David O. Russell biography
Born in New York City 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 and 2012's Silver Linings Playbook.
Background and Early Career
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.
Hit With 'Three Kings'
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.