No silver lining for films nailed in limbo

If you go to the movies this December, it’s possible you’ll see Silver Linings Playbook, David O Russell’s new screwball romcom, which is tipped to repeat the Oscar success of his previous film, The Fighter.

If you enjoy Silver Linings Playbook, an interest in the director’s back catalogue may be piqued. Perhaps you’ll be eager to root out his other movies: his caustic debut, Flirting with Disaster, as well as the polarising comedy I Heart Huckabees, the George Clooney war flick Three Kings and the political sex satire Nailed.

What’s that? Not heard of Nailed? Odd, given it boasts a top-drawer cast and a killer plot about a waitress without health insurance (Jessica Biel) who has a nail accidentally lodged in her brain, travels to Washington to campaign for the rights of the bizarrely injured, then hooks up with a corrupt senator (Jake Gyllenhaal). Unofficial on-set snaps look fantastic. Kirstie Alley, Catherine Keener and James Brolin co-star, Jon Stewart cameos.

But no one will ever see Nailed. The reels are in the can (bar one key scene), but financing, which had sputtered through the production process, finally gave up the ghost in June 2008, on the eve of the last day of the shoot.

The company behind it, Capitol Films, has since gone bust and legal red tape, botched patch-ups and the passage of time (since the advent of “Obamacare”, the United States’s controversial federal healthcare law, the premise feels stale) mean that, despite Russell being ­flavour of the month, Nailed seems forever stuck in the cutting room. It joins other casualties of Capitol’s financial woes, such as Black Water Transit (a cop flick from Tony Kaye) and Bad Meat (a horror with Dave Franco).

Love Ranch, with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci as Nevada brothel owners, has fared slightly better. Successfully sold for distribution in a handful of territories, it has yet to see the light of day in many countries, nearly five years after filming wrapped.

The strangest thing is that Capitol isn’t some rackety outfit. This is a canny organisation of some three decades’ experience, which helped bankroll films such as A Good Man in Africa, American Buffalo and Ghost World, as well as Robert ­Altman’s Gosford Park and The Company.

Capitol had a fine run of literary hits with Wilde, Sylvia and The Edge of Love. And then it all went wrong. None of the theories on the internet quite explain the cliff-face fall from grace, nor the depth of the fallout.

Call one of the listed phone numbers for Capitol’s offices today and the receptionist has never heard of Capitol. The company that has taken over that number is Eden Private Staff, which recruits butlers, housekeepers, chauffeurs and gamekeepers. Eden has been around for a good few years, says the receptionist.

Try the other number and the tone flatlines instantly. Capitol’s website takes you to a Japanese vending agency for whey protein, illustrated with clip art of splashy tomatoes and luminous kiwi fruit.

As for Russell, he has moved on. “I think you kinda keep going and stay with the forward moment. So that’s what I’m doing,” he has said of Nailed. Between now and March next year, Academy voters will be watching Silver Linings Playbook with interest, as will the paying audience. In late 2013 Russell starts work on his new movie, starring Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale, in which a corrupt congressman is convicted following an FBI sting. Its working title? American Bullshit. — © Guardian News & Media 2012

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