Amsterdam stars share what their film title really means to them

Nathalie M. Tomada - The Philippine Star
Amsterdam stars share what their film title really means to them
Rami Malek (second from right) and Anya Taylor-Joy (rightmost) also form part of the film.

MANILA, Philippines — Amsterdam is not just a real place, but it’s also a “state of mind.”

That’s what director, writer and producer David O. Russell said when describing his star-studded comedy-thriller film Amsterdam.

The 1930s-set movie, which is loosely based on real people and events, tells the story of three best friends — doctor Burt Benderson (Christian Bale), lawyer Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and nurse Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie). They first meet during World War I at a Belgian hospital and forge their lifelong friendship in Amsterdam where, according to the production notes, they experience their “happiest true north moment” — freedom after the war.

They go about their post-war lives, but the trio will come together anew as they witness a murder and are treated as prime suspects. They find themselves at the center of one of the most explosive and shocking secret plots in American history, which they must solve in order to save themselves.

Amsterdam, which opens exclusively in theaters and arrives in Philippine cinemas on Thursday (Oct. 6), stars Bale, Margot, Washington, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Taylor Swift, Timothy Olyphant, Zoe Saldaña, Rami Malek and Robert De Niro.

Cast members were recently asked what is Amsterdam to them during the global virtual mediacon. They offered their own definition or interpretation of the film title, and named places they considered as their Amsterdam.

From left: John David Washington, Christian Bale and Margot Robbie topbill David O. Russell’s star-studded comedy-thriller Amsterdam from 20th Century Studios.

For Academy Award winner Bale (The Fighter, The Dark Knight), who brainstormed and collaborated with the filmmaker behind American Hustle, Silver Linings, Joy and The Fighter for five years in developing this story over diner meals, redefined Amsterdam as “anything you have become so obsessed in a healthy way with, something that you can’t think about anything else, you know?”

“And I get that in great environments. I get that from working with David and all of these guys. I get that from wonderful filmmaking experiences. I get that from my family. And I get it from motorcycles,” he said.

Robbie (I, Tonya, Bombshell), for her part, signified that Amsterdam to her is her own similar “very close trio” and “we ironically all met in Belgium as well.” She has since “started a company together” with her two best friends and that she “married one of them.”

Washington (Tenet, Malcolm and Marie), on the other hand, said his Amsterdam is Chiang Mai in Thailand where he recently spent six months. “I rediscovered what peace means, at least in my life, because of that place. I pride myself (on being) respectful, humble and all that, but you can’t out-respect those people out there.

“I mean, whatever they’re going through, they’re always going to take time to say hello, and make sure you’re okay. From the crew members I worked with to just the everyday living, working people, I’ve never experienced that kind of peace. It was some of the best sleep I’ve ever had on a consistent basis.”

“And the elephants there. I found myself in a therapy session with an 85-year-old elephant, just telling them all my problems. And for some reason, I feel like she understood me. So I’d say, Chiang Mai and that whole experience was my Amsterdam, time stood still,” the actor added.

Meanwhile, Oscar winner Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, No Time to Die), who plays Valerie’s brother Tom Voze, said his Amsterdam was “going to Argentina and  Buenos Aires. And I lived there for months because I just wanted to get away from the industry. And yeah, that was my special time.”

Bale with Robert De Niro (rightmost), whose character is based on a real-life historical figure, and the rest of the all-star cast.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Studios

For the two-time Academy Award winner De Niro, his Amsterdam is “right here at home dealing with what I have in my life. But there are places I would like to go. I guess I have a place in the Caribbean I like to go to. It’s my Amsterdam.”

In the film, De Niro plays General Gil Dillenbeck, a character inspired by the real-life US historical figure Smedley Butler.

Russell chimed in about De Niro, “One of the great things I’ve learned from you, Robert, is from a very young age, from when you were making Taxi Driver, you somehow had an eye for places that were special. And you would tell me stories about when you were hitchhiking and you ended up in the Caribbean with strangers from Europe. You remember that beach to this day, which you still went back to at this age and showed me. And you found it when you were just a broke hitchhiker.”

The director added of the legendary actor that he’s all about “finding these special places and making special gatherings. He’s taught me many times how important that is to just make a moment and appreciate it, and how important it is to come together.”

As for Russell, his Amsterdam is, “I would agree with Christian that part of the reason why we loved getting together at a diner every week for five years, is because we liked focusing obsessively on a story. As many artists I’ve met have liked to say, isn’t it fun to live in a story that you’re either reading to your child or reading with your friends or your mates and sharing it? So we were creating a story we were sharing obsessively. That is my Amsterdam as a storyteller. I’m so happy when I’m living in a story that I’m creating or a work of art I’m making.

The filmmaker further said, “I would also say, that extends with my family and wonderful moments (which are) often the ones that are unplanned. When you lose the power in your house and you’re thrown together in adverse circumstances and you think it’s going to be a drag and it turns out to be fantastic. And I’ll cherish those forever. You know, the night the dog ate the hamburger is a legendary night in my house — the hamburger I lovingly made. That’s another story.”


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