The sorry saga of David O. Russell‘s “Nailed” is really a cautionary tale of working with shady financiers. The tale is one that has been told a few times over in the past couple of years, but in case you missed out, we’ll recap it for you.
Shooting started in the spring of 2008 with a promising cast of Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, Tracy Morgan and James Marsden. With a script from Kristin Gore, the film centerd on a socially awkward and uninsured waitress (Biel) who accidentally gets shot in the head with a nail. She goes to Washington on a crusade to fight for the rights of the bizarrely injured and meets an immoral congressman, played by Gyllenhaal, who takes advantage of her sexually and politically. Sounds great right? Well, the film ran into numerous financial issues and stopped and started a handful of times as bills weren’t paid, and eventually was shut down with only one day of filming left to complete it. Various legal manuevering found the film, initially “financed” by troubled producer David Bergstein, falling into the hands of upstart construction magnate-turned-moviemaker Ron Tutor, but Russell wasn’t able to come to terms with him to finish the movie. And the story doesn’t end there.
The new owners of the movie tried to cut it themselves (a folly which will be explained in a moment) with a very raw, rough assembly cut of the movie screening last spring (check out our reader report) with John Swihart (“Youth In Revolt,” “New In Town“) hired shortly after to score the film (previously, Russell tasked Squeak E. Clean — a.k.a. Sam Spiegel one half of the quasi hip-hop duo N.A.S.A. — with soundtrack duties). And there hasn’t been anything heard from the movie since, and as producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher candidly tell Collider, there are good reasons why we’ll likely never see this. And it’s mostly because the crucial scene of Biel getting the titular nail in the head, hasn’t even been shot (sorta).
“…oddly enough the last scene that we had scheduled—partly because we thought this way [the financier will] have to finish the movie—is the scene where Jessica Biel gets a nail in her head. That’s why it’s called ‘Nailed,’ she doesn’t have insurance and she can’t get the nail out. So the last two days were getting the nail in her head, and we shut down so we didn’t have the final scene that was the scene that was the premise of the movie,” Wick explained. “There was no way to cut the movie together without that scene, so I don’t know what he was thinking by shutting us down then. At that point everybody was like, ‘We can’t cut the movie together, there isn’t a movie.’ And then [the financier] never came through with the rest of the money.”
That’s not entirely true. The sequence was shot and was present in the assembly version that was shown, but what we were told is that it’s poorly lit and confusing, and indeed, in that screening last spring, it appeared with a title card at the bottom that said “to be reshot.” At any rate, it’s a key scene and unfinished to say the least. And moreover, the material itself needs to be shaped by a director with some vision, and Wick doesn’t see an anonymous third party coming in and making it work — even with key sequence.
“Particularly in this kind of comedy that’s finding a specific tone, the post-production is sort of a third of the whole process. So I think there was just a little bit of a sense from a financier point of view, ‘Well just glue it together and put it out, we’ll just skip that process who needs it? It’s just indulging creative people.’ Obviously post is a huge part of the process and so many movies come alive in post,” Wick says. And ultimately, the fractured process and the time that has since passed — now that Obamacare has been signed into law, a healthcare comedy seems out of date — doesn’t make it seem like the movie will ever be completed.
“I think everyone’s lives have moved on, I don’t foresee particularly, in the polluted circumstance, anyone just coming in and doing the careful three or four months of work,” Wick says realistically. And we’d have to agree. Russell has completed “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” since then, and moves on next with “American Bullshit” and as Russell himself told us at the end of 2010, the experience hasn’t made him eager to return.
“I think you kinda keep going and stay with the forward moment. That’s kinda what you have to do. So that’s what I’m doing,” he said, adding: “There was a lot that was going on that I liked, but it was kinda a stillbirth, you know? So when that happens, the whole thing gets kinda weird.”