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Amsterdam: what do we know about Margot Robbie and Christian Bale’s new mystery comedy film?

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 22/09/2022 Elizabeth Gregory

The anticipation is reaching fever-pitch as the release date for AmsterdamDavid O. Russell’s latest film – is getting ever closer. Last night, the mystery comedy film enjoyed its European premiere in London, and the star-studded cast came out in force to Leicester Square.

Speaking on the red carpet, Christian Bale, who spent five years developing the film with Russell, said: “[Russell] calls me up and he says, ‘Oh my God. I’ve learned the most amazing piece of American history that I never knew about you’ve got to come meet with me. I’ve got to tell you about it.’

“We sat and we talked about that, our jaws were on the floor and we said, ‘Alright, let’s create fictional characters in the midst of this factual backdrop and use this triangle of incredible friendship and loyalty that we envied and that we wished we had in our own lives.’”

“It was just David and me for years and years, him writing away and me giving him my tidbits of thoughts and whatnot, and then all of a sudden we got the most incredible cast who put their hands up and said, ‘Yeah, we want in’.”

With just a couple of weeks left to go until Amsterdam’s general release in the UK, here is everything else there is to know about the film.

What’s the film about?

Amsterdam is set in the 1930s and focuses on three friends – a doctor, a nurse, and an attorney (played by Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington) – who all met in the Dutch city during the First World War. The men were healing from injuries, while Robbie’s character, Valerie Voze, was the nurse who helped them get better.

The trio are brought back together years later, this time bonded by witnessing, and then being accused of committing, a murder. As they try and prove their innocence they discover a mind-boggling conspiracy.

The film is apparently loosely based on several true historical events that have been mashed together in the film. “There’s a lot of unknown history that is quite astounding,” Robbie said on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. At a panel at last week’s New York premiere, Russell said that the story is around 50 to 60 per cent true.

Christian Bale and Margot Robbie attend the European Premiere of Amsterdam in London on September 21, 2022. (Dave Benett) © Provided by Evening Standard Christian Bale and Margot Robbie attend the European Premiere of Amsterdam in London on September 21, 2022. (Dave Benett)

Who is in the cast?

The film is packed with stars. As well as having Robbie, Bale and Washington as the leads, Amsterdam features Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldaña, Mike Myers, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro and Taylor Swift no less.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Andrea Riseborough (Luxor), Alessandro Nivola (Selma, A Most Violent Year), Michael Shannon (Nine Perfect Strangers), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow) also have roles.

Speaking to PA about the cast, Robbie said: “It was incredible. There was someone to be excited to act with every single day, not that there normally isn’t but particularly in a film like this.

“It was quite surreal to do a scene with Bob De Niro or Michael Shannon... You always wanted to bring your A game.”

 (20th Century Studios) © Provided by Evening Standard (20th Century Studios)

Is there a trailer?

Yes. The trailer was released in July and really sets the tone for the forthcoming film. It’s fun, fast-paced, and somewhat chaotic - and, despite nearly every scene being tinged with sepia, is still a veritable fest for the eyes.

What’s the release date?

Amsterdam’s release date is now set for October 7, moving forward from November 4. The film didn’t premiere at any of this year’s festivals such as Venice or Toronto.

Russell told Deadline, “There was no time. That was part of it... We wanted to do events in London and for it to feel like a cinematic event. Sometimes that means you go to festivals and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, we just felt like we were still finishing it when those decisions got made and the music was still coming in. We thought, ‘Let’s just make it a great big theatrical release.”’

What do we know about David O. Russell?

It is the first film from the acclaimed filmmaker in seven years - he last released the Jennifer Lawrence-starring comedy-drama Joy in 2015.

Russell is best known for directing Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, and the American filmmaker, who began his career with the 1996 comedy Spanking the Monkey, has picked up dozens of accolades over the year, including two BAFTA awards, a Golden Globe , and five Oscar nominations.

Russell has a tonne of fans, including Drake. The Toronto rapper, who was an executive producer on the film, spoke at the New York premiere, saying: “This is just a real moment. So I am here to introduce the extremely talented, very legendary, one of the most handsome men in Hollywood. He goes by the name of David O. Russell.”

The panel was being chaired by Ben Stiller, who featured in Russell’s 1996 black comedy film Flirting With Disaster. Stiller said: “Congratulations on being one of our great American filmmakers. I love you, David. As a filmmaker, so much of who you are comes through on the screen. Your energy, your feeling — and you do something as a director to create something that’s very unique.”

Chris Rock in Amsterdam (Amsterdam | Official Trailer | 20th Century Studios) © Provided by Evening Standard Chris Rock in Amsterdam (Amsterdam | Official Trailer | 20th Century Studios)

Russell is known for his unique method of filming and several members of the panel commented on it.

“I remember when we worked a long time ago this feeling of intentional kind of chaos,” said Stiller at the panel, while Robbie said: “It’s not like working with anyone else. Every day you go to set, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Literally you don’t know what you’re going to shoot that day, which is terrifying and also exhilarating.”

Speaking at the New York premiere, De Niro said. “He’s a very special director. He cares deeply about what he does, and so that kind of feeling, determination, passion — for want of a better word — is half of it or more, 60 to 70 per cent, so most everything because you know they’re going to do something special.”

However, there remains some controversy around the director. In 1998, George Clooney and Russell apparently came close to having a fight on set. Then in 2003, serious tension built between actor Lily Tomlin and the director on the set of I Heart Huckabees, leading to a row.

David O Russell and Christian Bale attend the European premiere of Amsterdam at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, London. (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire) © Provided by Evening Standard David O Russell and Christian Bale attend the European premiere of Amsterdam at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, London. (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

Who else is on the team?

The production team includes Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, aka Chivo, whose past credits include 2013’s Gravity, 2014’s Birdman, and 2015’s The Revenant (he won Oscars three years in a row for his cinematography on these films).

Seasoned editor Jay Cassidy, who worked with Russell on Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Joy, is onboard as an editor. Daniel Pemberton, who wrote the film scores for 2020’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and 2017’s Molly’s Game, replaced Hildur Guðnadóttir in August as the film’s composer.

Where did Russell and Bale get their inspiration from?

Russell and Bale have worked together previously on 2010’s The Fighter and 2013’s American Hustle. They discussed Amsterdam over a five-year period.

Speaking to Deadline, Russell said: “The first inspiration is what we did with the fire in American Hustle. I love talking to Christian and I love life in cinema and in the characters, and we began to talk about it. So at first, as we knew that there were certain relationships we thought were beautiful and amazing and had never been documented.

Is there anything else to know?

Yes. With Drake onboard as executive producer, it comes as no surprise that there is a Drake-influenced song in the film. According to Deadline, Time, the film’s last track, was a joint effort between Drake, Pemberton and artist Giveon (who performs the song), and was based on Pemberton’s original score. Jahaan Sweet and Pemberton reportedly produced the track.

Another interesting detail was shared by Robbie on The Tonight Show. The actor said that the film ended in an unusual way, as shooting continued despite the filming permit having ended.

Robbie said: “It was the last day of shooting and Christian was saying his dialogue and David’s there and he’s directing… And we were meant to clear out, but we wouldn’t. And the producers are freaking out, and David’s still going, and Christian’s still acting. And then eventually the Pasadena police literally were in the set with us, all being like ‘Stop. You have to stop.’”

Amsterdam comes to theatres on October 7.

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