David Owen Russell is an American film writer, director, and producer, known for a cinema of intense, tragi-comedic characters whose love of life can surpass dark circumstances faced in very specific worlds. His films address such themes as mental illness as stigma or hope; invention of self and survival; the family home as nexus of love, hate, transgression, and strength; women of power and inspiration; beauty and comedy found in twisted humble circumstances; the meaning of violence, war, and greed; and the redemptive power of music above all.
Russell has been nominated for five Academy Awards® and four Golden Globes®. He has won four Independent Spirit Awards and two BAFTA Awards. He has been nominated for three WGA awards and two DGA awards. He has collaborated with actors Bradley Cooper, Robert Deniro, Jennifer Lawrence, and Mark Wahlberg, on three films each, and with Christian Bale and Amy Adams, on two films each.
Jennifer Lawrence won the Academy Award for Best Actress in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won for best supporting actor and actress in The Fighter (2010). Russell is the only director to have two consecutively-released films (Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013)) garner Academy Award® nominations in all four acting categories. Jennifer Lawrence earned an Academy Award® nomination and Golden Globe® win for Best Actress for her work in Russell’s most recent film Joy (2015). To date Russell’s films have garnered a total of 26 Academy Award nominations and 19 Golden Globe nominations. In 2016, the Art Directors Guild honored Russell with the Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award.
Russell is a board member and longtime supporter of the Ghetto Film School, which helps develop and support emerging filmmakers in the South Bronx and runs the nation's first film public high school. He also has been an ardent supporter of the Glenholme School, a therapeutic boarding school for children and young adults with special educational needs. He was instrumental in raising funds to build a new arts center at Glenholme that opened in 2011. Glenholme honored Russell in 2011 with the Bowen Award for Outstanding Support and in 2015 with the Doucette Award for Longstanding Commitment.
Russell was recently honored by the renowned McLean Hospital for his efforts to advance public awareness of mental health issues through advocacy and his 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook. The director has been open about his own family’s experiences with mental illness. His advocacy efforts brought him to Washington where he and actor Bradley Cooper supported legislation in Congress and met with Vice President Joe Biden to also discuss parity for mental health in all health care.
Born in New York City, Russell attended public schools in Mamaroneck, NY. He continued his education at Amherst College, where he majored in literature and political science, and was given an honorary degree in 2002. He started as a writer before making his first documentary short about the Hispanic immigrant community in Boston. He earned critical acclaim early in his career in 1994 when he wrote and directed his first feature film, Spanking the Monkey, which won the Audience Award at Sundance and two Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay. Russell’s early films include Three Kings (1999) and Flirting with Disaster (1996).