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David O. Russell at the 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon

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The 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon took place Feb. 10 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. Nominees gathered to have lunch, pose for photos, receive their official Academy Award nomination certificate, and do interviews. (The 86th annual Oscar ceremony takes place March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. ABC has the live U.S. telecast of the show at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST.) Here is what this Oscar nominee said when doing a brief press conference interview in the Oscar Nominees Luncheon’s press room.

DAVID O. RUSSELL

Nominated for:
Best Director
Best Original Screenplay
(“American Hustle”)

You did a great article with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in the New York Times. When you were creating “American Hustle,” how much importance did you place on fashion?

The whole secret of the cinema that we’ve been doing for the last three pictures — “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” — is a soulful kind of feeling for human beings. And as I said to Diane von Furstenberg, who’s an enormous hero to me — I was so excited to meet her; we have a couple of her vintage dresses in the movie — the jersey, you can feel people through the dress. It’s like their skin. It’s unpretentious and it’s elegant. I love that.

My mom had that dress. My high-school girlfriend had that dress: the wrap dress. It was all very personal to me. My dad had a combover. It’s all about having love for the characters on the inside. That’s what the whole thing is to me and how they love life and live life and struggle. That’s the whole thing.

Do you think you could have directed “American Hustle” at the beginning of your career?

I definitely am a late bloomer. And I definitely needed to grow up, which happened between the first set of movies and the second set of movies. The first set of movies ended with “[I Heart] Huckabees,” which I would say in the patois of Irving Rosenfeld — and Christian Bale said it about Bob Hoskins, who said it about acting — “From ears up is one thing. From the feet up is a different thing.”

I would say the cinema of the last three pictures has really been from the feet up, in terms of great passion for every detail of every character. Great instinct. I think that answers your question, right? I feel very clear. And that can happen only if you’ve been humbled or struggled or got your head on straight. You can relate to characters who have gone through that.

A lot of your movies are about people reinventing themselves. What in your personal life has been a great example of reinvention?

I’ve seen it so many times. My own mom reinvented herself. My parents were immigrant kids. They were first-generation Americans who reinvented themselves in the world of publishing.

She was a secretary at Simon & Schuster, and my dad was a salesman. And they were, respectively, the son of an Italian bookmaker and a Russian butcher. And they completely had to reinvent themselves with their wardrobe and had to start wearing tweeds.

We were the first family to move to the suburbs. We were the ones with the New York accents who didn’t fit in. That was a big journey, so I relate to that deeply and personally.

And my own self, I had to see my son go through many incarnations, get many second, third and fourth chances due to his challenges. And he taught me that you can’t afford to have a negative attitude, or as Jack Nicholson famously said, “Try to incline yourself upwards as much as possible, because the world will easily incline you downwards.”

So second, third or fourth chances are what it’s all about. And I love watching people pick themselves up. And that’s what this cinema is all about.

For more info: Academy Awards website

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