David O. Russell rewrote “Silver Linings Playbook” more than 20 times, honing the material so it would feel completely real and natural, a vibe he values most in his filmmaking.
In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, Russell and lead actor Bradley Cooper talk about the work involved in achieving that authenticity of the everyday.
“I wanted it to feel like we’re almost spying on people,” Russell says, “that we’ve captured them in mid-performance, so the performances are not teed-up like, ‘Here is a performance.’ It’s more like you’re just dropped into the middle of somebody’s house.”
As an example, Russell noted a scene in the film that took place in the early-morning hours, in which Cooper’s bipolar character has an episode in the family attic with his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. Asking Cooper about the moment, the actor noted that the “texture of the [film] world always felt very real and tangible,” making it easier for him to do his job. Cooper could also appreciate the hour of the setting.
“That attic became very special,” Cooper says. “I don’t know about anyone else, but things sort of happen like that when families are in their pajamas at 3 in the morning. Weird stuff can happen at that hour when you’re growing up.”