A strange, short film appeared for a brief time on YouTube today. It was a much talked-about, little-seen tirade by director David O. Russell from the set of his 2004 film, "I Heart Huckabees." (I was on the set a fair amount, took some pictures on a happier day, see left.) I had described this outburst in a piece I wrote about the making of the movie in the Times in 2003, but had never seen it myself; Russell lets loose at Lily Tomlin, unleashing a stream of obscenities at what he considers her obstinacy, or inability to give him what he needs in the scene. Jason Schwartzman sits in a defensive slouch; Dustin Hoffman stands behind Tomlin, looking embarrassed as Russell rages around, using the f-word, and even the c-word.
Here’s what I wrote back then, in a much-emailed piece that effectively ended my friendship with Russell:
"This time, the director turns on her angrily, calling her the crudest word imaginable, in front of the actors and crew. He shrieks: ”I wrote this role for you! I fought for you!” Mr. Russell ends his tirade by sweeping his arm across a nearby table cluttered with production paraphernalia. He storms off the set and back on again, continually shouting. Then he locks himself in his office, refusing to return. After an uncomfortable, set-wide pause, Ms. Tomlin goes in to apologize, and Mr. Russell returns to the shoot.
Unbeknownst to both of them, a member of the crew has videotaped his tirade. The recording makes its way around the Hollywood talent agencies. Asked about the incident later, Mr. Russell says: ”Sure, I wish I hadn’t done that. But Lily and I are fine.” For her part, Ms. Tomlin admits that both she and Mr. Russell lost control. ”It’s not a practice on his part or my part,” she says. ”I’d rather have someone human and available and raw and open. Don’t give me someone cold, or cut off, or someone who considers themselves dignified.’
That must be the Zen part.’ (read the whole thing here.)
After about an hour, the video clip had disappeared from YouTube just as quickly as it appeared. (Update: It is apparently now also available here: http://youtube.com/watch?v