David O. Russell Remembers Mary Tyler Moore’s Knockout Audition for Flirting With Disaster

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So many television figures have come forward in the past 24 to pay tribute to Mary Tyler Moore, and this afternoon director David O. Russell went on The Frame podcast to recognize her great work on film. Moore played the overbearing mother in his 1996 comedy Flirting with Disaster, and Russell talked about how the Hollywood legend made him a believer in her ability to play the coarse Pearl Coplin when she dazzled him at an impromptu audition in a bar. “She was a very powerful, famous woman who I’d watched on television, and I thought there was no chance — zero chance — that she would be able to play this role, but I was excited to meet her nonetheless,” Russell said. But when she walked in wearing a tight dress with cropped bright-red hair — the same style she ended up wearing in the movie, the director admitted he was bowled over by how wrong his presumptions were.

She’s an extraordinary woman. She was so hungry and excited about working and talking about this role, that I thought she had no chance of doing, that she became the character in the bar. And we borrowed a cigarette from another patron in the bar, and she just started being the character and put on sunglasses in the bar. And it kind of was amazing to me. And then I couldn’t think of anybody else in the role. 

Russell characterized Moore as “a consummate performer,” and said that she “knew how to be funny and real and intense and emotional all in one breath.” The director was also regretful that he never got to work with her again, expressing his admiration for Moore’s willingness to throw herself into a role. “She wanted to turn things on their head. If I had given her a gun to shoot someone in the face, like in a Tarantino movie, she would have said ‘Great. Where do I stand?’” You can listen to the full Frame interview here.

David O. Russell Remembers Mary Tyler Moore