MOTW: Eight Little-Known Facts About "American Hustle"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 14th, 2014

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The 2013 film "American Hustle" is an entertaining crime drama that is largely based on the ABSCAM public corruption scandal of the 1970s. The film follows a con man (Christian Bale) and his beautiful partner (Amy Adams) as they work for an FBI agent, immersing themselves in a world of mobs, casinos and corruption to unveil an enormous political scandal. The film is as fast-paced as it is entertaining, but there is more behind the actors, story and production than meets the eye. These eight little-known facts about "American Hustle" reveal some of the most fascinating aspects of this film.

Unexpected Improvisation

When the characters of Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence were shown fighting in the bedroom, much of their heated argument was actually improvised. The two actors were having trouble connecting with the script, so director David O. Russell gave them permission to improvise. In fact, a great deal of the film allowed room for improvisation. When Christian Bale brought this issue up to David O. Russell, the director explained that the characters were more important than the plot. Christian Bale stated that the majority of his character interactions were improvised.

Historical Accuracy

Although the film is based on the ABSCAM scandal that led to the arrest of government officials, "American Hustle" takes plenty of creative licenses. The premise of the film is accurate, and so is the conviction of the six congressmen and a senator. However, the involvement of the protagonist's girlfriend and wife was completely fabricated, and many details of the operation were inaccurate. The film also changed the name of everyone involved in the operation.

Jennifer Lawrence's Dirty Secret

Jennifer Lawrence, who is known for her genuine character and unconventional on-set needs, repeatedly soiled the white dress that her character wears while filming "American Hustle." The movie's costume designer, Michael Wilkinson, revealed that the actress kept getting orange Doritos dust on the fabric. Lawrence was never afraid to eat Doritos and other snack food while in costume. Fortunately, the production team kept several spares, and the fabric itself cost less than $4.00 per yard.

Radical Character Transformation for Christian Bale

Christian Bale is known for the radical weight changes he has undergone for his characters. For instance, the actor lost 63 pounds for his starring role in "The Machinest." However, for this film the actor gained an extra 43 pounds, giving him a round-bellied appearance and chubby face. The actor also began slouching his posture to fit the character of Irving Rosenfield. He ended up herniating two discs in the process. He also got a comb-over haircut and spent a great deal of time perfecting his dialect to ensure a top-notch performance.

A Special Cameo Appearance

When Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) is greeting people on the streets of the city, he kisses an infant's hands. This infant is Ava Berlin Renner, Jeremy Renner's young daughter who was born during the production of "American Hustle." Renner's girlfriend, who is also the child's real-life mother, shows up as the infant's mother in the scene.

A Tragic Event That Interrupts Production

The Boston Marathon Bombings temporarily halted production of "American Hustle," which was being filmed in the same city. During the city's temporary lockdown, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper visited victims in local hospitals. After the threat had cleared, the production crew continued filming. They then left Boston and shot the remainder of the scenes in New York.

An Incredible Critical Response

Upon its release, "American Hustle" quickly achieved widespread critical acclaim for its entertaining story and superior acting. The website Metacritic gave the film an overall score of 90 out of 100, and Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 93 percent. Richard Corliss of Time magazine had nothing but praise for the movie, and Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times gave it an A+.

Box Office Success

The estimated budget of "American Hustle" is between $40 and $50 million. The film grossed more than $19 million on its opening weekend alone, and its domestic gross quickly shot up to more than $133 million. It earned more than $43 million in international markets.

"American Hustle" takes cinema to a whole new level with standout performances by some of Hollywood's greatest actors. It also features an entertaining plot and the perfect mixture of crime, drama and comedy. These eight facts about the film only scratch the surface of what this unique cinematic creation has to offer. Whether viewers wish to see the best of their favorite actors or witness a great story, they are sure to come away happy after watching "American Hustle."