Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher Tell the Crazy Story Behind the Production and Shelving of David O. Russell’s NAILED

by     Posted 1 year, 364 days ago

david-o-russell-nailed

Many projects go through growing pains during development.  James Cameron’s Titanic was labeled the biggest bomb of all time before it even hit theaters, Martin Sheen had a heart attack during the year-long shoot of Apocalypse Now, and filming on Men in Black 3 halted for a few months so that they could work on the script.  David O. Russell’s Nailed, however, was a bona fide production nightmare.  The film has yet to be finished and it’s unlikely it’ll ever see the light of day, but none of this is the fault of the creatives involved.

The political comedy satire was filmed in 2008 with Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, and Tracy Morgan and centered on three people with serious health issues that stormed Washington D.C. to demand treatment. Production was shut down multiple times during filming, and just as Russell was getting to the filming of the film’s centerpiece scene the project was shut down for good.  The story behind Nailed’s filming and subsequent permanent limbo is stranger than fiction, and Steve recently got a lot of background on what exactly went down from producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher (of Red Wagon Entertainment) when he spoke with them in anticipation of the release of Lawless.  Hit the jump for the full story.

douglas-wick-lucy-fisher-nailedNailed was to be Wick and Fisher’s first foray into independent films.  They had previously found success on pics like Jarhead, Peter Pan, and Stuart Little, and they were trying their hand at an indie.  Problems arose when it became aware that the entire production was in the hands of an unreliable financier, per Fisher:

“We were very excited about it but we went with a financier of questionable integrity that turned out to be of no integrity whatsoever and just had no intention of paying the bills, and he didn’t.”

The money troubles spiraled throughout production, as Wick recounted the numerous starts-and-stops:

“So we were literally shut down as we started, with all of those trucks, all of those people.  It was really torturous; I’d never seen anything like it but what you end up doing is, the money is always promised.  We had a really first class crew, and so what they have to do is the crew says, ‘Okay we’re walking off on Wednesday we didn’t get our check,’ so then you say, ‘If we pay you Thursday we’ll give you a 10% premium, and if we pay you Friday we’ll give you a 20% premium.’  So by the time they kept getting money, it was always like a 30% premium, so it was getting more and more expensive.”

david-o-russell-nailedFisher revealed that they shut down 14 times in total throughout production and post-production, and in the middle of this whirlwind Russell had to keep focused on the artistic integrity of the film.  This process continued through the duration of the shoot, and as Russell was gearing up to film the pic’s crucial scene, the financier pulled the plug for good:

“To spite himself, 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.  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 he never came through with the rest of the money.”

jessica-bielFisher and Wick told Steve that the footage now belongs to the financier, David Bernstein, and his partner, entrepreneur Ron Tutor.  Russell never got the chance to finish the film or even edit footage together, and he officially quit the project in 2010.  Obviously editing is a huge part of the filmmaking process—especially with a David O. Russell comedy—but apparently Bernstein figured he could cut the footage together himself:

“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.”

david-o-russell-nailedIn fact, test screenings of the cut-together footage were held in L.A. and Fisher’s daughter was actually invited to one:

Fisher: “At one point our daughter was solicited to go to a preview of this movie that nether David O. Russell or we knew that they were gonna cut together.  They had cut it together themselves and were planning to previewing it; we hadn’t seen the movie.  So that’s how we find out, we notified CAA and said, ‘Wait a second, somebody solicited our daughter [for a screening of this movie].’… It wasn’t David’s cut, it wasn’t anything.  It was missing scenes.

Wick:  “And it was questionably illegal given all the guilds and all that stuff, but some of the people involved were from the distressed asset business, and I think they just really thought you could take pieces and sell them off.”

In the immediate aftermath there were discussions between Russell and Tutor about coming back to finish the film, but they never materialized into a firm deal and Russell officially disowned the cut, saying that he is no longer involved with the project and couldn’t call it “his” film.  As for whether there’s any hope of eventually getting Russell back at some point down the line, Wick is not optimistic:

“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.”

Moreover, Wick notes that the film’s previously timely subject matter about the state of healthcare in the U.S. is no longer as relevant since Obamacare was already passed into law.  This is certainly a sad story, and it’s obvious from hearing Wick and Fisher talk that Nailed really could’ve been something special.  You can watch the portion of Steve’s interview with the producers below (which I highly suggest you do), and look out for the full interview closer to the release of Lawless.  I’ve also included a full transcript of the conversation after the video.





lucy-fisher-douglas-wick-nailedCollider: Will fans ever see this film?

Douglas Wick: I think probably not in this lifetime (laughs).  That was our first foray into the independent world and it was really one of the great bitch slappings of either of our lives.  Part of what financiers do is they get people pregnant, they get you dying to make the movie.  We had a movie that we really loved.  Kristin Gore has written the book, we had David O. Russell who actually had done rewriting for us on Stuart Little many years before so we had history with him, loved David, Jake Gyllenhaal, great cast.

Lucy Fisher: We had done Jarhead with Jake, loved Jessica Biel.  Fantastic cast, Tracy Morgan, Catherine Keener, just a great cast.  We were very excited about it but we went with a financier of questionable integrity that turned out to be of no integrity whatsoever and just had no intention of paying the bills, and he didn’t.

Wick: So we were literally shut down as we started, with all of those trucks, all of those people.  It was really torturous because, I’d never seen anything like it but what you end up doing is, the money is always promised.  We had a really first class crew, and so what they have to do is the crew says, ‘Okay we’re walking off on Wednesday we didn’t get our check,’ so then you say, ‘We’ll either pay you Wednesday, if we pay you Thursday we’ll give you a 10% premium, and if we pay you Friday we’ll give you a 20% premium.’  So by the time they kept getting money, it was always like a 30% premium, so it was getting more and more expensive.  

david-o-russell-nailedThe difficulty as you shut down—I think a really important part of producing is as one is dealing with all the practical obstacles is to try and keep your eye on the storytelling and the overview…so for everybody, and particularly for David, you just started to feel really sorry for him because as we’d shut down, as this thing didn’t happen, as this thing didn’t happen, as teamsters were walking off, to still try and stay focused, keep a set that’s kind of nurturing where people feel comfortable to do great work, it was really horrible.”

Fisher: We shut down I think 14 times in the total of production and post-production.  We shut down the first day the financier didn’t pay SAG, so we actually had closed down the government of South Carolina… The State House was doubling as Washington D.C. and there was two blocks of our trucks and literally the government was not in the building so that we could shoot, and he didn’t pay SAG so we couldn’t shoot on the first day which was not a good feeling.  It went on, we’d go for a week then we’d close, we’d go for a week then close, so it was so debilitating and so devastating. 

And then, to spite himself, oddly enough the last scene that we had scheduled—partly because we thought this way he’ll 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.  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 he never came through with the rest of the money.

jessica-biel-nailedWick: The movie was very timely just with all the frustrations about healthcare and stuff, so we were early on that track and we had, basically like Wizard of Oz, three characters going to D.C. for help.  Tracy Morgan was a minister who couldn’t get rid of an erection he had so he needed help there, it was really great David O. Russell stuff.  So all of a sudden we shut down post-production, we’re waiting, we’re wating, we’re waiting, and then of course healthcare passes so even the relevance of it suddenly [was taken away].

So someone has the footage right now.

Fisher: David Bernstein has the footage right now, the financier who did not pay the bills has the footage.  He has it, he owns it, and his partner is Ron Tutor.

So basically 95% of a movie is there but now cut together.

Wick: Remember obviously, 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.

You’re saying the editing is important?

Wick: (laughs)

Fisher: I just have to tell you a funny story.  At one point our daughter was solicited to go to a preview of this movie that nether David O. Russell or we knew that they were gonna cut together.  They had cut it together themselves and were planning to previewing it; we hadn’t seen the movie.  So that’s how we find out, we notified CAA and said, ‘Wait a second, somebody solicited our daughter [for a screening of this movie].’

Jake Gyllenhaal nailedSo they cut together something?

Fisher: But it wasn’t David’s cut, it wasn’t anything.  It was missing scenes.

Wick: And it was questionably illegal given all the guilds and all that stuff, but some of the people involved were from the distressed asset business, and I think they just really thought you could take pieces and sell them off.

That’s literally crazy talk.  So basically the chances of us ever seeing the film would take a minor miracle.

Fisher: Well the film that you would see wouldn’t be the film that David made.

Sure, and it doesn’t have the ending.

Wick: 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.




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