According to Christian Bale, much of the movie was improvised. So, during the shooting of the film, he noted to Writer and Director David O. Russell, "You realize that this is going to change the plot greatly down track." To which Russell replied, "Christian, I hate plots. I am all about characters, that's it."
David O. Russell stated that Robert De Niro didn't recognize Christian Bale on the set, even after they were introduced to each other. De Niro pulled Russell aside, pointed to Bale and asked who he was. First De Niro didn't believe it was Bale, but after Russell convinced him of that De Niro noted, "Wow, he looks really different", and nodded his head as a sign of approval. Russell then had to re-introduce the two, now that De Niro knew who Bale was.
Christian Bale was cast in the lead role, but due to scheduling conflicts, he dropped out and was replaced by Bradley Cooper, with Jeremy Renner taking over Cooper's old role. After Bale's schedule cleared up, he rejoined the project in the same role, while Cooper reverted to playing the F.B.I. Agent, and David O. Russell wrote the character of Carmine Polito for Renner.
The film is a fictionalized telling of the Abscam (short for Abdul scam) scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, an F.B.I. operation that began as an investigation of trafficking in stolen property, but was later expanded to include political corruption.
The opening hair combover and hairpiece gluing sequence was not in the early script, but was an idea of Lead Hairstylist Kathrine Gordon. David O. Russell liked the idea that it was incorporated later into the script. Gordon and Christian Bale rehearsed several days before filming the scene.
The infant that Jeremy Renner kisses on the hands while greeting people as the Mayor on the streets of Camden is a special cameo of Renner's newborn baby girl, Ava Berlin Renner, who was born during production. The woman holding Ava in the same scene is Ava's mother and Renner's girlfriend, Sonni Pacheco. David O. Russell asked Renner's mother to cameo in the scene as well, but she declined the offer. Sonni and Ava can be seen briefly in the movie, and in the first theatrical trailer for the film.
Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) was based on the real-life Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Angelo Errichetti, who was snared in the Abscam scandal, and served three years in prison on bribery charges. He died at age 84, in May 2013, only a few months before this movie was released.
David O. Russell was excited to work with Jeremy Renner in the role of Carmine after seeing Renner's performance on Saturday Night Live (1975). Russell stated he was particularly impressed by Renner's humor and risk-taking on the show, which contributed to his confidence in Renner's ability to break his "type" as an action hero.
Several friends and colleagues of the late Angelo Errichetti (Carmine Polito in the film) specifically praised Jeremy Renner's nuanced performance, claiming he had "virtually cloned" the looks and mannerisms of Errichetti. In dramatic scenes in particular, Renner's portrayal and energy were allegedly so akin that he "made Ange feel alive again" on-screen.
In the scene where Irving (Christian Bale) confronts Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) about Pete (Jack Huston) (Rosalyn's new mobster boyfriend), putting a canvas bag over his head, he employs his tactic of saying "no" to manipulate people. It is subtle in this scene, and occurs when Rosalyn states that she wants to go to Miami. This is consistent with Irving's goals. However, he begins to throw Rosalyn's packed clothes back into the closet to make her more determined than ever to finally leave.
This is the fourth time Christian Bale has undergone an incredible body transformation and the second time he has done so in a David O. Russell film. The first was in The Machinist (2004) (for which he became extremely skinny, losing sixty-three pounds). Then Rescue Dawn (2006) (lost fifty-five pounds) and The Fighter (2010) (lost thirty pounds). To achieve the physical traits of his character, he gained over forty pounds, got a combover and slouched his posture, and ended up herniating two of his disks in the process.
Filming of this movie was delayed on April 19, 2013, when the city was in lockdown after the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon. Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams went to hospitals in the greater Boston area to visit with victims of the attack.
This is the second consecutive film directed by David O. Russell (following Silver Linings Playbook (2012)) to be nominated for Academy Awards in all four acting categories and all five major categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay). Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper were nominated for both films each, for Best Actor and Actress, respectively, for Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, for this movie.
David O. Russell developed and expanded the role of Rosalyn Rosenfeld specifically for Jennifer Lawrence, who drew inspiration as well as the accent for the character from watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey (2009). Rosalyn is based on Cynthia Marie Weinberg, the wife of Melvin Weinberg (who was the basis for Irving Rosenfeld).
Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson came up with a specific wardrobe scheme for Amy Adams. To subtly show Sydney's emotion and physical vulnerability, he deliberately made her clothing close-fitting, with no bras. For scenes where Sydney shows her supreme confidence in the con job, he used plenty of Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses. He also got unprecedented access to Halston's entire 1970s dress collection.
In the early 1980s, French Director Louis Malle was preparing a film of the Abscam story called "Moon Over Miami", from a script Malle had written with John Guare. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were set to star, with Belushi playing a conman, and Aykroyd playing an F.B.I. Agent. Belushi's death in March 1982 scuttled plans for the film.
At the time of the film's release, each of the principal cast members were involved in a superhero franchise. Christian Bale played Batman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, Amy Adams played Lois Lane in the DC Extended Universe, Jeremy Renner played Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jennifer Lawrence played young Mystique in the X-Men film franchise, and Bradley Cooper voiced Rocket Raccoon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The weight gained by Christian Bale almost cost him his role in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). This was due to Bale still carrying some of the extra weight he had gained, but he managed to lose the remaining weight in time.
The American term "hustle" has no direct translation in many other languages. The studio approved the alternative titles "American Bluff" in France, "American Dream" in Israel, "American Scandal" in Argentina, "American Sting" in Portugal, and "American Scam" in Quebec.
Rosalyn, after destroying her husband's microwave, or "science oven", by putting metal in the oven (aluminum foil), justifies her mistake by quoting an article purportedly written by Paul Brodeur, that she claims says that microwave ovens destroy nutrients in food. Paul Brodeur subsequently denied this in a submission to The Huffington Post in January 2014, but he didn't reveal that he was quoted in People Magazine in 1978 as claiming that microwaves were "zapping" the American public. The producer refused to respond to Brodeur's complaint about the reference to him.
Christian Bale revealed that in the scene where Irving is singing "Delilah" with Carmine, he chose to study footage of several Al Pacino classics. His hammed up singing and dancing is a result of this research.
Jennifer Lawrence's penchant for snacking on Doritos chips on-set, caused her to stain and nearly ruin several dresses. The Wardrobe Department compensated by making several duplicate dresses for her to use throughout the production, so she would always have a clean one to wear.
David O. Russell initially shot Rosalyn's housecleaning scene to her singing "Evil Ways" by Santana, but decided at the last minute after shooting it, that the scene would go better with Sir Paul McCartney and Wings' title song from Live and Let Die (1973). According to Colleen Camp, she helped Russell secure the rights to use the song on the soundtrack from her longtime friend, James Bond Producer Barbara Broccoli, within half an hour. Camp performed the clearance over phone calls from California to London while she was in the hospital receiving treatment for a blood clot in her knee. After contacting Russell (who was on-location in Boston) that permission was granted, he immediately re-shot the scene with Jennifer Lawrence, Danny Corbo, and Sonny Corbo, and cut it into the final film. Both finished versions of the scene are available to watch on DVD and Blu-ray. "Evil Ways" was ultimately used at the Camden City Hall gala when Rosalyn approached the mobsters.
Once, while a guest on Stephen Merchant's show, Louis C.K. joked about the students in the audience on Inside the Actors Studio (1994), who ask famous actors for career advice: "It always occurs to me, you know, when an actor stands up, one of the people in the audience, 'I am an actor, what can I do' and asks Sean Penn or whomever 'what can I do to reach your level', you just want to say 'you will never be famous.'" Louis co-starred in this film with Bradley Cooper, who was not only one of those Actors Studio students in the audience in several episodes (including one featuring Robert De Niro, who was also in the film), but also specifically one of the students who asked Penn a question during his episode.
Amongst the e-mails of the Sony hack in 2014 were ones which revealed that Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence made less money for their performances in this film than their male co-stars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale, despite the equivalent time of appearance in the film, significance of their characters to the storyline, and overall similar status of fame and popularity among fans.
In keeping with the themes of the film, "Duke Ellington Live at Newport", the record over which Irving and Sydney first bond, was largely a fake live album. More than half of the original LP had been re-recorded in the studio, as record Producer George Avakian wasn't happy with the live recordings from the Newport Jazz Festival. This didn't become public knowledge until 1996, and the full live performance was finally released in 1999. Ellington hated the idea of doctoring his Newport live recordings, walked out on one of the sessions where the studio inserts were recorded, and refused to work with Avakian again.
Danny Rosenfeld (Danny Corbo and Sonny Corbo) is very loosely based on J.R. Weinberg, the real-life son of Melvin (Irving) and Cynthia Marie Weinberg (Rosalyn). Unlike the juvenile Danny, J.R. Weinberg was sixteen-years-old at the end of Abscam.
The Boston Marathon bombing, as depicted in Patriots Day (2016), occurred during production, with the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev halting location shooting in Boston for a day. Bradley Cooper made hospital visits to the victims including Jeff Bauman, and praised the city's swift emergency response in a later interview to Ryan Seacrest.
All five top billed stars have also starred in superhero movies; Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy; Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Amy Adams as Lois Lane in the DC Extended Universe; Jennifer Lawrence as Raven (Mystique) in the X-Men film franchise; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton (Hawkeye) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and Michael Pena played Louis in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In October 2014, Science Writer Paul Brodeur filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures based on a line in the film in which Rosalyn tells Irving that microwave ovens take the nutrition out of food, stating that she read so in an article by Brodeur. In real-life, Brodeur has written books including, "The Zapping of America", about the dangers of microwave radiation (of which there is none, since microwave ovens use electrically powered microwave generators to create the microwaves that cook the food, and absolutely no nuclear power or materials whatsoever), but claims that he has never stated that the process removes a food's nutrition.
Jennifer Lawrence claimed that her role as Rosalind in American Hustle was her favourite role she's played. This was because she was a very fun character to play and unlike any other role she's taken on.
The first and (as of 2018) only film to receive Academy Award nominations in all the seven major categories of Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay, and not win in at least one of those categories.
Christian Bale worked 45 days for $2.5 million while Brad Cooper worked 46 days for $2.5 million. Jennifer Lawrence, whose name appears fifth on the list of credits, was paid $1.5 million dollars for 19 days work.
The film reunites four main cast members from David O. Russell's two previous movies: The Fighter (2010) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Two of these (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) appeared in The Fighter (2010), and were nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, with Bale winning in his category. The other two (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) starred in Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, with Lawrence winning in her category. In this film, all four were nominated again. However, they switched categories, as Bale and Adams were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, while Cooper and Lawrence were nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. None of them won in his or her category, despite the film's ten Oscar nominations.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The fight scene that takes place in the bedroom between Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence is completely improvised. A version of it had been written in the script, but they were struggling to connect with it, so David O. Russell ultimately decided to allow them to say what they wanted.
According to Louis C.K., the ice fishing story his character tells throughout the film was improvised on the set. An ending to the story was invented, but cut from the final film. C.K. disclosed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992) that the ending to the story is that his character's brother defecated on the ice.