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David O. Russell Looks Back on ‘Flirting With Disaster’ 20 Years Later at AFI Fest

The AFI Fest screening of “Flirting with Disaster” was presented by IndieWire and Miramax on Friday, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year along with the film.

While writer and director David O. Russell‘s career has flourished since the film, starring Ben Stiller, Tea Leoni and Patricia Arquette, the filmmaker said that he still maintains the same work ethic and instills it in his crews.

“Be passionate or don’t be here,” said Russell during a Q & A session at the Chinese 6 Theatres.

“Watching the movie, I see myself as a beginning filmmaker and I’m just cringing,” he joked.

“Flirting with Disaster” tackles many issues that families and couples can relate to, according to Russell, and is something that hasn’t aged.

“It’s about identity and social norms and how bizarre and oppressive they are. The norm of marriage, what you’re family is supposed to be, etc. It’s playing with these social norms that people try to live with that are never perfect,” Russell added. “Everybody is trying to make things work socially but they really don’t work!”

Russell also made a connection between his movie and the outcome of this year’s election, outlining the subversiveness of his film and the irony of it all.

“We’re in the middle of an America that made gay marriage legal and now, who knows, let’s hope that stays,” he said.

Russell also shined a small spotlight on the Standing Rock Pipeline, as he took a moment to read a text sent to him from Arquette who was unable to attend the panel.

“I’m at Standing Rock and have been asked to provide compost toilets for the water protectors. Here we are working tirelessly to get this done,” she texted, and also expressed her love and gratitude for the director and was saddened she could not attend.

IndieWire, a news site for the independent film, TV and digital communities, was acquired by PMC earlier this year. It joined Variety and other Penske brands like Deadline Hollywood, TVLine and Hollywood Life.

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