Even Robert De Niro couldn’t resist pitching a new product to Joy Mangano.
Who? Mangano is the self-made woman who invented such household helpers as the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers. Her story is the inspiration for Joy, the David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence and De Niro that’s in theaters Christmas day.
Recalling a meeting at De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in New York City, Mangano says, “Jennifer Lawrence was to my right and Bob De Niro was to my left, and he leans over to me and goes, ‘Joy, I really want to talk to you. I have this great product idea.’ Jennifer leans across me and goes, ‘Bob, you can’t ask that question of Joy. Everyone asks her that.'”
Joy doesn’t purport to be a strictly factual account of Mangano’s story. In its opening moments, a title card informs the audience that the film is “inspired by the true stories of daring women. One in particular.” The movie does, however, chart how Joy — a single mother burdened with a host of demanding and belittling relatives — came upon the idea for a self-wringing mop and made it a success on QVC. So what does Mangano think of the disclaimer and Russell’s treatment of her story?
“I only know one woman that invented a Miracle Mop,” Mangano says. “If there’s somebody else, I’m missing it, right?” She added that biographically speaking, the “lines get fuzzy,” given that Russell condensed her story, filtered it through a cinematic lens, and made Lawrence’s Joy somewhat of a composite character.
Still, Mangano sees the film as a “love letter” to her. Speaking with Russell about her life gave her the chance to reflect. “It was just a wonderful experience, to kind of almost view my life at times through [Russell’s] interpretation,” she says.
As for Lawrence, Mangano was struck by the Oscar-winner’s maturity. “I can’t even impress upon you enough how utterly shocked I was,” she says. “I feel like she’s lived another life or lives before, because she’s so beyond her years in so many ways,” Mangano says. Russell has repeatedly cast the 25-year-old Lawrence to play women several years older than she is in real life. Mangano, now 59, was in her 30s by the time she achieved success with the mop.
So will Mangano, who now sells through the HSN, be collaborating with De Niro? “There are no things in the work now, but you never know.”