What links David O Russell’s crime romp Amsterdam to Gloria Steinem and Bob Dylan?

Ahead of the shouty director’s latest film, we venture down the rabbit hole with Christian Bale, Julianne Moore and Spike Lee

Dutch hustle

Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington in David O Russell’s Amsterdam
Russell’s Amsterdam stars Margot Robbie, John David Washington and Christian Bale … Photograph: 20th Century Studios

If constants can be found in director David O Russell’s oeuvre, it’s that great film-making chops (Three Kings!) meet wildly divergent outcomes (often within a single film); Russell will fall out with some of his cast, and said cast will be star-filled. His latest is Amsterdam, a period crime romp led by Margot Robbie, Christian Bale and John David Washington, abetted by Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Mike Myers, Andrea Riseborough, Zoe Saldaña, Michael Shannon and Taylor Swift. Results may vary.

The fighters

Gloria Steinem
… whose father, David, was married to Gloria Steinem … Photograph: Getty Images

Christian Bale is a no stranger to shouting on set, so perhaps his encounters with Russell are a meeting of minds. This is their third outing after American Hustle and boxing drama The Fighter. Mention Bale and you can find a surprising connection: Bale’s father, David, was married to Gloria Steinem up to his death in 2003.

Thus passes the Glorias

Julianne Moore
… who’s been played by Julianne Moore, who has also worked with Todd Haynes … Photograph: Getty Images

Steinem has become a pop culture touchstone. Rose Byrne portrayed her 1970s peak in Mrs America. Lesser seen was The Glorias (“a laughably shoddy mess”), with four actors, including Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore, playing stages of Steinem’s life.

Bass notes

Spike Lee with his father, Bill
… who made a film about Bob Dylan, on whose It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue he was accompanied by Bill Lee, father of Spike … Photograph: Shutterstock

Moore starred in Todd Haynes’s 1995 film Safe. Years later Haynes made I’m Not There, with various actors playing versions of Bob Dylan. Dylan outraged (some) fans by abandoning folk, starting with the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, though still on the acoustic side was It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, with Dylan accompanied only on bass by Bill Lee, father of Spike.

Inside men

John David Washington
… who has worked with both Denzel Washington and his son John David, star of Amsterdam. Photograph: Richie Buxo/Shutterstock

Another celebrated Lee collaborator is Denzel Washington. They were last together in 2006’s extremely enjoyable Inside Man. Sticking to a theme, however, as nepo baby watchers note, Lee turned to Denzel’s son John David for the Oscar-winning BlacKkKlansman. At which point we can bring it all back home, as Washington junior leads the starry charge of Russell’s Amsterdam. Let the shouting commence.

Pairing notes

Watch Robbie has Damien Chazelle’s ode to 1920s Hollywood, Babylon, on the slate and due out for Oscar season. Expect gongs.

Eat Russell’s biggest hit, Silver- Linings Playbook, features “crabby snacks and homemades”: the former buttered crabmeat and orange cheese on English muffins, the latter a fresh egg pasta. It’s game day!


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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