David O. Russell

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Writer-director David O. Russell’s most recent film, the critically-acclaimed Silver Linings Playbook, is arguably his most personal yet. In his Guest DJ set, he sheds some light on the songs he’s released from his personal “arsenal” of favorites to create a perfect movie moment, as well as his earliest musical memory.


1. Johann Sebastian Bach - Gloria, Mass in B minor
2. Led Zeppelin - What Is and What Should Never Be
3. Morphine - Sheila
4. Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - Girl From the North Country
5. Dave Brubeck - Maria


Anne Litt: Hi I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with Writer/Director David O. Russell. He's
released two hugely successful films over the last few years; The Fighter and Silver
Linings Playbook. However, today we're talking music. We'll be playing excerpts of
songs he's selected and that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest
DJ Project. Welcome David.

David O. Russell: Thanks Anne.
Anne Litt: Hi I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with Writer/Director David O. Russell. He's
released two hugely successful films over the last few years; The Fighter and Silver
Linings Playbook. However, today we're talking music. We'll be playing excerpts of
songs he's selected and that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest
DJ Project. Welcome David.

David O. Russell: Thanks Anne.

Anne Litt: I'd like to start off with a piece by Bach "Mass in B Minor (Gloria)". Can you tell
us about this one?

David O. Russell: Classical music is very powerful and I've used it sparingly in my life.
When I was writing Three Kings, and I departed from using pop music in my first two
films Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster, I was driving around listening to
this all the time, and I say driving because that was weird for me. It was a big departure
for me to come to Los Angeles and do this film at Warner Brothers, a studio.

And in lieu of taking…I stayed with friends instead of taking the hotel money, see, so
then I got to rent a car. I got to rent a fancy car. This is somebody who hadn't driven in
about 10 years -- I'd lived in New York City. I rented a Mercedes then I was like "this is
amazing", driving this brand new Mercedes around. And I would listen to these CD's all
the time of this amazing music.

I would just have all these emotions because my son was getting diagnosed with having
bipolar and other serious issues at the age of like three at this time. And he was having
serious things and my life was very emotional, so all that emotion got put into the script
I was writing for Three Kings and I would listen to this music and I would kinda get all
emotional and I would write the script.

On Sunset Boulevard I bumped a guy's truck 'cause I was listening to the music and
he got out at some light in the Palisades and he said "Hey, you know this truck is my
Mercedes!" and he made me feel like I was a jerk Mercedes guy and I said "I'm just
renting this Mercedes." (laughs)

Song: Bach -- "Gloria, Mass In B Minor"

Anne Litt: That was Bach with a piece, "Gloria, Mass In B Minor" I want to get into this
Led Zeppelin song "What is and What Should Never Be". Talk about this song and why
you love it.

David O. Russell: It's a bipolar song in a way because it starts off "and if I say to you
tomorrow", which is so quiet, and then it gets really loud and violent and then it gets
really quiet again. It just keeps going like that through the whole song.

Led Zeppelin was a fantastic discovery for me and I remember it was much harder than
any of the other music I had been listening to. I remember a girl I was dating at the time
and her mother were very disconcerted and concerned that I bought Led Zeppelin II.
They were like "What is that?" and I was like "This is the future." I just thought it was

It's so interesting, because I had the same feelings about them that the world had
apparently, because I just read this and it's such an inspiring story, is that they were
panned, shredded by critics. Critics, don't get me started. I agree with Bob Dylan who
says "you can't read critics." I agree with him. They were shredded, they were kicked by
Rolling Stone, the flagship of rock and roll. They were called derivative, nothing, posers,
for their three most classic albums I, II, and III. Like iconic albums.

Song: Led Zeppelin -- "What is and What Should Never Be"

Anne Litt: That was Led Zeppelin with a song, "What Is And What Should Never Be". I'm
Anne Litt sitting here with writer, director David O. Russell for KCRW's Guest DJ Project.
So, David, talk about "Sheila" from the band Morphine.

David O. Russell: It's a real haunting song. It's also a very sexual song. I thought a lot of
their music was very sexual and intense and sort of dark and scary too. This song has a
repeating riff and it builds, it has a big build, and then it goes quiet.

When I first did Spanking the Monkey which was an independent film that we shot for
$80,000 and filled with all this angst. The kind of adolescent angst that of course it's my
son, who's 18, his favorite of the films that I've made because that makes perfect sense
because he would embrace that angst. The music that was sort of happening in the mid
90's at that time that was filled with heroin and angst. There was The Cowboy Junkies
and there was this band called Morphine. A lot of really moody, evocative, sad music.
Some of it was really rockin' though.

Song: Morphine – “Sheila”

Anne Litt: Do you think your perspective on music has changed listening to a song
like "Sheila" from Morphine then and now or any song?

David O. Russell: For sure, my appetite for that music is not what it was when I was in
my late twenties or early thirties. I had an enormous appetite for that music. Like my son
does, my son can listen to that moody music all day and I'll ride in the car with him and
I feel like I'm going to kill myself. I'll say "Can we just change it up a little bit? How about
something with a little zing in it, a little sparkle, a little hope."

Anne Litt: That was Morphine with the song "Sheila". Up next a song you used in such
a cool way in your new film Silver Linings Playbook. It's a classic from Bob Dylan and
Johnny Cash. It's called "Girl from the North Country". Nashville Skyline is one of my all
time favorite records.

David O. Russell: How fantastic is that album? When Bob Dylan went to Nashville.
My dad, who is still alive and is a beautiful guy, he belonged to the Columbia record
club. Isn't that what it's called? We got all these Bob Dylan songs, and he was into
the folk thing with Joan Baez and he took guitar lessons and he did all that stuff, so
he introduced me to Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan "Girl from the North Country" was an
amazing album and we listened to it a lot and that was one that was an editing room
discovery for the film because where would I ever think to initiate their dance rehearsal
montage, when they finally begin to dance and rehearse, to that song.

We would never think of it in a million years, but it made perfect sense. The emotion is
what matters. It's not about anything but the emotion so and the movie is about emotion
so that became the perfect song for when they launched off into that 'cause it has so
much soul.

Song: Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash -- "Girl from the North Country"

David O. Russell: I keep a deep reservoir of music that I love and you keep it secret like
a treasure trove because there's so much music everywhere, on everybody's computers.
To bust a song out in the right way, that it's potent in a movie, means you got to keep
it under wraps and you reach in your arsenal and you go "Ah this is good." You lock
and load and you do it. Even if it's a song people know pretty well, they can completely
rediscover it in a way that is perfect.

Anne Litt: It seems that you see music entirely through your films.

David O. Russell: You embrace music and you live it. You make up a movie in your head
that goes to that song. Before there were music videos, that's what you would do. If
you're a storyteller then you're writing stories and I'm sure other filmmakers probably did
similar things. You're always making up scenarios to that song, which is a marriage of
story, image, and the feeling of the music.

Anne Litt: Is that why you're a filmmaker?

David O. Russell: Probably. Because you could say it was someone with a very intense
fantasy life and creative fantasy life, but that is what I did. I would always have movies or
music playing in my head and it's a good way to get through the day.

Anne Litt: "Girl From The North Country" by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. So, your final
pick is by the late Dave Brubeck it's called "Maria." Tell us about this final piece.

David O. Russell: "Maria" is from West Side Story, and Leonard Bernstein and Stephen
Sondheim. My dad used to sing it around the house because that was my mom's name,
my late mother who died twelve years ago. She was an Italian-American girl from
Brooklyn and he would sing "Maria", and I would see my dad walking around the house
going "Mariaaa/I just met a girl named Maria". That was a very personal song for me,
one of my earliest memories, actually, when I was like three or four and West Side Story
was a big deal.

So I always had a soft spot for that song and then I started getting vinyl again about
seven or eight years ago and I'd buy these $100 record players that I love because then
you don't have to worry about what happens to them. I'd put them everywhere, one in
the bathroom, little treasure troves of records everywhere and you just throw one on
wherever you are in your private little moment, stolen moments, and my son was my
partner in crime with that. I got all these old Dave Brubeck records and I discovered
the song, which I did not know that he had done and it just knocked me out. I mean his
version of it is sublime.

Song: Dave Brubeck -- Mario

Anne Litt: David thank you so much for stopping by KCRW and sharing these great
songs and stories with us. For a complete track listing and to listen online go to





Anne Litt