But the word might also be used to sum up Russell’s relationship with Jennifer Lawrence, the actress he calls his muse, who has starred in his last three movies.
Russell, who directed Lawrence in her 2012 Oscar-winning role as a young widow in “Silver Linings Playbook” and in 2014’s “American Hustle,” said that as an actress and a person, she inspires him to take risks with filmmaking.
“She wants to go to places that are scary for her and do things that haven’t been seen. She is smart and challenging but she also inspires me to make something better. I am happy to explore things the way she wants to do them, and she also will trust what I want to do.
“It’s a deal we make together that we’re going to jump off this waterfall and give it everything we’ve got,” Russell told Reuters.
“Joy,” out in U.S. movie theaters on Dec. 25, is expected to bring Lawrence a fourth Oscar nomination in as many years. It’s inspired by the true story of Joy Mangano, the New York inventor of the Miracle Mop who overcame an early divorce and life as a single mother to become a successful 1990s businesswoman.
The movie is the first time Lawrence, or any female character, is front and center of a Russell film, and the first time the 25-year-old star plays someone who is not crazy.
“It was a challenge for her to play somebody who had become so powerless for the first half of the movie, when you’re caring for others but have lost yourself.
“This is a very inspiring story that we don’t have in the world right now, of a woman that is ordinary, that carries dignity and power in this way. We thought that was cool and kind of bad-ass. So we said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that,'” Russell said.
The movie also reunites Russell with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro for a third time. Russell says all three actors are muses of sorts for him – but Lawrence has something extra special.
“I find her to be very real and unpretentious and alive and messy. Somebody who really, really loves life, is very passionate about it,” he said.
“I will always want to think of some (project) for her, but you’ve got to let it happen when it’s supposed to happen and be magical.”
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by G Crosse and Jonathan Oatis)