David O. Russell

Day Five

Yesterday, I sit waiting in a coffee bar to meet Gwyneth Paltrow. I have brought two history books about what happened to the way Americans lived at the turn of the century. I have that “meeting a new actor or actress” bit of apprehension, which wears off when she is over half an hour late. This is good, because I feel more relaxed, but it’s bad, because, where is she? “David Russell?” A phone call for me behind the coffee counter. It is a flustered Gwyneth. She thought the meeting was at three o’clock, then she just opened her book and saw it was two o’clock–she is profusely sorry and feels horrible. She is wrapping up her interview in a nearby restaurant with the L.A. Times and can be over very soon. No problem. I’ve got my books. I’m getting more reading done than I do at home in my so-called office which I share with my assistant (and my wife and son whenever they feel like wandering in). And now I’m getting just so much reading done, that I’m actually starting to feel grouchy: Where is Gwyneth? It has not been “very soon” since her phone call. She finally shows up, in a supreme state of self-flagellation, and says something about “a woman with a big sheep dog” and her driver. I am staring into Gwyneth’s face up close, taking it in for the first time, not really listening to her contrite story. “A sheep dog bit your driver?” I ask in puzzlement. “No. A sheep dog bit this old woman right next to our car as I was getting in, and my driver went to help her. She was bleeding, and he took fifteen minutes to do this.” Wow. I’ve never heard anything even remotely like this before as an excuse for being late. I look at Gwyneth with speechless dismay. “This has been the most horrible day,” she continues, mentioning several other mishaps at the Greenwich Village apartment she shares with Brad Pitt. I say I have another appointment at four, and I don’t want to rush our visit, so perhaps we ought to start with a clean slate some day next week. She likes this idea and pulls out her datebook. Together we peruse her scheduled sittings with painter Francesco Clemente, who is painting her portrait as a prop for the re-make of “Great Expectations” (a contemporary version, purportedly no threat to David Lean’s classic). We happily make a date for next Tuesday, although she is still tortured by guilt, claiming that this in no way reflects her character and that as a rule she is extremely punctual. When I get home and tell my wife the story, she remarks, “I was an hour late to our first meeting, so maybe this is a good sign.” A sign that I am going to marry Gwyneth Paltrow? “No! That you’ll have a good working experience together!” Ohh, that sign.