I made a mistake yesterday. A mistake not of willfulness, but of carelessness, thoughtlessness. In writing about David O. Russell’s new movie, Amsterdam, I said that despite knowing he’s an asshole to work with—he famously berated Lily Tomlin on set and got so intense with Amy Adams on American Hustle that Christian Bale told him to “stop acting like an asshole”—I still wanted to see Amsterdam, a fun little murder mystery with an all-star cast, including my favorite, Timothy Olyphant. But several of you reminded me of something I completely forgot—Russell has also been accused of groping his niece, Nicole Peloquin. He’s not just an asshole on set, he’s an (alleged) assaulter.
I truly do not know how I forgot about this. It originally happened in 2012, and resurfaced during the Sony Hack a couple years later. I want to think it got memory-holed in the avalanche of information that came out in the hack, but even in the best-case scenario, I dropped the ball on a serious allegation made by a transwoman against a famous man because I like some of his movies. And reviewing the original reporting in 2012, it’s clear Nicole Peloquin was not treated fairly in the media—or by law enforcement, who misgendered her constantly—let alone respectfully. And now, the disrespect continues when people like me forget what she went through and what she told us about Russell in favor of carrying water for his movies. So, Amsterdam is off the list. Not even for Timothy Olyphant.
People wonder why actors continue to work with Russell despite knowing his reputation for being an asshole on set, but that’s not a mystery. His movies make money, and actors win awards when they work with David O. Russell. Clearly, they weigh his reputation against the probability of winning a trophy, or maybe even getting a slice of the box office, and decide it’s worth getting shouted at. But are they considering Nicole Peloquin? I doubt it. I didn’t, and there’s no reason to assume a celebrity would, especially since they get paid a lot of money to not rock the boat. It’s worth remembering Harvey Weinstein only went down after years of rumors about money troubles and looming bankruptcy. As long as people are making money, though, no one will stop that train from rolling, and the David O. Russell train is still going strong.
But that doesn’t mean we have to support his movies. Everyone draws their line between art and artist differently, and in my position, it’s not always escapable. Cary Fukunaga’s next project, for instance, is directing a few episodes of a splashy limited series about World War II fighter pilots starring Austin Butler. I probably won’t be able to avoid that, especially since Dee Rees and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are also directors on the series, and they don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush. But Amsterdam has only one director, David O. Russell, and it’s clear he’s never been held accountable for his bad behavior on set, let alone the allegations made by his niece. It’s yet another example that cancel culture isn’t real, and I’m disappointed in myself for being part of the problem, for letting a sh-tbag slide because it’s convenient.
Live long and gossip,