Christian Bale, nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role as the toupee-topped con-artist Irving Rosenfeld in the rollicking, Polyester Era American Hustle, is good friends with his director, David O. Russell. They collaborated on The Fighter. They live down the road from each other in L.A. And when Russell began putting the pieces together for his Abscam scandal movie, he would text Russell with ideas.
Amy Adams, also a Fighter alum, was suggested as Russell’s first choice for Sydney, Bale’s character’s soulmate in scammery, both director and star agreed. But then, what about the role of Rosalyn, Irving’s unhappy and nutty wife?
“David texts a lot,” Bale, in an interview in December, recalls. “So he texts me, and he’s been saying, `You know, I’ve got somebody in mind for Rosalyn.’ I said, `Who is it?’ He said, `I don’t want to tell you.’ I said, `Get the eff out of here.’ He said, `OK, but you have to promise not to tell anybody.’ And so he sends me — and I think the auto-correct has changed things, because it comes out `J-LA ,' right? And I look at that and I think it must have changed the O to an A. He means J-Lo! Jennifer Lopez! And I think, J-Lo? I just can’t picture that. That’s a real surprise. I never would have imagined J-Lo. So, I text him back, `J-Lo?’
`No, J-Law, OK, right?’”
Which presented, initially, another dilemma for Bale: Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, winning a best actress Academy Award for her trouble, is 16 years younger than Bale. “In so many films, there’s this expectation that you’re going to get these older actors with these very young actresses, as though that’s the most perfectly normal thing in the world.…
"And I thought, that changes everything about Irv. In a way, he’s abusing this young woman-- and having an affair on the side. And I’m starting to find it so tricky, that I’m playing this con man in the first place, and I do find him charming, but this relationship seems like it’s giving me so much more work.”
So Bale met with Russell, and with Lawrence, and expressed his concerns.
“And then I realized, on my first day of filming with Jennifer, that what had been created was actually just this wonderful unexpected surprise. Because you really have this toxic marriage, and you absolutely can believe that this is a young woman who needed somebody to take care of her and her son, and through all of her issues, one of them is bound to be a father issue, looking for a father figure, and that she’s using her son as leverage against him because she knows he really loves him like his own son.
"And then from Irv’s point-of-view, of course, he would have been stunned and flattered by this young beautiful woman’s attention.
"And they would have had a honeymoon, and then reality would have set in and he would have thought, we have nothing to talk about, we have nothing in common. And Irv is someone who needs to talk. He wants conversation. He loves conversation. And he’s looking at her and she’s unhappy, I’m unhappy, what are we doing?”
Bale, Adams, Bradley Cooper and J-Law are nominated in the respective acting categories for the Academy Awards. And American Hustle is nominated for best film and best director, too. And J-Lo? Still waiting for her call.