After working with director David O. Russell on American Hustle in 2016, Christian Bale reunited with Russell for Amsterdam, out this Friday. And in an interview for the November cover of GQ this week, Bale reflected on some cute little memories from the American Hustle set—in particular, rumors confirmed by Bale’s co-star Amy Adams that she and Russell clashed while filming.
In 2016, Adams—also in an interview with GQ—said that Russell regularly made her cry while filming the movie. “He was hard on me, that’s for sure. It was a lot… He did [make me cry]—I was really just devastated on set,” she said. Two years earlier, during the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, an email between journalist Jonathan Alter and his brother-in-law, then-Sony CEO Michael Lynton, said Russell “so abused” Adams on set. “His abuse and lunatic behaviour are extreme even by Hollywood standards,” Alter wrote.
Asked by GQ about what went down between Adams and Russell and Bale’s role in it, Bale recalled taking a diplomatic approach. “I did what I felt was appropriate, in very Irv style,” he said, referencing his character in American Hustle. He continued, “If I can have some sense of understanding of where it’s coming from, then I do tend to attempt to be a mediator. That’s just in my nature, to try to say, ‘Hey, come on, let’s go and sit down and figure that out. There’s gotta be a way of making this all work.’”
Of course, it seems worth noting here that despite Bale’s self-proclaimed instincts as a peacemaker, he has a history of alleged violence himself. In 2008, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mom and sister, though no charges were made. His temper has also been well-documented—in 2009, video surfaced of the actor verbally assaulting a Terminator: Salvation crew member with a flurry expletives. It really makes you wonder what his self-reported American Hustle diplomacy might have entailed!
In his interview with GQ this week, Bale ultimately seemed to minimize the abuse allegations surrounding Adams and Russell, the male director wielding authoritative power over her, as a clash of big personalities. “You’re dealing with two such incredible talents there,” he said, adding that “when you’re working with people of the crazy creative talent of Amy or of David, there are gonna be upsets. But they are fucking phenomenal.”
On top of allegedly mistreating Adams, Russell also stands accused of sexually assaulting his trans niece in 2012. After she filed the police report, Russell told officers his niece had been “acting very provocative toward him,” prompting the alleged assault. According to George Clooney, Russell mistreated extras and crew members on their 1999 movie Three Kings.
Unlike Bale, I was not on the set of American Hustle and will never know what went down. But I naturally question a male co-star essentially falling back on bothside-isms to describe the working relationship between a woman and her male boss who frequently made her cry. As for Bale’s praise of Russell, I’m tired of the long tradition of artistically “genius” men accused of abuse being given a pass to mistreat others because the art they create is worth it.
Amsterdam, with a star-studded cast featuring Bale, Margot Robbie, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert DeNiro, Zoe Saldaña, and even Taylor Swift, has thus far evaded the drama and backlash it arguably deserves, given Russell’s history. For me, all of the pieces of his past raise questions about how Russell is still directing blockbuster movies, while big names like the aforementioned Amsterdam stars lavish praise on him. Being “fucking phenomenal” is hardly an excuse to be able to abuse others with impunity.