About The Music
Music is a very important part of any David O. Russell film, and American Hustle
is no exception. With the film set in the 1970s, Russell and his music
supervisor, Susan Jacobs, weave in a variety of classic tracks, deep cuts, and
new twists on old favorites. "The music has to feel authentic and not feel like
a music video," says Jacobs. "It's the hardest thing to thread - you want to
bring some emotion with it, not just a montage with a song that doesn't add
anything to the scene. It can be very difficult to find the right song for a
scene in one of David's movies, because the tone is very difficult. He likes
songs that are contrasting; the songs have to have a lot of heart, and then
something else. They can't just be one thing."
Jacobs adds that Russell often writes with specific cues in mind - and
sometimes, those cues will make their way straight through to the final film.
For example, "Jeep's Blues" - the Duke Ellington track that sparks the
connection between Irving and Sydney - was written into the script. Similarly,
Steely Dan's "Dirty Work," which is heard near the very beginning of the film as
Irving, Sydney, and Richie walk down the hall at the Plaza Hotel, was a choice
made very, very early on. "I was on set and we were scanning through David's
iPod, talking and listening. They shot with that song in mind, and we just
couldn't beat it," Jacobs says.
Other song cues are born out of inspiration and character development
discussions between Russell and the actors. For example, in American Hustle,
both Bale and Renner's duet over Tom Jones' "Delilah" and Lawrence's
no-holds-barred belting of Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" began with late
night phone calls to Jacobs. "Those came about very spontaneously," laughs
After these scenes were filmed, Jacobs sent the completed sequences to the
artists and rights holders to obtain the proper permissions. "'Live and Let Die'
was a gift of a collaboration," says Jacobs. "It's owned by Eon - the James Bond
company - and Barbara Broccoli was very involved. It's good to be able to show
people the scene when you're trying to get a really big song - it makes people
more comfortable. So I sent the scene very early on to Paul McCartney and
Barbara Broccoli, and asked how they felt. And they both loved it. They were
really thrilled that the song could be part of the movie in this way. And it's
an iconic moment in the film."
Other music choices happen in the editing room - and, in fact, the single artist
whose songs are heard most in the film came about in just that way. "As we were
cutting a scene, we needed some temp score, so I put in an instrumental part of
an Electric Light Orchestra song, '10538 Overture.' I temped it in," Jacobs
says. "It's got this Beatles-esque feeling and all these cellos, all this
contradiction and beautifulness. Jeff Lynne came to see the movie, and he loved
it, and he opened up his treasure chest to us. We ended up with five or six Jeff
Lynne songs, many of which have never been heard before. His music fit the film
really well, and he ended up with a lot of real estate in the film. We found
this great song called 'Long Black Road' that ELO had done a long time ago - I
think it was released in Japan or something. It's just fantastic. And it all
came out of those very early days of needing a piece of temp."
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