Not coming soon: the films still stuck in purgatory

The director’s disowned it, the stars have moved on, but after years of delay David O Russell’s Accidental Love (aka Nailed) is finally getting released. To celebrate Banjamin Lee rounds up the most intriguing prospects still suffering on the shelf

Once you’ve actually got your film made and production has wrapped, you’d be forgiven for expecting that audiences will be given the chance to see it.

But even if your film is blessed with an all-star cast, it could still be placed on a dusty faraway shelf and then kept there for years. This month sees the release of Accidental Love, aka Nailed, a comedy that David O Russell made in 2008, before he became an Academy BFF with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. A starry cast, including Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, couldn’t prevent production delays and legal issues that led to Russell taking his name off the film.

Critical reaction to the film has been underwhelming (a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes explains why Russell was so keen to pull an Alan Smithee), but seven years after production, it has managed to get a release.

That’s something the following films might never experience …

Empires of the Deep

After unofficial live-action Ferngully remake Avatar came, conquered and induced headaches globally, studios were keen to replicate the 3D formula. One of the most blatant attempts was this underwater epic, which used a hefty $130m budget to tell the story of a love story between a man and a mermaid, played by Olga Kurylenko. Yet despite initial hype, the film floundered with an understandably caustic reaction to the above trailer and five years after being made, no release has been set. You know your film’s in trouble when Catwoman director Pitof changes his mind about getting involved.

Get a Job

Anna Kendrick stars with Miles Teller and Bryan Cranston in Get a Job – but will it ever get a release?
Anna Kendrick stars with Miles Teller and Bryan Cranston in Get a Job – but will it ever get a release? Photograph: PR

When Dylan Kidd scored an indie hit with Roger Dodger in 2002, it seemed as if a career in Hollywood was a given. But the followup, a Laura Linney romantic drama called P.S., failed to make an impression and he’s avoided movies ever since. It took a decade to return to the director’s chair but his star-studded comedy Get a Job, about college graduates struggling to enter the workforce has been indefinitely shelved. Shot three years ago, there’s no clear reason why it’s still to be released, especially considering a cast that includes Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Marcia Gay Harden and Anna Kendrick, who recently said she doubts it will ever see the light of day.

Hippie Hippie Shake

Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy on the Hippie Hippie Shake film set in 2007.
Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy on the Hippie Hippie Shake film set in 2007. Photograph: Carl Sims/REX_Shutterstock

The trouble started for this 60s-set, fact-based drama before it even began production with a nine-year stretch in development hell. It was finally made in 2007, with a cast including Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy, Chris O’Dowd and Derek Jacobi, yet still hasn’t surfaced. Director Beeban Kidron, of Bridget Jones 2 fame, quit the film during post-production, and in 2011, Working Title announced the film wouldn’t get a theatrical release. Strangely, test-screening reports weren’t that bad, and given Sienna Miller’s career resurgence, this one could be salvageable.

Black Water Transit

Black Water Transit
Karl Urban in Black Water Transit. Photograph: PR

Tony Kaye is not a lucky man – or maybe Tony Kaye is a very difficult man. He famously fell out with Edward Norton during the production of his debut film American History X, which led to the star making his own cut of the film that won him an Oscar nomination. In 2007, he decided to make Black Water Transit, a post-Hurricane Katrina crime drama based on the novel by Carston Stroud, but the production company went bankrupt during filming. He screened it at Cannes in 2009 but legal issues have prevented a release. Kaye claims he is still working on a new cut of the film, which stars Stephen Dorff, Karl Urban, Laurence Fishburne and Brittany Snow.


Takashi Shimizu, director of both Japanese and Hollywood versions of The Grudge, took his brand of repetitive, scare-tactic horror and put it on a plane, filled with D-list actors. Amy Smart, Jamie Chung, Ryan Kwanten and Leslie Bibb all starred in this supernatural sky-based horror film, which was so close to release that an official trailer and website were launched. But a summer 2012 date was canned, as were two more in 2013 and another in 2014. It’s gone direct to video in various territories but there’s still no confirmed release in the UK or the US. With the Hollywood Reporter saying it “plays out like a very serious Snakes on a Plane”, maybe that’s for the best.

I Spit on Your Rave

Some moderate buzz started back in 2009 for this comedy horror, which used an attempt to break the record for “most amount of zombies captured on camera” at the Big Chill festival as the impetus for a film. It starred Noel Fielding as King of the Zombies, who sets up a music festival to keep the undead entertained. A 2010 release was cancelled, and in 2012 it was announced that E4 would redevelop the film as a six-part TV series. Three years later and there’s been no news. You can watch a rather dreadful promo for the film above though, if you like.

Boogie Town

Taking the plot of Footloose and giving it a sci-fi spin, this bizarrely plotted film takes place in a dystopian future where battle-dancing is illegal because the chief of police’s son was killed in a dance battle(!). R&B singer Marques Houston and Scandal star Brenda Song feature, along with some well-known hip-hop dancers, and it was strangely pitched as You Got Served meets Twilight. But its 2009 release date came and went, and six years later, still no word. As you can see from the trailer above, it has not aged well …

In God’s Hands

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, who starred in the 2003 drama In God's Hands.
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, who starred in the 2003 drama In God’s Hands. Photograph: JPI Studios / Barcroft Media

A slightly different example here in that, strictly speaking, this one will never ever get released. In 2003, director Lodge Kerrigan (who later went on to make Keane) took a post-Secretary Maggie Gyllenhaal and paired her with up-and-coming actor Peter Sarsgaard for a Steven Soderbergh-produced drama about a couple who must find a way of coping with the death of their child. But after wrapping, there was apparently extensive negative damage, and the entire film had to be scrapped. Rumours circulated that the film didn’t get released because it wasn’t very good, but it did lead to the couple dating and then starting a family together, which is something.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

This grisly found-footage horror film about a serial killer who films his crimes was tantalisingly close to release in 2007 and even had its trailer shown at cinemas in the US before a planned wide roll-out by MGM. But five weeks before release, during a difficult financial time for the studio, it was pulled from the schedule. Further release dates came and went and then last year, the film showed up on US satellite network DirecTV to watch on demand. But strangely, it was yanked off that platform and there’s been no word since. Despite all of this, the film still served as a calling card for director John Erick Dowdle who has since gone on to direct other released genre titles, such as REC remake Quarantine and Devil.


Before Derek Cianfrance broke out with the devastating breakup drama Blue Valentine, he made a documentary about cage fighters. Despite finishing in 2007, it ran into immediate difficulties. The problem lay with release forms, or rather a lack thereof, which meant that the fighters who Cianfrance had interviewed couldn’t legally be shown on film. It’s been shelved and, unless someone goes on an ambitious Erin Brockovich-esque hunt for signatures, it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day.

  • This article was amended on Tuesday 2 June 2015. We mistakenly put Brittany Murphy rather than Brittany Snow in the cast list for Black Water Transit. This has been corrected.


Benjamin Lee

The GuardianTramp

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