David O. Russell is one of Hollywood's most acclaimed directors - but is he abusive?

One of the world’s most famous directors has an apparent history of abusing women. But Hollywood seems to want to sweep it under the carpet.

Director David O. Russell, 56, has a name synonymous with excellent American films. He has been called a creative genius by film critics, someone most actors would kill to work with.

He’s a five-time Oscar-nominated director whose praises are sung by some of the film industry’s most powerful people. His films are critically-acclaimed and often draw the biggest-named actors as a cast. American Hustle, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook are all Russell’s work.

But he allegedly has a long, dark history of abuse that everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten about.

As part of the recent Sony email hacks, messages between journalist Jonathan Alter to Sony Entertainment CEO and chair Michael Lynton were leaked which show the pair discussing Russell’s behaviour on the set of American Hustle. 

In those emails, it’s alleged Russell was so violent towards actress Amy Adams that co-star Christian Bale was forced to intervene.

david o. russell abused amy adams
Amy Adams and David O. Russell. Image via Getty.

“Are you guys doing anything else with him?” Atler wrote to Lynton, who is his brother-in-law, in an email late last year.

“I know he’s brilliant but we have someone on our show who worked closely with him on American Hustle and not only are the stories about him reforming himself total bullshit but the new stories of his abuse and lunatic behaviour are extreme even by Hollywood standards.

“He grabbed one guy by the collar, cursed out people repeatedly in front of others and so abused Amy Adams that Christian Bale got in his face and told him to stop acting like an asshole.”

Related: This man has a history of abuse against women. Why is he starring in Madonna’s new film clip?

The allegations, while not confirmed, are shocking enough on their own. But when you take into account his history of violent and inappropriate behaviour, the abuse is cast in a much more serious light.

david o. russell abused amy adams
David O. Russell. Image via Getty.

There was the moment he headbutted George Clooney and then choked him on the 1999 set of Three Kings, after Clooney stepped in when Russell kicked an extra to the ground and hurled abuse at him.

“He started banging me on the head with his head. He goes, ‘Hit me, you pussy. Hit me’. Then, he got me by the throat and I went nuts. Waldo, my buddy, one of the boys, grabbed me by the waist to get me to let go of him. I had him by the throat. I was going to kill him. Kill him,” Clooney says.

Clooney calls the film “the worst experience of my life”.

Related: Hollywood’s most famous director never casts women in leads. Until now.


After that, on the set of 2004’s I Heart Huckabees, which starred Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg, the director allegedly verbally and physically abused actress Lily Tomlin. The abuse was caught on camera and leaked to the press.

Watch the horrific moment below, at around the one minute mark. Post continues after video. 

And perhaps most shockingly, Russell is, by his own admission, a sexual abuser who groped his 19-year-old transgender niece at a gym. Charges allegedly weren’t laid because “the assault wasn’t witnessed by police”. In a disgusting case of victim-blaming, Russell later said his niece, Nicole Peloquin, was “acting very provocative toward him”. Russell was filming Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook at the time, but it appears the incident was largely covered up.

All this – video indicating horrific abuse, an apparent admission of guilt over molesting his niece, countless stories of violent behaviour – and he’s hailed as a brilliant hero of cinema.

If these allegations are true, we need to call him what he is – an abuser, a confessed molester and a violent human being . But don’t call him brilliant. Because no matter how great he is at making movies, if these allegations are true, nothing he does will excuse his behaviour.

Hollywood, you can try your best. But we won’t forget.

Click through the gallery below of David O. Russell painting the perfect picture of his life as a Hollywood heavyweight.