About The Film
American Hustle marks the third part in a three-film evolution for filmmaker
David Russell. Beginning with The Fighter, continuing with Silver Linings
Playbook, and playing out on a larger canvas than ever before in American
Hustle, Russell centers on characters who are trying to change their lives
through a process of reinvention. "These are movies about people whose lives
have not gone the way they wanted or intended," he explains. "There remains
something deeply lovable about them, but they're also heartbreaking. They spend
the entire film, not just the third act, reckoning with who they are and how
they are going to find their way to love life again. These characters have their
sense of who they are splintered into pieces, and are wondering not just what
they're going to do, but how they're going to care about life again, how they're
going to love again. And it is important to me that they are passionate people
who do or have truly loved life in some specific ways. This is as important to
me as the ordeal of how they persevere, come out the other side, humbled and
their love intact or renewed. It is no cliche when it is, as Irving says, lived
from the feet up."
At the heart of American Hustle is a powerful love story between Irving
Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, soul mates and business partners. "The love affair
between these two gives them a special power that anybody who's ever been in
love can attest to," Russell says. "When you're in love, you feel that you've
become more than the sum of the parts - something divine is happening to you.
For me, the first part of the film is communicating how these two fell in love,
how special they made each other feel, how much they love their lives - that
enchantment was everything. We fall in love with their passion for life. And
then trouble comes knocking. They will have to reinvent themselves to survive -
and when they do that, what will happen to their love?"
In fact, the film is about romance in many ways. Russell notes: "It's about
Irving and Sydney's romance for each other, and the romance that happens briefly
between Richie and Sydney, and the flickering romance of the dying marriage
between Irving and Rosalyn. It's the friendship between Irving and Carmine, and
Carmine's marriage to Dolly. And, of course, Irving's art as a hustler is in
many ways a romance - he has an ability to enchant, to get people to believe, to
want, to dream."
"The idea of hustling informs every aspect of the picture," adds producer
Charles Roven. "Whom are the Irv and Sydney hustling - the guy they're taking
money from, or themselves, convincing themselves that what they're doing is
okay? Whom are we hustling when we are with somebody - are we with them because
we admire them, or because we need them?"
"So much of the movie is about the different ways we hustle each other and
ourselves," adds producer Richard Suckle. "When you're stuck in a job you hate,
or a troubled relationship, you convince yourself it's OK, everything's going to
be fine. We all have to figure out ways to get by, because that's all we can do.
And that's what the characters are doing in the movie."
American Hustle began with screenwriter Eric Warren Singer, who approached Roven
and Suckle about making a film about the Abscam story for Atlas Entertainment
and wrote a script that earned a spot on the Black List. "All con artists are
gifted story tellers in their own right --- which is why I am drawn to them,"
says Singer. "We share a similar craft: telling the tale, drawing in an
audience as you would a mark. Good storytelling is as much of a seduction as any
When Roven and Suckle brought the project to Russell, he suggested a new
direction for the project, moving away from the nuts and bolts of the scandal
and drawing on personal remembrances, recollections, feelings, and his own
imagination to create a fictional character-driven story. "My own dad was a
businessman in the 60s and 70s, and he was very much like the father that the
Christian Bale character has in the movie: he's scrupulous and extremely honest,
and I saw him get taken advantage of in business. Nice guys get hurt. That had a
big impact on my home, and as a result, I related to both sides of the Christian
Bale character: the side that admired his father as an honest man, but also the
side that is not going to allow that fate to happen to him."
"Eric did an amazing job, writing a very thrilling procedural," notes Roven.
"Inspired by this stranger than fiction con, David took what Eric had done and
refocused it into a fictional story that gets at a deeper truth about
reinvention and survival."
"The characters in this film are all throttling towards an inevitable reckoning
with the truth, and this reckoning is something that I think everyone can relate
to," says Singer. "For some, this moment of clarity transforms their lives in
positive way; for others, it cripples them. And for me this reckoning cuts to
the heart of the journey that Irving, Sydney, Richie, Rosalyn and Carmine are
all on. This idea was at the heart of the story I wanted to tell. You can never
beat the truth - never. It always, eventually, catches up to you."
Suckle adds that the film's affectionate, kindhearted tone at first seems
counterintuitive to the events that inspired the film, but Russell's brilliance
is in finding the connection between the real story and the story he wanted to
tell. "There's a cynicism to certain aspects of the Abscam story, but that's not
the movie that David made," he says. "David's movies have tremendous heart. In
all of his films, the characters face a reckoning in their lives and they are
searching for something better."
At the end of the day, Russell feels that his job as a director is to have the
audience love the characters, in spite of their sins. "Ultimately, I hope the
audience just enjoys spending time with the characters," says Russell. "More
than anything, I want you to fall in love with them. The nicest compliment
anybody can give me is when they leave a movie and they say, 'I really loved
these people - I didn't want to leave them.'"
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