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Trailer: ‘Amsterdam’ Proves That Lots of Actors Are Still Working With David O. Russell

The first trailer for David O. Russell’s star-studded Amsterdam is here, starring Margot Robbie, John David Washington and Christian Bale at the lead of an eye-popping cast. In this trailer alone, you’ve got Mike Myers, Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert De Niro, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, Chris Rock, and none other than Dr. Taylor Swift herself. The movie, which purports to be based on a real story, follows some sort of caper and looks fun enough. Russell has certainly proven to be a capable filmmaker, with hits like The Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and I Heart Huckabees.

As a director, Russell can be quite good. As a person, well …that’s a little more complicated. Based on numerous onset stories and several infamous videos, Russell fits the stereotype of a certain type of Hollywood filmmaker whose artistic ability gives him wide license to treat the people around him terribly, verbally berating his cast and crew.

Stories abound. George Clooney told Playboy that working with Russell was “truly, without exception, the worst experience of my life,” detailing a time when he was physically assaulted by Russell after he stepped in to defend a crew member from one of the director’s outbursts. In 2004, an infamous video from the set of I Heart Huckabees showed Russell screaming at Lily Tomlin, hurling vile obscenities at her.

In 2013, Christian Bale reportedly had to intervene on the set of American Hustle to defend his co-star Amy Adams from one of Russell’s tirades. Adams confirmed Russell’s behavior in a GQ interview, saying she was “devastated” on “most” days. “Jennifer [Lawrence] doesn’t take any of it on. She’s Teflon. And I am not Teflon,” Adams said. “But I also don’t like to see other people treated badly. It’s not OK with me. Life to me is more important than movies.”

And this is just onset behavior. In 2011, Russell’s then-19-year-old niece Nicole Peloquin filed a report with police, accusing her uncle of groping her while the two worked out together. According to police reports, Russell confirmed that “inappropriate touching” did occur, but blamed his niece, who is transgender, saying she had been “acting very provocative toward him.” The case was eventually closed with no charges filed.

None of this means that Russell hasn’t made good movies. He clearly has. It does call into question just how swift and powerful this so-called “cancel culture” is if a filmmaker with a lengthy and documented history of abusive behavior can still get good work.

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There’s this myth you sometimes hear about celebrated artists — how they’re just so creative that they can’t be expected to get along well with others. It’s under this myth that the transgressions of men (it’s always men) like Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick were given a pass, no matter the testimonies of Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow and Shelley Duvall.

But that myth is nonsense. Artists — even great ones — can be patient or hot-headed, measured or mercurial, empathetic or argumentative. None of these traits are bad in and of themselves. It’s what you do with these dispositions that counts. By multiple accounts, Russell has chosen to treat the people who work with him like a tyrant. And until we see real evidence of change, there is simply no excuse for it.

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