Director David O. Russell at the Intercontinental Hotel, where he was presented with the McLean Award by McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (shanahan, Lifestyle)
Director David O. Russell at the Intercontinental Hotel, where he was presented with the McLean Award by McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (shanahan, Lifestyle)
The Boston Globe

Given a choice between shooting a movie in Boston or an anonymous back lot, David O. Russell says the decision is simple: He’ll pick the Hub. Russell filmed “The Fighter,” his Oscar-nominated biopic of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, here, and just wrapped “American Hustle,” a ’70s-style crime drama with an A-list cast that includes Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence. “I just feel comfortable here,” says Russell, who was in town Friday (above) to receive an award from McLean Hospital. (His last movie, “Silver Linings Playbook,” starred Bradley Cooper as a character struggling with mental health issues.) There are many reasons Russell enjoys working in Boston, and local casting director Angela Peri is one of them. “I love her. I can get whatever I need,” he says. “And she helped line my kid up with the right acting coach.” Another is the variety of locations. “You go to Worcester. . . . What else looks like the ’70s like that? It’s hard to find actual streets that look like the ’70s. To me, it’s a gold mine,” says Russell. “Or the building in Salem, an abandoned courthouse where we shot, and you open a metal drawer and there are birth records or land deeds from 120 years ago. Just an amazing location.” But there’s something more. Russell says the experience of shooting “The Fighter” on the hardscrabble streets of Lowell changed him. “There was a period when I was floundering, and you can either go down or you can get up,” he says, referring to a period when he made a political comedy, “Nailed,” which has never been released. “I probably wouldn’t have made ‘The Fighter’ before I’d been humbled. I might have said, ‘Nah, I don’t get this family.’ But they have a thing. And that’s what I learned from ‘The Fighter.’ It was a gift.” He says the characters in “American Hustle” also have a thing. “Christian is a heavy guy from the Bronx with a comb over, Bradley’s an outer borough federal agent, and Jennifer plays a Long Island housewife — all roles they haven’t played and it’s interesting to see them inhabit these people. It’s another world where you’re, like, ‘Who are these people and what is their thing?’ ” We’ll find out when the movie is released in December.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below