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The Failures of… David O. Russell

By August 27, 2016Cinema History


You may think the director of “American Hustle” had it easy from the beginning, but at one point in his life, he couldn’t even get work as a busboy. I’m not talking about before he succeeded as a Hollywood director, I’m talking after. After the Sundance classic, “Spanking The Monkey” O. Russell’s career could only grow. He made the comedy, “Flirting With Disaster” then the box office hit “Three Kings.” His disastrous relationship with George Clooney were legendary but even that didn’t end his career. Yet…

Then came the bizarre “I Heart Huckabees.” A film that gave O. Russell a difficult director label, after a video surfaced of O. Russell screaming at Lilly Tomlin. To be fair, I went to a Q & A of O.Russell and Lily Tomlin and they seemed pretty friendly with each other. My girlfriend and I have since nicknamed O. Russell “Candyman” because, at one point, he asked the audience if they had any candy. And then, tons of people lined up to give him all their candies. And he took all their candies! This did not end Candyman’s career either.


But then it finally happened, “Nails” starring Jake Gyllenhaal. This proved to be the last nail in his coffin. A political comedy about health care, this project was a 4 year hell for O. Russell and his producers. He was fired and the movie went unreleased. It was that bad. His career had plummeted. An unfinished movie with a star like Gyllenhaal is unheard of in this day and age. James Caan even walked out of the movie. Candyman’s rep was in the gutter. Nobody gave this guy candy anymore.


After a prolific career, nobody would hire O. Russell. He was a black sheep. Washed up and no place to go. Only the few relationships he had left meant anything. Lucky for him, one of these relationships was with Mark Wahlberg. And he too was desperate. Darren Aronofsky had just walked out of “The Fighter.” Wahlberg needed a director he could count and enlisted the “Three Kings” director to helm a movie that would garner Oscar Nominations and catapult a once unemployed director into annual Oscar favorite. Just don’t expect Candyman to thank his savior with any sweets.


After developing “Silver Linings Playbook” with Wahlberg to star, Candyman cast Bradley Cooper and pulled the rug underneath Wahlberg, who, till this day, still won’t talk to him. The movie that ended Candyman’s career has been re-titled “Accidental Love” and released only last year, 7 years after O. Russell was shit-canned. And yes, it’s under a different name. But to go from “Accidental Love” to “Silver Linings” to “American Buffalo,” it tell us Candyman will no longer lose grasp of his candies. He will ride them into the diabetic sunset. He remembers what it was like to have no sweets.

Written by: Norith Soth

For more “Failures of…” check out: Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg

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