David O. Russell is a controversial figure in the film world—both for his personal issues and professional behavior. He’s infamously tyrannical as a director, and Amy Adams told British GQ in 2016 that most days she was “really just devastated on set” of American Hustle. Rumors have long circulated that her co-star Christian Bale had to intervene regarding Russell’s treatment of her.
Bale, for his part, has nothing but praise for the director, though he acknowledges his difficult reputation: “I genuinely love the films that David and I have made, you know what I mean? It’s the process of doing that because I’ve got no control over the rest of it. So it’s the process with David,” he says in his own GQ profile. “Even though we’re not always having what people would term a pleasant day, but we both are absolutely there knowing that we’re totally clued into each other. And so we’re either sort of running down the beach, hugging, or it’s just not talking for weeks on end.”
“If I can have some sense of understanding of where it’s coming from, then I do tend to attempt to be a mediator,” he adds of the sometimes-charged atmosphere on a Russell set. “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.’”
Bale acknowledges that he did indeed play “mediator” between Adams and Russell, but doing so didn’t spoil his American Hustle experience. “You’re dealing with two such incredible talents there. No, I don’t let that get in the way whatsoever. Look, if I feel like we got anywhere close—and you only ever get somewhere close to achieving; our imagination is too incredible to ever entirely achieve it—but if you get anywhere close to it, and when you’re working with people of the crazy creative talent of Amy or of David, there are gonna be upsets,” he argues. “But they are fucking phenomenal. Also, you got to remember, it was the nature of the characters as well. Right? Those characters were not people who back down from anything, right?”
While Adams said American Hustle “really taught me how to separate work and home,” Bale brought the work into his interpersonal mediation: “I did what I felt was appropriate, in very Irv style,” he says of his character. Bale also claims that Adams specifically told him that the on-set drama shouldn’t affect the audience’s enjoyment of the work, so go forth with a clear conscience, American Hustle fans. Unless your enjoyment is affected by Russell’s other controversy, which Bale did not address; you’re on your own with that one.