Directors Disowning Their Films

This week has seen the arrival of one of the most curious cinematic items of the last few years, one that few thought would ever see the light of day: Stephen Greene’s “Accidental Love.” Never heard of it? That’s because the film was at one time known as “Nailed” and was shot by Oscar-nominated “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” director David O. Russell, for whom the seemingly non-existent Greene is a pseudonym.

“Nailed” predates the three Russell films listed above: it's a political satire about a waitress (Jessica Biel) shot in the head with a nailgun that causes hypersexual behavior, who then teams with an ambitious congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal) to campaign for those with unusual injuries. The film went before cameras back in 2008, but production was halted multiple times after difficulties with financiers and was eventually shut down without the completion of key scenes.

Legal battles ensued, and Russell eventually walked away from the film, which hit VOD on Tuesday under its (awful) new title and without the helmer’s consent. We’ll have our verdict on the movie very soon, but to mark the film’s release, we have examined ten other cases in which filmmakers completed, but then disowned, their own films. Take a look below and let us know anyone we might have missed in the comments.

Highball

Noah Baumbach - “Highball” (1997)
Before his collaborations with Wes Anderson, before his indie hit “Frances Ha” and before The Squid and The Whale,” the film that put him on the map, Noah Baumbach experienced the same troubles thousands of other aspiring filmmakers go through. After his debut “Kicking & Screaming” and the lesser follow-up “Mr. Jealousy,” Baumbach shot “Highball” in six days on a shoestring budget. However, his name appears nowhere in the credits (apart from a minor acting credit), because he disowned the film as a “foolish experiment,” as he told the A.V. Club. In the same interview, Baumbach elaborates: “it was a funny script. But it was just too ambitious. We didn't have enough time, we didn't finish it, it didn't look good, it was just a whole... mess.” After a “falling out with the producer,” the movie ended up half-finished in Baumbach’s eyes, and without his approval, directed by “Ernie Fusco” and written by “Jesse Carter” (both aliases). Though “Highball” doesn’t hold much of a candle to Baumbach’s later successes, it’s still a must for Baumbach diehards, as it contains the director’s penchant for quick-witted dialogue and his laid back style, even if it's a decidedly lesser effort.
   

American History X

Tony Kaye - “American History X” (1998)
The story behind the feud that erupted between music video director Tony Kaye and New Line, the studio financing his feature debut, is filled with such bizarre antics and accusations that it deserves its own documentary. Apparently, Kaye documented his trials and tribulations with the studios and guilds over “American History X,” calling it “Humpty Dumpty and The Kabbalah” (it’s going to make sense in a minute, but doesn’t that sound like something you need in your life?) The final straw was a disagreement between Kaye and New Line over the final cut of the film, when the studio rejected Kaye’s preferred (apparently even more pessimistic) finale. Kaye threatened to walk, New Line didn’t budge, and so he did, with the final cut supervised by the film’s star Edward Norton and editor Jerry Greenberg, with Kaye banned from the editing room. And that’s just the beginning. Kaye’s attempt to “Alan Smithee” his directorial credits was rejected by the DGA. He then tried to push another alias, Humpty Dumpty, and that (surprise, surprise) also didn’t work. He then tried to sue the guild for $200 million and basically alienated the entire Hollywood community via his anti-Hollywood ravings and antics, which included a meeting at New Line with a rabbi and a Tibetan monk by his side. Needless to say, he only disowned himself from the final cut in spirit because he never succeeded in getting his directorial credit removed. As The Dissolve reported last year, Kaye is still bitter about the whole affair, but concedes that the performances are excellent and the overall film is “good.” Need we remind you that the film, which raised this much dust behind the scenes, is one of the most gripping, memorable and gut-wrenching anti-racist films to come out in the past 40-odd years? Hollywood is weird, man.

Babylon AD

Matthieu Kassovitz, “Babylon A.D.” (2008)
One of the more recent director-studio feuds, "La Haine" director Matthieu Kassovitz’s frustrations with 20th Century Fox over “Babylon A.D.,” a sci-fi action film he’d been developing for six years before going through tremendous professional pains to shoot and cut it, is among the most notorious. There’s a documentary on YouTube titled Fucking Kassovitz: Making of Babylon A.D.” (but you’ll need to understand French if you want to follow in full) that provides the whole story. After developing the project, Kassovitz finally went into production in 2007 with Vin Diesel, the somewhat unlikely star, and various problems beset the production. Right before the film’s release date, Kassovitz was ripping it apart before the critics got their chance (not that they held back once they got to see it; the film was universally panned). When it was time to voice his opinion on the experience, Kassovitz held nothing back: “I'm very unhappy with the film. I never had a chance to do one scene the way it was written or the way I wanted it to be. The script wasn't respected. Bad producers, bad partners, it was a terrible experience...I should have chosen a studio that has guts. Fox was just trying to get a PG-13 movie. I'm ready to go to war against them, but I can't because they don't give a shit.” Fox representatives countered with accusations that Kassovitz had breakdowns on set and delayed the shooting (which caused the project to go over its budget), which the director, in turn, denied. It’s another case where a director tries to officially disown his project, but failing that goes on such a vicious tirade it should give every aspiring filmmaker second thoughts on their Hollywood dreams.