David O'Russell's Amsterdam Came From Years Of Collaboration With Christian Bale And Margot Robbie

All throughout his career (but especially post-Weinstein), writer-director David O. Russell's name has been dogged by controversy, including but not limited to allegations that he groped his transgender niece, mistreated Amy Adams on the set of "American Hustle," put Christopher Nolan in a headlock at a Hollywood party, and head-butted George Clooney on the set of "Three Kings." Russell has been the subject of hacked Sony emails, leaked set videos, and no end to moral indignation, so maybe part of the reason he's been laying low the last seven years (his last film was "Joy" in 2015) is that he was waiting for the controversy to blow over. It hasn't — not online, at least — but within the film industry, Russell still has A-list actors lining up to work with him on the strength of his past work in films like "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook."

Two of those actors, Christian Bale and Margot Robbie, had been meeting with Russell for years even before they went into production on his new film "Amsterdam." At a press conference for "Amsterdam," where /Film's Jeff Ewing was in attendance, Bale (who won an Academy Award for his performance in "The Fighter" and was also nominated for "American Hustle") said there was "a lot of eggs, a lot of coffee" in their early meetings. Russell added:

"We met in a diner about five years, over the course of five years, Margot joined in maybe three or four of those years, and other people joined in over those years. [It's] part of the conversation. [...] It was fun to meet several times a week, you know, as a writer, being alone for 30 years of writing, it's nice to be able to go talk to a friend or colleague or collaborator to grow it together."

'Christian and I were very interested in creating original characters'

In "Amsterdam," Bale plays Burt Berendsen, a one-eyed doctor who becomes a murder suspect with his two friends, played by Robbie and John David Washington, in 1930s Detroit. Russell said that he and Bale approached the story from a character-driven standpoint:

"Christian and I were very interested in creating original characters that we would want to hang out with, that he would love to play and I'd love to be around, and other characters that we'd want to be with who are original characters we've never seen before, characters we've never seen him be, or Margot be, or John David be, or any of these people be before. And that's where it began.

"So we started with a doctor, and we started to learn from history the unusual circumstances of this doctor and his two best friends, which we wanted to have three best friends who were fixers, who could handle any situation, who went through something together, something epic, something that would be fun to follow and inspiring to follow, and also shine a light on some history that we had a hold of that many people don't know, we didn't know, as we discovered it."

Early reactions to "Amsterdam" on Twitter have been mixed, in keeping with the response to "Joy" back in 2015. Whatever you think of Russell, the early 2010s hot streak that he had with "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook," and "American Hustle" seems like a thing of the past now, but there's always the chance that "Amsterdam" will put him back in the moviegoing public's good graces. Whether that deserves to happen is another question entirely, but you can make up your own mind about "Amsterdam" when it hits theaters on October 7, 2022.