David O. Russell Biography

David O. Russell photo

Born: August 20, 1958


Date of Birth: August 20, 1958

Once called the next Scorsese in Esquire magazine, NYC native David O. Russell graduated from Amherst College in 1981, having majored in English and Political Science. He was interested both in writing fiction and getting involved in politics, but found he was burned out after trying to improve the low-income housing and toxic waste dump situation in New England.

He took on a number of jobs, including working as a waiter at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art before directing his first short, Bingo Inferno (1987). The film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, which enabled him to access grant money from the New York Arts Council to finance his next short, the comedy Hairway to the Stars (1990).

Russell's first feature was Spanking the Monkey (1994), about mother/son incest. After premiering at the Sundance Festival in 1994, it made $1.6 million at the box office in limited release—not a bad take for a film made on the extremely low budget of $200,000. Based on that success, Russell's next film, Flirting with Disaster (1996) was produced by Miramax Films and drew an all-star cast, including Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Alan Alda and Mary Tyler Moore. The budget this time was $7 million, and the gross take was more than double that. Russell was now a bona fide Hollywood director.

He next wrote and directed the anti-war film Three Kings (1999), about four soldiers in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze, the film received numerous awards and nominations, including a Political Film Society award, two Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Director and Best Film and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team.

Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman and Naomi Watts signed on for Russell's quirky I Heart Huckabees (2004), described as "an existential comedy." For the movie The Fighter (2010), Russell earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. In 2013, Russell received his second and third Academy Award nominations, this time not only for Best Director but for Best Adapted Screenplay as well, for his critically-acclaimed feature Silver Linings Playbook. His most recent venture is the award nominated film American Hustle (2013). This film scored an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination.

Known to be quirky himself, Russell often shows up at press interviewers with a personal camcorder, and tapes his interviewer. He is married to film producer Janet Grillo. They have a son together.


American Hustle (2013)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The Fighter (2010)
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Three Kings (1999)
Flirting with Disaster (1996)
Spanking the Monkey (1994)

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