David O. Russell

Day Four

Meditations on the number 99:

A good, anticipatory tension standing next to 100.

99 says: “It’s happening.”

But 99 is its own location.

Janet and I know this because we have lived on 99th Street for four years. It is not a fashionable location; it is surrounded by halfway houses for drug addicts and the mentally ill. But it is close to the two parks (Central and Riverside), and we came here because we got what is known as a “classic six,” which is a good-sized apartment, and we got it for a pretty good rent. The rent was low because the previous tenant was a man who had moved here in the 1930s from Berlin to get away from the emerging Nazi party. Many years later, his wife died and then he died, and then we moved in, and started our own family. The point being: according to rent stabilization laws in NYC, the rent is really raised only when tenants turn over. There was no turnover in this apartment from the 1930s to 1992. You can’t do much better than that. The building didn’t even exist until 1928.

More on 99th Street:

Warren Beatty lived on this block when he first came to New York to act. He rented a room from a “classic Jewish mother,” he told me during one of the times we met to see if I would possibly direct, or at least help re-write, the political satire he’s making.

Also: the Paramount apartment building is on our street, from which Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, and Adolph Zukor eventually got the name for the motion picture company they incorporated around 1915.

I know these things because I’ve had some good luck since I moved to 99th Street. I got my first screenwriting job from Paramount Pictures in 1992. I made ‘Spanking the Monkey’ in 1993. Lucky, the dog which appears in ‘Spanking the Monkey,’ lives on 99th Street. Lucky and I were given a $100 ticket as he sat next to me in Riverside Park at 99th Street while I was reading the NY Times (prior to a dog-director rehearsal session), because he was not on a leash. I went to court on September 9, and beat the rap. Maybe it wasn’t the 9th, but it was definitely September.

A friend looked up numerology on the internet this morning and found that 9 means, among other things, unfoldment, completion, benevolence, intuition, selflessness.

Now that I have declared that I’m having this good luck, which seemed like a fun idea, I fear I wasn’t supposed to talk about it and I’ll be punished. This is part of my paranoid philosophy that one is safe so long as one expects the worst and doesn’t celebrate good luck too loudly. I inherited this philosophy from my family and the electroshock treatments don’t seem to be getting rid of it, but ever since the liberal backlash following “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the voltage is not what it used to be. Anyway, it now occurs to me that such a philosophy might constitute a lack of gratitude–which in turn could bring about bad fortune.

Another fortunate man:

Last night I was on a panel sponsored by the Writers’ Guild of America. Also on the panel was Doug McGrath who, after a checkered career as a rising screenwriter and comedy writer, was the first collaborator to work with Woody Allen since Marshall Brickman. McGrath co-wrote “Bullets Over Broadway” and then got the opportunity to write and direct “Emma” from Jane Austen’s novel, which Miramax is releasing in August. Doug is extremely funny in person and told a great story about his first creative session with Woody Allen. It seems that while the master paced and talked about an idea, Doug found he was having an out of body experience and instead of listening, he was watching himself stare at Woody Allen’s face, thinking, “I can’t believe Woody Allen is pitching me a film idea.” When Doug was finally asked what he thought of the idea, he didn’t know what to say, because he hadn’t heard anything Woody Allen had said. So Doug had to fake it–he just nodded profoundly and said, “Maybe, maybe.”