About The Characters
The rich characters that have become the signature of David O. Russell's films
are one reason that he has been able to attract top-flight actors who have gone
on to receive some of the greatest accolades of their careers in his films. In
The Fighter, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were nominated for
Academy Awards and Bale and Leo won. In Silver Linings Playbook, four actors -
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver - were
nominated for Academy Awards , the first time in over 30 years that a single
film had seen actors nominated in all acting categories, and Lawrence went on to
win the Oscar . In American Hustle, Russell brings together two of these Oscar
winners and two of these Oscar nominees with Russell first-timer Jeremy Renner,
a multiple Oscar nominee in his own right.
American Hustle centers on Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time hustler who sees a way
to change his life when he meets Sydney Prosser, whose seductive, confident
manner enchants him. Sydney becomes his business partner and lover and their
business booms. But when Irving and Sydney are caught in a con, FBI agent Richie
DiMaso forces them to work for him, setting up a sting to capture corrupt
government officials, starting with Carmine Polito, a politician trying to
remake Atlantic City and bring a new economy to the people he loves, even if it
means he has to work with an unusual investor. DiMaso is quickly seduced by the
glamour of Irving and Sydney's world and sees his chance to change himself into
the man he wants to be as well. Meanwhile, Irving's wife, Rosalyn - a
manipulative loose cannon - is the wild card whose emotional ties to Irving
could bring them all down.
Notes producer Suckle: "The writing has a musicality to it. David knows these
characters, he knows their voices, he knows their mannerisms. He works with the
actors to create moments and dialogue that are tailored specifically for the
actors and the characters - Louis C.K.'s ice fishing story, or Jennifer Lawrence
singing 'Live and Let Die.' These are memorable and real because they're in the
DNA of the characters he created and wrote. But he also writes to allow the
actors to do things they haven't done in any other movie - can you believe that
Irving Rosenfeld is played by the same man who played Bruce Wayne and Dicky
Adds Bradley Cooper, "I love working with David. If you can give him your trust,
he will lead you to an emotional place that is truthful. The characters and
performances become so much more rich and meaningful. It's intense, because
you're so vulnerable as an actor, but it's when you're most vulnerable that the
truth comes out. The more you know David's process and are familiar with it, the
easier it is to dive right in - and you're diving in to a family."
Christian Bale reunites with Russell to take on the role of Irving Rosenfeld, a
hustler and a romantic. "Christian brought an amazing authenticity - it was like
he stepped out of the 70s," says Suckle. "The way he looked, his mannerisms, the
whole Bronx quality. He embodied the character as written on the page. It's
unlike any role he's ever played - he brings comedy, charm, vulnerability. When
he walked onto the set - even though I knew consciously it was Christian Bale -
it was like the living, breathing, flesh-and-blood Irving."
"I never met a more charming character than Christian playing Irving," says Amy
Adams, who plays Sydney Prosser. "You identify with him - I can see how Sydney
gets caught up in it. Sydney thinks she's embarking on the greatest love of her
life - she doesn't think she's a con artist. Sydney begins as a person who
doesn't like who she is, and she creates a world for herself onto which she can
project her fantasies of who she wants to be. She finds a man who values her
intelligence. And when that's taken away from her, it creates a conflict - her
story is about her hustle but in the end, she wants to find the truth of who she
Producer Jon Gordon notes that it was important to Russell craft the character
of Sydney as an equal counterpart to Irving. "He wanted the women to be very
powerful presences in this film - as strong as the male characters," he says.
Adams, in turn, embraced her role as the mastermind of the situation: "She's not
manipulating Irving - she loves Irving - she's just not going to let him get
away with messing with her. She doesn't think of herself as 'the other woman'...
when we were shooting, I thought - and I think Sydney thinks this, too, their
relationship is the real relationship. She's manipulating Richie - that's the
con she's doing."
Richie DiMaso, Cooper's character, is not exactly the prototypical G-man - and
for Richie, that's just the problem. "He feels like he's idling through his life
- that his life should be much more exciting," says Cooper. "He even curls his
hair like famous ballplayers, just because he wants to be someone else, and he
thinks ballplayers are cool. So when he meets Irving and Syd, he's very easily
enthralled by their lifestyle. Suddenly, he's hanging with the cool kids. Sydney
takes him to a disco, changes the way he dresses - he gets very entrenched in
Gordon notes that Richie's curly hair is another example of the way that
director and actor work together to create the character. "It started with
Bradley - he said, 'I think my character should have curly hair.' But then he
and David took it to the next step - they tied it into the theme of the movie.
What if his hair isn't really curly - what if he curls it? That's another detail
about the little hustles we do to survive."
Suckle says that Cooper also embraced his role as one of the film's executive
producers - his energy on-set was infectious and kept the entire production
moving forward with a full head of steam. "Bradley is our quarterback," he says.
"He and David play off each other in a special way - there's a sort of big
brother/younger brother relationship that they have, and it helps drive the
train when you're trying to do so much in such little time. They have a
shorthand...they can look at each other and they don't even have to say anything
- they just know what they need from each other. It's a great thing to watch."
Jennifer Lawrence reunites with Russell to play Irving's estranged wife Rosalyn,
an unstable Long Island housewife who is the opposite of Adams' elegant Sydney.
The character's lack of sophistication comes through in every aspect - the
scenes and dialogue, the performance, and the costume design. "Rosalyn is very
Long Island - red acrylic nails, huge hair all the time, loves leopard print,"
Lawrence says. "I imagined her never going out, flipping through the magazines,
buying these clothes, imagining that she'd look exactly like the pictures - but
she has no idea how to dress for her body. So costume fittings became all about
making sure that nothing really looked good - 'that's not tacky enough, that's
too classic.' I wanted her to look a little awkward."
"Rosalyn is manic - very up or very down," Lawrence continues. "She is so afraid
of being alone that she'd rather be unhappily married. It seems like there's a
simple solution to her problems - she should get a divorce - but she can't let
herself do that. That's where her desperation comes from. She's in survival
mode: the marriage isn't working but she still has expectations for Irv that he can never meet. Her
constant state of disappointment causes her to make some incredibly bad
decisions that just make everything worse."
For the target of the sting, Russell cast Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito, a New
Jersey politician who sees an opportunity to remake the run down, working class
region - if he can find the right investor. "Polito is great at his job," says
Renner. "He loves his job, he's principled, he's a family man, a great
communicator - just a no-nonsense politician and human being with a
Liberace-meets-Tony Curtis hairdo."
Renner's character stands out from the others in that he is not wearing any mask
- he says he is trying to do the right thing for the people he represents, and
he is. "David and I talked a lot about his motivations," Renner says. "The thing
that it boiled down to is that he is well-intentioned in everything he does.
Rebuilding the state of New Jersey - that's what drives him. Even if he makes a
mistake, every good or bad thing he does, it is always well-intended and he is
The film also features strong performances by several actors in supporting
roles, with Louis C.K. as Cooper's FBI superior, Stoddard Thorsen; Michael Pena
as FBI Agent Paco Hernandez, who poses as the fake Sheik Abdullah; Alessandro
Nivola as Anthony Amado, Chief U.S. Prosecutor, Special Task Force; Jack Huston
as Pete Musane, a mobster with an interest in Atlantic City; and Elisabeth Rohm
as Polito's wife, Dolly.
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