Interview: The Cast and Crew Talk About Silver Linings Playbook, Written by: Karen Benardello
When adults struggling with mental illness are faced with conflicts that they have difficulty comprehending and moving past, their families often feel the straining effects on their own lives. The families often do whatever they can to try to protect and save the person trying to get over their fears and internal battles, but often times fail to understand what they’re truly going through. That’s the main motivating cause of conflict in the new comedy-drama ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ which is based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Director David O. Russell, who made his feature film writing debut with the movie, created a memorable film offers a realistic, emotional look into the struggles families face after a member has an emotional break-down related to their mental illness.
‘Silver Linings Playbook‘ follows Pat Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper), who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and lost everything, including his house, his job as a teacher at the local high school and his wife, Nikki (portrayed by Brea Bee), after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat’s mother, Dolores (played by Jacki Weaver), arranges for him to be released from the hospital and move with back in with her and his father, Pat Sr. (portrayed by Robert De Niro), who lost his job and has turned to gambling to make money. They want Pat to get back on his feet, and share the family obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. But Pat is determined to rebuild his life on his own terms-his major goal is to reunite with Nikki, despite her restraining order against him and the challenging circumstances of their separation.
Pat’s road to recovery is deterred by Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence), his widowed neighbor and the sister of one of his friends, Veronica (portrayed by Julia Stiles), who is still in contact with Nikki. Since Pat is determined to reconnect with Nikki, Tiffany offers to help him save his marriage, as long as he’ll be her partner in a dance competition she’s determined to enter. As their deal plays out, Pat and Tiffany form an unexpected bond with each other that they both have to learn to navigate. While Dolores and Pat Sr. are confused over where their son’s relationship with Tiffany is headed, one of Pat’s fellow patients from the hospital, Danny (played by Chris Tucker), encourages his friend to continue his new bond with the woman he has so easily connected with.
Russell, De Niro, Cooper, Tucker and Weaver all generously participated in a press conference recently at New York City’s Regency Hotel to discus ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’ Among other things, the cast reveals why they were interested in playing their respective characters; the filmmaker spoke about how he came about writing and directing the comedy-drama; and how everyone thought what a surprise it was to see De Niro become emotional on set.
Question (Q): David, as the director and writer, can you tell us a little about how the material came to you?
David O. Russell (DOR): Well, about five years ago, Sydney Pollack gave me the novel by Matthew Quick, which he owned the rights to with his partner, Anthony Mccalla and Harvey Weinstein. I would say if it weren’t for my son, who had some of these struggles with bipolarity, the book would not have grabbed me. But it did grab me, and I was very pleased to write it.
It was my first adaptation ever. The characters were fantastic and complicated, each one of them. They’re very powerful-two very powerful women, and two very powerful men. I then didn’t get to make it as expected at the time. I thought I was going to get to make it, and it didn’t work out at the time.
Then I made ‘The Fighter,’ which really turned to focus my energy on this kind of a world. I’ve come to really appreciate it as a filmmaker, and I try to do it the best as I can. I then re-wrote it for the people here.
Q: When you said you re-wrote it for the people here, did you re-write it post-casting? As you were re-writing, were you thinking of the individuals who would play them?
DOR: It’s a combination of the fact that as you approach who’s going to be in the movie, I had the privilege to get to know Mr. De Niro over a period of years. We were able to have a personal dialogue about members of our family who had various challenges that they faced. So that’s always nice to have that emotional gateway into material, it makes it specific and personal to you. You care about it, and understand it.
The fact that Bradley had gone through himself, when I met him and got to know him, I saw him as someone in ‘Wedding Crashers’ who was a very angry person to me. When I got to know him, he was only more interesting to me. (laughs) The guy was 30 pounds heavier, and was angrier at that time.
That, to me, was so interesting when I got to know him, for him to tell me that about himself, because that mirrored the journey of the character. The character was re-introducing himself to his community, and so I think is Bradley in the picture, as an actor. I don’t think people have seen that face of him in cinema.
Jacki, I absolutely loved ‘Animal Kingdom;’ she had such a strong, tense presence. She brought that anger energy to the film. I told her that she and Bob had a happy marriage, they were still close. They instantly got that chemistry, which is essential that you feel like you’re in a real home.
Chris Tucker was another great revolution for us. He’s a guy we haven’t seen enough of since ‘Rush Hour.’ That lends to the reality of a fellow who’s been in a hospital, and we haven’t seen him. He’s coming out, and he’s happy and trying to talk to people. You don’t know who he’s going to be. But that lends that energy to Bradley, with their friendship going back.
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