Oscar Contenders: Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell

Behind the scenes with the Oscar-nominated actor and director who break all the rules.
3:00 | 02/21/14

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Transcript for Oscar Contenders: Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell
Welcome back. We're in Hollywood right outside the theatre where in just over a week the most anticipated award show of the year will be held, the academy awards. Now, up for ten of these guys, "American hustle." Director David o'russell is known for his controlled chaos on set and for bringing out the very best in his stars like Bradley cooper. So we're wondering if that combustible combo just might pay off in Oscar gold. Here's our series "Oscar confidential." You know where I was recently? It's not as though Christian bale and Jennifer Lawrence are playing characters with a calm grip on life's realities. He put a canvas bag over my head. Are you happy now? He's trying to kill me. What are you talking about? The aimable anarchy pervading this partly true saga. The FBI joining with his and her con artists to catch some pols taking bribes. He is the guy in charge. He works for the bureau but he has no power. He's actually very smart. But then he creates this world he wants to be the head of and everything is completely out of his control. How did we feel the first time we saw each other. Am I crazy? I don't think so. I shouldn't be talking like this. I'm breaking the rules. We're getting married in five hours. Yeah. That's not going to happen. With character work that won him industry acclaim. You don't know anything about my marriage, okay, dad? Playing an FBI man has earned him his second Oscar nod in as many years. Each in collaboration with writer/director David o'russell. Both sets have the exact same energy. Which is very alive. Anything can happen. Can somebody say hey, let's be positive. Let's have a good ending to the story. In 2011, it was Russell who cast cooper for the lead roll in "Silver linings playbook" with just days to go before shooting began. I thought I'm not right for this. Despite all the bare lels -- parallels in your own life. Everything good? I never had to cry on film. I never had to do that. "American hustle" began to come together. You were really in the creative process with it. Yeah, from the begin. I'm so grateful that David sees me as somebody valuable to that process. Russell was eager to reteam with actors who made his last films fly. For his character, cooper wanted something a little different. To make sure that he was first of all, not just this sort of antagonistic foil, straight laced FBI guy that you see in 100 movies. He's a petulant trial and he gets in over his head. I've got people working for me. I said to David, what if he has curly hair. We wanted him to look different from me also. He said yeah, he curls his own hair because he idolizes black baseball player the like doc Ellis. I didn't know it would be three hours to put in 1 10 rollers in and then have to take them out. It was just a whole thing. But I actually started to love it. You said in the stall that we weren't going to fake it. I'm being real now. This is who I am. Okay? So why did you do this. In the who's zooming who, Russell sees reinvention as a key theme of his last three films. Since "The fighter" I've been blessed with a certain direction of stories to tell. Salt of the Earth, ordinary people who live kind of operatic emotions and struggles to reinvent their lives. He's a grown man. He can think for himself. Shut your mouth. Don't call me skank. I'll rip that nasty hair rightout of your Head. You have to decide who you're going to be on any given day. Your home relationships and work relationships that larger request Eis what fascinated us. And no one in movies fascinates audiences quite like Jennifer Lawrence. I don't like change. It's really hard for me. Sometimes I think that I'll die before I change. Her character can be vexing and amazing, but they can always be -- they're always somehow deeply enchanting. That's a magic. "Hunger games" hadn't even come out yet. Somebody came up and I signed an autograph. She was like wow, how are you -- I was just like oh. That's nothing what's going to happen to you. But she's handled it so well. Do whatever. Oh! My favorite scene in the movie, or the scene I can watch over and over and I must have seen 400 times is when she's -- they're all at dinner and she's talking about the nail Polish. The topcoat, it's like perfumy but there's also something rotten. That sounds crazy. I can't get enough of it. Smell it, it's true. The best perfumes in the world. They're all laced with something nasty. It is true. It's true. Can't get enough of that smell. I mean, all of that stuff is just -- how can there be a camera there? How can these not just be people behaving. I think there's a lot still to accomplish. Cooper, too, has thrived on o'russe o'russell's shoots where the director adds to the adrenaline by always staying physically close to his actor. You have to talk yourself into places. In cars. Otherwise you're going to be three vehicles away. I can't do it that way. There was a moment he was between my legs in a car. I was like what are you doing? He's holding his portable monitor. But he likes to be in there in the action. David had an idea of how he wanted the kiss to look. I kiss him. And David was standing there going no. You're like this is never going to feel real, dude. Really, he's right next to the camera. Yeah, yeah. Which is the way I all want to be. I really have a hard time with directors all the way back there. I really like it. I've become so accustomed to everybody being close. Reporter: Working with Russell has reshaped how cooper likes to reshape movies. For any actors who might dream of their own such collaboration, cooper has some sage counsel. You better have slept eight hours. Why? Because it's going to be a lot of energy. I'm Chris Connelly for "Nightline" in Los Angeles. "Nightline" stays right here in Hollywood next week. I'll be here for our Oscar special.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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