Though my initial inkling was that David O. Russell had bigger fish to fry than this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, a phone chat today with the “Silver Linings Playbook” writer-director revealed that the opposite was the case.
With “Silver Linings” earning five Indie Spirit nominations, including feature, director and screenplay, Russell is making his third tour of the Indie Spirits — but first in more than 15 years. He initially won first feature and first screenplay honors for 1994’s “Spanking the Monkey,” followed by director and screenplay nominations for 1996’s “Flirting with Disaster” — a film that was in production when Russell was presented with his awards for “Spanking.”
“When ‘Spanking the Monkey’ was honored,” Russell said, “I don’t think I really registered what the Independent Spirits were. The whole thing was sort of overwhelming to me. … It feels like almost a bigger honor now.
“To do a film with Harvey (Weinstein) and with this cast, and have it be so personal to me, it means the world to me to be back.”
Although equipped with a budget that was at the limit of Indie Spirit eligibility, Russell noted that the 33-day shooting schedule of the 154-page script for “Silver Linings” was shorter than that of “Flirting.”
“It was very, very tight,” Russell said. “ ‘Spanking the Monkey’ was 25 days, and ‘Flirting’ was I think 37 days. I like the production of independent film; I think it makes me a better filmmaker. There isn’t any room to do anything – there is no other money — you have to do it the way you do it.
“That sets a mood … a very focused passionate climate. Having been around the block, it’s my favorite element.”
Because the critical praise for “Silver Linings” has launched it to the forefront of awards conversations, Russell has been a constant interview target since the film premiered at the Toronto film fest. He says he is prepared for the attention.
“To be honest with you, this is an advantage of coming to this when you’re more mature,” he said. “I really, really appreciate it. I’m grateful for it. You’re lucky if you get to make a film; you’re lucky if you get to make the film you want to make, if that film gets the kind of connect. To be given further attention, as a filmmaker, I really appreciate it. I would never take it for granted. It’s a wonderful thing.
The craziness won’t end anytime soon. Russell is set to begin to shoot his next project, an untitled project based on the Abscam scandal, with a cast including “Silver Linings” star Bradley Cooper.
“I think I’m hitting my stride now,” Russell said. “I think I’m a late bloomer in some respects, hitting my stride with the last two pictures and finding a zone. I think it has taken me however much work to find out and focus on where I can put my best efforts, so I’m excited. I’m excited about the film I’m about to start.”