Megan O Russell Biography & Facts
David Owen Russell (born August 20, 1958) is an American filmmaker. His early directing career includes the comedy films Spanking the Monkey (1994), Flirting with Disaster (1996), Three Kings (1999), and I Heart Huckabees (2004). He gained critical success with the biographical sports drama The Fighter (2010), the romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and the dark comedy crime film American Hustle (2013). The three films were commercially successful and acclaimed by critics, having earned Russell three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, as well as a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Silver Linings Playbook and a Best Original Screenplay nomination for American Hustle. Russell received his seventh Golden Globe nomination for the semi-biographical comedy-drama Joy (2015).
Russell has garnered controversy on and off the set for antagonistic behavior towards the actors in his films including George Clooney, Lily Tomlin, and Amy Adams. He was also accused of an alleged sexual assault of his 19-year-old transgender niece in 2011.
Russell was raised in Larchmont, New York, in an atheist, middle-class household. His parents worked for Simon & Schuster; his father was the vice president of sales for the company, and his mother was a secretary there. His father was from a Russian-Jewish family, and his mother was Italian-American (of Lucanian descent). His paternal grandfather, a butcher from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, lost many of his relatives in concentration camps.When he was 13, Russell made his first film for a school project and used a Super 8 film camera to film people in New York City. He attended Mamaroneck High School, where he was voted "Class Rebel". He fell in love with film in his teens (his favorite movies included Taxi Driver, Chinatown, and Shampoo) but aspired to become a writer; Russell started a newspaper in high school and wrote short stories. His parents worked for a publishing company, so he grew up in a household filled with books and novels.In 1981, Russell received his A.B. degree from Amherst College, where he majored in English and political science. He wrote his senior thesis on the United States intervention in Chile from 1963 to 1973.
After graduating from Amherst, Russell traveled to Nicaragua and taught in a Sandinista literacy program. He worked in waitering, bartending, and catering. Some of his bartending colleagues included members of the Blue Man Group. He worked for a booksellers' association and later became a community organizer in Maine. He used video equipment to document slums and bad housing conditions, which later became a documentary of Lewiston, Maine. Russell was a political activist and canvassed and raised money in neighborhoods; he also did community work in Boston's South End. In addition to working in several day jobs, he began to write short films.Russell directed a documentary about Panamanian immigrants in Boston, which led to a job as a production assistant on a PBS series called Smithsonian World.In 1987, Russell wrote, produced, and directed Bingo Inferno: A Parody on American Obsessions, a short film about an obsessive bingo-playing mother. Two years later, he made another short titled Hairway to the Stars, which featured Bette Davis and William Hickey. Both shorts were shown at the Sundance Film Festival.After Russell made an award-winning short film for a Boston television station, he received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Instead of the money going towards a feature about a fortune cookie writer, he decided to make Spanking the Monkey, a film about an incestuous mother-son relationship. As a result, Russell had to return the funds to the NEA.Spanking the Monkey, the 1994 independent dark comedy, was his first directorial effort. The film was produced by Dean Silvers, and starred Jeremy Davies as a troubled young man and Alberta Watson as his lonely mother. Despite the controversial subject matter, the film received critical acclaim and won him Best First Screenplay and Best First Feature from the Independent Spirit Awards, as well as the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Flirting with Disaster
His next project was the Miramax comedy Flirting with Disaster (1996), his second collaboration with Dean Silvers, and first with Harvey Weinstein. The film follows a neurotic man (Ben Stiller) who travels with his wife (Patricia Arquette) and a high-strung caseworker (Téa Leoni) to find his biological parents. The film also starred Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Alan Alda, Josh Brolin, Richard Jenkins, and Lily Tomlin. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, and was well received by most critics. Roger Ebert said of the direction, "Russell finds the strong central line all screwball begins with, the seemingly serious mission or quest, and then throws darts at a map of the United States as he creates his characters." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'B' and declared it "one of the ha-ha funniest comedies currently at a theater near you."Three Kings
The success of those two films led to the satirical Gulf War black comedy Three Kings (1999), starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze. Adapted from an earlier script by former stand-up comic John Ridley, the film follows three American GIs who devise a plan to steal hidden Kuwaiti gold during the 1991 Iraqi uprising against Saddam Hussein. Filmed in the deserts of Arizona, California and Mexico, and featuring actual Iraqi refugees as extras, Russell used several unique cinematic techniques to achieve a feeling of realism. He filmed using handheld cameras and Steadicam, and shot on Ektachrome slide photography stock that was cross processed in colour negative chemicals, to reproduce "the odd colour of the newspaper images [of the Gulf War]." He also insisted on filming all of the explosions in one shot, unlike a typical action film.
Three Kings was released in 1999 and was his biggest critical and financial success. It grossed $60 million in the United States and over $100 million worldwide. It holds a 94% at Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Three Kings successfully blends elements of action, drama, and comedy into a thoughtful, exciting movie on the Gulf War." It ended up being the first of several collaborations with Mark Wahlberg.
I Heart Huckabees
Russell's next project was the existential comedy I Heart Huckabees (2004). During pre-production in 2003, it was reported that Jude Law dropped the film to star in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige (2006), but after Russell headlocked Nolan at a Hollywood party, demanding that "his fellow director show artistic solidarity and give up his star in order to save Huckabees", Nolan dropped Law from his film. The film ended up receiving mixed reviews and underperformed at the box o.... Discover the Megan O Russell popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Megan O Russell books.