×

Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell on How She Almost Wasn’t in Two of His Movies

Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell make up perhaps one of today’s most famous director-actor duos. But that partnership almost didn’t happen.

Speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday night for its Directors Series, Russell revealed that Lawrence was the last person cast in both their first movie together, “Silver Linings Playbook,” and their second, “American Hustle.”

For “Silver Linings,” Russell said, “we thought you were too young and there were other actresses in the front of the line who were close to getting the role.” As for “American Hustle,” however, Lawrence was busy with other movies and “technically not available.”

“I called her up on her vacation and I said, ‘I feel like I would be remiss as your friend if I did not give you one last chance to say no to this role,” he recalled. “You said, ‘will I get to have big hair and long nails and be crazy?’ And I said yes, and you said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’”

The two went in-depth on their partnership, from when they first met (at an American Film Institute luncheon, which happened to be the same place she met another collaborator, Darren Aronofsky), the movies they’ve done and even teasing their future team-ups. Without revealing more details, Russell told Lawrence on stage, “I’m writing something for you now.”

Looking back to “Silver Linings Playbook,” Russell and Lawrence noted the actress’ youth — she turned 21 while shooting. “You shaped me,” she told the director.

“I would put it this way: She showed up and she was, like, a raw talent that had no neuroses and no self-consciousness,” he said. “She was completely fearless. She would come into the scene like a weather system and leave me and Bob [De Niro] and Bradley [Cooper] and Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker just kind of like, wow.”

Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro would actually end up making a surprise appearance during the chat after Russell showed off a scene in “Silver Linings” in which Lawrence’s character confronted his. It’s one of the more dynamic scenes in the film, one of the four or five climaxes Russell said he likes his movies to have. But Lawrence hadn’t really prepared for it.

She admitted that she didn’t memorize her lines the night before. “There’s something about wrapping where I think I’m never going back to work again. I’m just like, ‘I’m gonna go home and watch TV!’” she said. “So I didn’t read my lines and it was that scene. I remember I went in and did it and then I couldn’t do it anymore after that.”

A moment Russell saw that wisdom in Lawrence, he remembered, was on the set of “Silver Linings,” and Lawrence had happened to be reading “Anna Karenina.” Russell (who clearly has not read the spoiler guidelines of the internet) spoiled the end, asking her, “Have you gotten to the part where she jumps in front of a train yet?”

Lawrence, she said, was “devastated.” Not just about the spoiler, of course, but of the fate of the classic’s protagonist.

“She started to cry. That’s how invested in that book you were,” he said. “You were so invested in the story of ‘Anna Karenina’ that you were emotionally devastated. You were not cynical about it and you were not ironic and you were not snarky. You were sincere. And as Miles Davis says, ‘all that matters is that you play with sincerity.’ And you were a tremendously sincere person, as well as being a very funny person.”

The two also touched on “American Hustle,” showing two scenes of the movie, including one which could have been very different. Lawrence’s character, Russell revealed, was originally supposed to hang herself.

However, he later decided that Lawrence’s character, Roslyn, couldn’t end her plot that way because “she’s too alive! She’s too much fun.” Instead, she had to decide to divorce Christian Bale’s character. “That was the only way to get rid of Roslyn,” Lawrence quipped.

Lawrence and Russell’s conversation came before another buzzed-about chat at the festival: De Niro with Martin Scorsese, which will take place Sunday afternoon.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Florenc Papas on Road Movies, Ancient

    ‘Open Door’ Helmer on Road Movies, Ancient Traditions, Social Pretensions

    Albanian director Florenc Papas, an alumnus of the Sarajevo Talents program, is in competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival with his feature film debut, “Open Door.” The road movie follows two sisters, Rudina and the pregnant and unmarried Elma, who embarks on a journey to visit their strict and traditional father in the remote mountain [...]

  • Dronningen/Queen of HeartsDirected by MAY EL-TOUKHYNordisk

    'Queen of Hearts,' 'White, White Day' Among Nordic Council Film Prize Contenders

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  Iceland’s “A White, White Day,” Denmark’s “Queen of Hearts” and Norway’s “Blind Spot” are among the five films that will compete for this year’s Nordic Council Film Prize, a prestigious film award aimed at promoting Nordic co-operation and environmental initiatives. Sweden’s “Reconstructing Utøya” and Finland’s “Aurora” help round out the list, which [...]

  • Actor Javier Bardem looking at chinstrap

    Javier Bardem on Toronto-Bound ‘Sanctuary,’ See Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Just selected as a Special Event at September’s Toronto Film Festival, Alvaro Longoria’s “Sanctuary.” starring and produced by Javier Bardem, may need a new ending. On Aug. 19, Bardem, along with Greenpeace, addressed delegates at the United Nations in New York to urge governments to agree to a strong Global Ocean Treaty. Creating [...]

  • Bosnia's Canton Sarajevo to Launch Film

    Bosnia's Canton Sarajevo to Launch Film and TV Rebate Incentive

    Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Canton of Sarajevo is introducing a new €1 million ($1.1 million) film funding initiative next year aimed at promoting domestic and international film and television production in the region. The incentive is the first of its kind in the country. Government representatives of Sarajevo Canton, including Prime Minister Edin Forto and culture [...]

  • Antlers Trailer

    Guillermo Del Toro's 'Antlers' Starring Keri Russell Drops Chilling First Trailer

    Events take a dark turn for a small town school teacher, played by “The Americans'” Keri Russell, in the first teaser trailer for horror movie “Antlers,” produced by Guillermo del Toro. The footage, unveiled Tuesday, centers on a young boy (Jeremy T. Thomas) reading from a frightening short story he’s written as Russell listens. The [...]

  • Why Hollywood Should Tone Down Violence

    Why It's Time for Hollywood to Reconsider the Amount of Violence on Screen (Column)

    To put it mildly, we live in scary, intolerant, violent times. Since a lone gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and killed 20 children, six adults and himself, there have been at least 2,187 mass shootings across America, resulting in the deaths of some 2,461 people and wounding more than [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    James Bond Movie Title Revealed

    The latest James Bond adventure finally has a title. The 25th entry in the action spy series will be named “No Time to Die.” In the upcoming movie, Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content