David O. Russell, Waiters Guild of America winner? Not something you’ll be hearing soon. But among the many jobs the Oscar-nominated writer-director had before he sold his first feature was working as a Manhattan waiter and bartender.
At the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Outstanding Director Tribute last Friday, a gleeful Russell told a full house – including a screaming baby and a patron with a cough Russell compared to a cat with a fur ball – about his non-illustrious past.
Russell confessed that he waited on fellow nominee Martin Scorsese at the “Goodfellas” premier at the Museum of Modern Art. He told the established director “what I really want to do is what you are doing.” Scorsese responded: “I’ll have a vodka.”
When asked by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling about the rigors of the Awards Season – especially in light of riding last year’s contender “Silver Lining Playbook” as well as this year’s “American Hustle” – the former waiter with blue-collar New Jersey roots wasn’t prey to self-pity. “You should love it, or you shouldn’t be in the business,” Russell said.
Russell has yet to win an Oscar himself despite three nominations for Best Director, but he still has an impressive track record. His last three films have garnered twenty-five Oscar nominations. That has netted three wins: one each for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for “The Fighter,” and one last year for Jennifer Lawrence.