed and wrote, and whose ensemble cast included Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Wahlberg. Huckabees was considered a disappointment, and by this time Russell had also garnered a reputation as being a belligerent, abusive director, having major altercations with Clooney and Tomlin.
Some years passed before Russell returned to the big screen. Then, 2010 saw him receiving much critical recognition for directing The Fighter, which told the story of real-life Lowell, Massachusetts boxer "Irish" Micky Ward. The drama found Russell reunited with Wahlberg—who'd brought the film to the director—and also starred Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. The project also earned more than $100 million worldwide and garnered seven Oscar nominations, with Russell receiving a directing nod and Bale and Leo going on to win in the supporting actor and actress categories.
Russell continued to put forth work of distinction with the 2012 release of Silver Linings Playbook, which he both wrote and directed and which featured Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
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