For writer-director David O. Russell, getting the music just right is a huge part of making movies. One testament to his dedication is that he has repeatedly requested to license songs from the notoriously picky rock band Led Zeppelin — and succeeded.
"Good Times, Bad Times," the first track from Zeppelin's self-titled debut album, had never been licensed for a movie before Russell used it in "The Fighter" — "much to my glee," he recalled during a recent installment of the Envelope Screening Series, at which he discussed the importance of music in his films, including his latest, "American Hustle."
Russell was joined by "American Hustle" editor Jay Cassidy, who also worked on Russell's previous film, "Silver Linings Playbook." That film featured another Zeppelin song, "What Is and What Should Never Be." Cassidy recalled, "Once that song was put on the table, we recut the scene to fit the song."
The trend of using Zeppelin songs almost continued with "American Hustle," Russell's 1970s-set con story loosely based on the FBI's Abscam sting. They were all set — "until 'Long Black Road,' which was offered to us by Jeff Lynne [of Electric Light Orchestra], and that just was meant to be.… It felt like that was the right thing." (Although "Good Times, Bad Times" does reappear in the first "Hustle" trailer, glimpsed in the clip above.)
"Fortunately," Russell continued, "we have [Susan] Jacobs, our music supervisor, who's wonderful, and Philip Tallman, who's our [music] editor, and she knows the way to do all these things, including getting 'White Rabbit' [the Jefferson Airplane song] in Arabic, which was a great idea. Including getting Jeff Lynne, the founder of ELO, to open up unreleased tracks to us, which was just unbelievable — and a whole different sound. I associate ELO with more of the music that we've seen in other pictures, a kind of West Coast sound, and this is a completely different sound."
He added, "It's a wonderful thing to hear a song that feels like a classic you know, but you have never heard it."
For more from Russell and editor Jay Cassidy on "American Hustle," watch the full video above.