Russell follows model of Scorsese, Burton with Lawrence as muse



By Alicia Fine


Fresh from the award-winning success of “American Hustle,” director and screenwriter David O. Russell has already started work on his next project — a biopic of Joy Mangano, the creator of the Miracle Mop and an array of other handy household items. Russell often works with familiar actors on his films and his next is no different, tapping his two-time collaborator, Jennifer Lawrence, to portray Mangano.


Mangano, a Long Island single-mother-turned-inventor, may not be much of a departure from Lawrence’s role in “American Hustle.” Lawrence has already won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar for her performance as suburban housewife Rosalyn Rosenfeld.

It cannot be denied that Russell and Lawrence work well together. She won her first Oscar for her work in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” Their partnership on this Mangano biopic will soon tell if Lawrence and Russell can hit the trifecta.

Russell is one of many directors who seems to have taken on a muse. Starting in the 1970s and continuing until the 1990s, Robert De Niro appeared in eight acclaimed films under the direction of Martin Scorsese. From “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” to “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas,” De Niro has proved himself as the quintessential tough guy on screen and a great partner off screen.

Lately, Scorsese has found a worthy collaborator in Leonardo DiCaprio, most recently in the Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Nearly a decade ago, Scorsese gave DiCaprio one of his first gritty adult roles in “The Aviator” and the two have been a successful pair ever since, with movies such as “The Departed” and “Shutter Island.”

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are perhaps the most famed, instantly identifiable director-muse pairing. Starting with 1990’s “Edward Scissorhands,” Burton and Depp forged a wonderful creative relationship defined by Burton’s signature dark, quirky aesthetic. His two highest-grossing films, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Alice and Wonderland,” both featured Depp in leading roles.

Wild card Quentin Tarantino and blonde vixen Uma Thurman share a relationship that is perhaps the most similar to that of David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence. Though Thurman appeared in several movies prior to working with Tarantino on “Pulp Fiction,” it was not until that film’s success in 1994 that Thurman’s name became famous.

While working on “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino and Thurman’s casual on-set conversations became an idea for a movie that eventually evolved into the cult favorite “Kill Bill” series. Thurman’s part was truly conceived by Tarantino especially for her.

Though Russell has never publicly cited Jennifer Lawrence as his muse, it appears more and more obvious that Russell is writing roles with Lawrence specifically in mind, rather than casting her after the fact. After all, if it is not broken, don’t fix it — Russell and Lawrence have made movie magic together and are sure to keep doing so in the future.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 13 print edition. Alicia Fine is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]



  1. I like Alicia Fine’s article about the directors and actors and actresses who have served as each other’s muses, but I wish that she had mentioned some older directors and actors and actresses. Perhaps the best example of a director and an actress who complemented each other were Bette Davis and William Wyler. The three films they made together- “Jezebel,” “The Letter,” and “The Little Foxes”- were all classics. Ms. Davis did equally great work with Edmund Goulding on “Dark Victory,” “The Olld Maid,” and “The Great Lie.” Mr. Goulding also served as a great muse for Greta Garbo when he directed her in “Grand Hotel” and the silent version of “Anna Karenina.” And Joseph Cotten gave his greatest performances in Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons.”


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