Arts, culture & judaica | American Hustle filmmaker sees lifes silver linings

Filmmaker David O. Russell was laughing delightedly at the antics of his 2-year-old son, Leo. The precocious toddler had found a present meant to be opened only on his birthday, as Russell reminded the boy, but Leo just giggled and told his father, “I’m going to hide and open it!”

“He’s dancing,” Russell, 55, said, during a phone interview from his Los Angeles home, as he wrangled the gift for safekeeping.

Finding delight amid the vagaries of life has become a specialty of Russell’s cinema, from the boxer making a comeback in 2010’s “The Fighter,” to the bipolar but upbeat protagonist of 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” to the embattled Jewish con artist in his latest film, “American Hustle,” which is up for 10 Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay.

Set in the late 1970s and early ‘80s during the Abscam FBI sting that led to the conviction of a senator and six members of Congress, among others, the film spotlights the fictionalized story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) — who is loosely based on the real-life con artist Melvin Weinberg — and his mistress Sydney (Amy Adams), who agree to participate in an undercover operation to avoid prison time.

Early on, as Russell was writing his script, he said, a studio executive worried that the movie was “not good for the Jews.”

This article was reprinted from the L.A. Jewish Journal. To view the full story, visit

Naomi Pfefferman

L.A. Jewish Journal