On paper, Amsterdam has the right pedigree to be a serious Oscar contender but the film has a David O. Russell problem.
Amsterdam is described as “a fascinating and richly intricate tale that brilliantly weaves historical fact with fiction for a timely, cinematic experience.” It is a “crime epic about three close friends who find themselves at the center of one of the most shocking secret plots in American history.” 20th Century Studios released both the artwork and trailer this morning.
The film has a stacked cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Taylor Swift, Zoe Saldaña, with Rami Malek and winner Robert De Niro. David O. Russell writes and directs the film. Arnon Milchan, Matthew Budman, Anthony Katagas, David O. Russell, and Christian Bale produce with Yariv Milchan, Michael Schaefer, and Sam Hanson serving as executive producers.
In theory, this is a cast that would make a strong bid for Best Cast during this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. Much like Don’t Look Up, it’s one of those films that gets automatic interest just by the nature of its pedigree. However, there is a problem with this film and its name is David O. Russell.
A few years ago, the filmmaker was hit with allegations by his transgender niece. While the police dropped all of the charges because they didn’t witness it, I find it very hard to ignore the allegations. His niece filed a police report about his groping her back in 2011 and it later went public in 2012. The Sony emails that went public during the 2014 hack blasted Russell’s behavior in a conversation between Amy Pascal (former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment) and Michael De Luca (former co-president of production for Columbia Pictures). Here’s an excerpt:
“David’s a loon, talented but geez once I saw him bring Sally Field to a party and reduce her to tears,” said De Luca. “Plus remember when he got in trouble for feeling up his transgender nieces [sic] boobs?”
If this is not enough, the filmmaker has a history that manages to be ignored by many. You don’t have to look far in order to find his history of groping and on-set abuse. People going public about his on-set abuse include George Clooney (Three Kings) and Amy Adams (American Hustle). A video went viral showing Russell getting into it with Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees. An Amazon project got cancelled in 2017 not because of Russell but because The Weinstein Company was involved with the production.
One email that became public as a result of the Sony hack revealed that the Oscar-nominated filmmaker “grabbed one guy by the collar, cursed out people repeatedly in front of others and so abused Amy Adams that Christian Bale got in his face and told him to stop acting like an asshole.” Interestingly enough, Bale is working with him again on this film!
Despite David O. Russell’s own very public history, I’ll be shocked if Amsterdam doesn’t pick up multiple nominations. Even with his issues being known to Hollywood, an A-list cast is apparently looking the other way and this includes at least one actor who previously went at it with Russell.