By Anna Merlan
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"My original concept was to have [Moore] and Dick Van Dyke play the birth parents," Russell says. "But she refused that idea right away. She came to the audition wearing a tight miniskirt, to let me know she could play this high-strung but sexy older woman who was the adoptive mother."
As far as the rest of his seasoned supporting players, Russell says, "Basically, they're rich, comfortable professionals accustomed to working under all kinds of conditions. They can afford to be picky about the work they accept. But often, they don't get the work they deserve, because people take them for granted."
Although Russell grimaces at the notion of his being an independent filmmaker with a family chip on his shoulder, he freely admits that Flirting With Disaster is not only a jauntier, funkier thematic extension of Spanking the Monkey, but also a synthesis of some recent personal real-life experiences--the search by his adopted sister for her birth parents, and the birth two years ago of his first child Matthew. The "weird tension" he previously mentioned isn't elaborated in personal terms, but the subject still haunts him very much, much as it bedazzles and betrays the heroes of his two features--with whom he shares more than a passing physical resemblance.
"So many people look for a Holy Grail, for a mythical something outside themselves to answer all the questions," the director says. "With my movies, I like to puncture that kind of self-deception. In Flirting with Disaster, I wanted to deflate the beatific moment of reunion that [Ben Stiller's character] seeks. Everything he needs to know is already inside him."
Flirting With Disaster. Miramax. Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni. Written and directed by David O. Russell. Now showing.
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