A Minute With: Director David O. Russell on music in film

Wed Nov 6, 2013 6:08am EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Frank Sinatra's baritone slowly fades into a tango, which eventually makes way to the soul music of Stevie Wonder, the frenetic rock of The White Stripes and finally into Dave Brubeck's cool jazz version of the "West Side Story" song "Maria."

That is just part of the dozen songs weaved together in the climactic dance scene in director David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated film "Silver Linings Playbook."

Russell, 55, whose latest film, "American Hustle," is set to be released in December, says he incorporates popular music into his films as "chemical reactions" to bring about a desired emotion in the audience or highlight an actor's performance.

Russell and "Silver Linings" music supervisor Sue Jacobs spoke with Reuters at the Billboard and Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference in Los Angeles in October about writing a script with music in mind, and how he was able to change Bob Dylan's opinion about one of his own songs.

Q: Does a certain song ever affect how you script a scene?

Russell: Sometimes I think of music when I'm writing a screenplay, and I write quite a bit of it in the screenplay. I think some of it was in the screenplay, and sometimes that changes because you try (it) against picture and you realize that the movie changed or you need something better or different.

Sue and I play the music that we love. ... I don't like it to be a shellac layer. You can play music so that it becomes like a music video, but that's not my wish. ... We wish to go below the surface where you're almost coming from inside. The music is almost more an interior, emotional experience.

Q: How do you take into account the audience?   Continued...

David O. Russel, nominated for best director for the film "Silver Linings Playbook", arrives at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013 REUTERS/Adrees Latif