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Add another nail in the coffin of the long-delayed political satire/romantic comedy “Nailed,” starring Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, which THR has learned exclusively will be finished without the involvement of writer-director David O. Russell.
Russell has withdrawn from the $26 million production after one-on-one negotiations with financier Ronald Tutor, who controls rights to the movie with Pangea Media Group CEO David Bergstein, broke down.
Neither Tutor nor Russell would go into detail about why they could not come to an agreement, but THR has learned that Russell apparently was not happy that producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher of Red Wagon Prods. were being squeezed to cut their fees in half.
In a statement to THR, the producers characterized the concessions as “unfair” and “unprofessional.”
But the tussle over “Nailed” is not only about a movie in jeopardy; it’s a worrying sign that a potential new player in town, meaning the little-known Tutor, has managed in quick succession to alienate a well-regarded film auteur and an equally well-regarded producer team. This at the same time the billionaire construction magnate is in the midst of buying Miramax from Disney for $650 million.
David O. Russell
The movie is about a small-town waitress who is shot in the head by a nail gun and later goes to Washington to fight for better health care; there, she meets a clueless congressman, and a romance develops.
“This has been a painful process for me,” Russell told THR on Tuesday. “The multiple production delays and stoppages, which were caused by David Bergstein and preceded Ron Tutor’s direct involvement with me, have now spanned two 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.”
Tutor also expressed his disappointment in an interview last week with THR: “(David O.) Russell conducted himself like a perfect gentleman. I understood his position. It really didn’t have anything to do with him but with others, and we just reached a point where I couldn’t do what he wanted. But it was a decent negotiation between the two of us. No lawyers. No idle threats, just two people trying to clean something up, and we couldn’t get there. It was surprising and disappointing, but I understood.”
Added Tutor, “So we’re going to go ahead probably with ‘Nailed’ and try to hire another director and finish it.”
Wick and Fisher, who developed the property and hired Kristin Gore (daughter of former Vice President Al Gore) to write the screenplay, declined to be interviewed but did issue a statement Tuesday: “We have been informed that we will be unable to stay involved with the movie ‘Nailed’ unless we agree to make concessions that are unfair, unprofessional and detrimental to the movie. We applaud David O. Russell’s unique talent and tireless work, and we hope to collaborate with him again soon.”
To do the reshoots, stars Biel and Tracy Morgan will be required to participate. Bergstein has said that there are contracts with these actors requiring them to do the reshoots without additional compensation. On Tuesday, publicists for the stars didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Tutor, who is now involved in acquiring Miramax from Disney and plans to be part of a new movie company, stepped in personally after Bergstein was unable to make a deal for the niche label and because of his own financial stake in the outcome.
“Nailed” originally was financed by a company controlled by Bergstein and Tutor. It was caught up in their financial problems and lawsuits, and Tutor earlier this year paid additional millions to get “Nailed” and several other films out of a foreclosure action.
Tutor met first with Russell, his agents and lawyers before going to direct talks with the helmer.
“I took it over because I paid off the banks and assumed to an extent — I shouldn’t say control because there are other investors — but I paid off the banks, and to that extent, I have a say in it,” Tutor said.
The $26 million cost of the movie might not reflect all of the investment. The movie was shut down four times during production in 2008 by the guilds when money was not paid on time and again with two days left to shoot. Each time it restarted, there were guild penalties and extra costs to retain the crew.
After production in South Carolina halted, the movie sat on the shelf for months. Then early this year, Bergstein hired an editor who assembled a version, which later was shown to Russell when he was asked to return for reshoots.
Russell, meanwhile, went off to do “The Fighter,” now in postproduction. He is said to be especially proud of that movie, which is to be released later this year for awards consideration.
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