Remember Nailed, the film David O Russell helmed before he made the Oscar-nominated The Fighter? That picture, which endured a litany of production shutdowns before Russell finally exited because he couldn’t get the money for post-production, got a recruited screening last night at the Arclight Pasadena. The film became a symbol of the financial troubles that have plagued embattled financier/producer David Bergstein, and sure enough, I’m told the cast and filmmakers were left in the dark about it. I’ve gotten reports from the premises. The title wasn’t divulged on the invitation, but the invite played up that this was a movie made by Russell–who was remade into an Irishman. The invite described the film as “From David O’Russell, the Oscar-nominated director of The Fighter, Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster.” The pic stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Biel, James Marsden, Catherine Keener, Tracy Morgan and Paul Reubens. It’s basically a satirical comedy about health care. A small town waitress (Biel) gets a nail lodged into her head, which prompts her to behave impulsively and often irrationally. She can’t afford to have the nail removed because she doesn’t have health care, and heads to DC where she develops a relationship with a congressman (Gyllenhaal). Her attempt to wage a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-type campaign for health care reform is challenged by the nutty things she does because of her affliction. Now, Russell has shown a deft hand at this type of comedy in films like Flirting with Disaster. The trouble is, he washed his hands of the film last summer because of all the money problems, and I’m told that last night’s screening played like an assemblage of rough footage, without the nuance Russell would have injected had he finished.
The backers are going to shop the film for distribution, but it is obvious that Russell will do everything he can to appeal to the Directors Guild to remove his name. That was foreshadowed by his exit statement issued last summer: “Due to a variety of circumstances, I am no longer the writer-director of Nailed,” he said. “This has been a painful process for me. The multiple production delays and stoppages, which were caused by David Bergstein and preceded Ron Tutor’s direct involvement with me, have now spanned 2 years, and the circumstances under which the film would now be completed are much different on several fundamental levels than when we embarked several years ago. I, unfortunately, am no longer involved in the project and cannot call it ‘my’ film. I wish Ron Tutor well.”
Russell’s name was also on the questionnaires that followed the screening, as viewers were asked if his presence was the reason they came. His resurgence through The Fighter would make him a tremendous asset, particularly with that strong cast. It will be interesting to see how distributors will react to the film because of Russell’s estrangement, and all that has gone wrong with the picture.