Red, White and Watergate

In 2019, Jennifer Lawrence spent the summer making a film that was supposed to be her comeback to both indie cinema and Oscar glory. Originally known as Untitled Soldier Project, it then became known as Red, White and Water. As of this moment in time, it remains being known on IMDB as Untitled Lila Neugebauer Project. If I had to hazard a guess, it’s because the previous title would invite comparisons as to what happened with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He appeared in a box office flop titled Red Sonja (1985), which foreshadowed the lukewarm reception to Red Heat (1988). In Jennifer’s case, her last starring role was in a mildly received thriller titled Red Sparrow (2018). This may seem silly but it’s taken too long for Lila Neugebauer’s directorial début to come out. The project was first announced in April 2019, Covid-19 made its impact in April 2020, Jennifer dyed her hair for reshoots in April 2021 – the same month when producer Scott Rudin was exposed for being abusive, and in April 2022…we had nothing. Before I continue, I would like to invite comparisons to what happened with an indie film, Mercy, starring Ellen Page and Kate Mara. The project was announced in September 2015, it began filming in September 2016, it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2017, and in September 2018…we had nothing. It eventually got released straight-to-streaming in the summer of 2019 where it was known as My Days of Mercy.

The screenplay was written by a first-time screenwriter, Elizabeth Sanders. As you can deduce from the red, white and blue house, maybe the title made the symbolism too obvious. I’m instantly reminded of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours film trilogy i.e. Three Colours: Blue (1993), Three Colours: White (1994) and Three Colours: Red (1994). Given the below production photo, perhaps Lila Neugebauer’s directorial debut could be retitled Blood, Snow and Water. The snow is a nice touch given that Jennifer Lawrence first came to prominence with a 2010 indie film titled Winter’s Bone. The water in the title must have significance for her because she has a H20 tattoo on her right hand. Even if my title is a tad clumsy, another option would be Crimson, Bleach and Navy. Although this causes a problem because people might be expecting a film about the navy, especially since the story takes place in NOLA. This is significant since the film was made during a time when there was a TV series titled NCIS: New Orleans. There are 39 members of cast and crew who have worked on both productions. It stands to reason that the lack of a concrete title has prohibited Lila’s film from having a poster or even a teaser trailer. Speaking of principal photography in the literal sense, there are no stills or professional behind-the-scenes shots of actual scenes. The only photos available are paparazzi shots and photos taken by extras.

Don’t let my cover fool you. It’s actually one of several photos taken from a NOLA event which predated the making of the film i.e. Jennifer attended the Unrig The System summit at Tulane University in February 2018. The man who she is shaking hands with is Trevor Potter. Jennifer seems to be drawn to NOLA. I can imagine reporters making a press pun by saying “New Home, New Orleans” since she was spotted dining with her husband, Cooke Maroney, circa February 2020. Back to the film that was known as Red, White and Water, there hasn’t been any publicity on TV shows like E! News: Daily Pop. The aforementioned producer, Scott Rudin, has had his producing credit taken off the listings for the film. He has been snubbed by the company that he worked with: A24. Back to Jennifer’s film, there has been not so much as even a release date such as Memorial Day (May 30) or Independence Day (July 4). To get answers, you have to ask the distributor, A24, or the production companies – IAC Films and Excellent Cadaver: Jennifer’s company which she co-owns with her long-time assistant, Justine Polsky (née Ciarrocchi). The latter described the film as a “very small, relatively abstract character piece” where theatre director Lila Neugebauer had so much support from Jennifer, who had so much faith in the project. I sent an e-mail to a spokesperson for IAC Films, and he said: “I don’t believe there is a final title yet.”

Scott Rudin’s producing partner, Eli Bush, left Scott’s company: Scott Rudin Productions. I can’t ask either man about the status of Red, White and Water. Naturally, I turned to the one man who could have an answer for everything – the still photographer: Wilson Webb.

Me: Hello, Mr. Webb. Do you have a copy of all the photos you took of the project or did you hand them over to the A24 studio?

Him: Yes, A24 has them all, but so do I. You are talking about 20,000 images, so it may be easier for you to ask A24 for access and links.

Me: Thank you for your response. A24 haven’t stored anything online for the general public to see. They’ve not even listed the film in their Upcoming section. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Him: Is this for Lily’s use? A24 should be able to provide a link to the post production house for her, or any of the producers, to view.

Me: It’s really for social media because there has been too much confusion about what the film looks like. Photos of Jennifer as a soldier in X-Men: Days of Future Past have been mistaken for stills of Lila’s film. Not to mention that there’s a fan-made trailer on YouTube which is misleading.

Him: Have you asked A24 for a link to the post house? It is information that Lily should have received during filming but who knows? Eli could be of assistance as well, or do you get the feeling that it is trying to be buried? What a tough spot for Lily, I feel for her. If you talk to her, please pass along my greetings.

Me: I asked A24 but they are either too busy or disingenuous. It’s a bit too early to say at this point in time as I’ve only messaged them rather recently. I still can’t believe how much of the film had to be reshot. Unfortunately, even Mr. Bush has been erased from existence as far as his IMDB credit goes. He’s only credited on the Wikipedia page thus far. You can message Lila on Pinterest or on Vimeo.

Him:  Wow, crazy. Do you think that Jennifer doesn’t want it released for some reason?

Me: I can’t imagine the problem being Jennifer, otherwise she wouldn’t have agreed to do the reshoots last year. In what looks like a joint interview with her assistant/co-producer, Justine Polsky, it looks like the film is set for a 2022 release. Here is the November 2021 interview. Maybe it’s going to be released on Veterans Day (November 11), which also ties in with Oscar season when contenders are released to be considered for the new year. On the other hand, it looks like A24 are trying to bury it, because they have no posts about the film on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook despite Jennifer’s fans asking about it.

That’s the end of the interview. In Hollywood, there is a saying about box office which stipulates that you’re as good as your last film. Perhaps, Jennifer’s pet project could only receive more than a limited release had she attached herself to a star-studded project…hence Don’t Look Up. But not even the collective star power of Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance and Timothée Chalamet were enough to bring Red, White and Water back from the dead in terms of public awareness. In the below photo, Justine Polsky is pictured on the right whereas the director is on the far left. Clearly, Jennifer didn’t mind socializing with Lila months after filming had wrapped in August 2019 i.e. this photo was taken in December when they were in New York. Despite being in good spirits in the photo, I can’t imagine them being happy now with what’s remained of the project. Red, White and Water has so little publicity that there’s not even a thread about it on the Movie Chat forum. The film is so low under the radar that there’s not even a thread on Jennifer’s message board. Hell, the only reason why I even remembered the film was because I was going through my Facebook activity log for the year 2019. Since Lila is a theatre director, perhaps they should turn it into a play in order to breathe new life into the shelved film.

The film takes place in 2014 where Jennifer’s character, Lynsey, returns to New Orleans from Afghanistan but at a cost: brain damage. It’s not been revealed what kind of brain damage that the character has, but it’s hard to imagine it being as feral as the damage that was depicted in John Woo’s Bullet in the Head (a 1990 masterpiece about the Vietnam war). I will give the benefit of the doubt to those involved that Red, White and Water is a touching film. A black female extra on Instagram described Lila Neugebauer as a really beautiful soul when commenting on a fellow extra’s photo. The fellow extra is a butch white woman whose character’s name is Sgt. Henry. As you can imagine, this butch woman is a lesbian. In 2016, Lila directed a lesbian play called The Wolves. One of the actresses in Lila’s first film is a lesbian, Samira Wiley. She doesn’t play Jennifer’s lover; she plays a friend of hers who is a fellow soldier. Having said that, Jennifer’s Lynsey is allegedly bisexual and has an interracial romance with a character played by Brian Tyree Henry. An intimacy coordinator, by the name of Deven MacNair, was hired to make the filming of sex scenes safer for all parties involved. On Instagram, Samira posted the following on August 23, 2019: “Had a lot of fun with this character. Thank you, New Orleans for being a home away from home for a while. You were great. Can’t wait to share this one with the world. #makingmoviesthatmatter”

The below extra is named Gavin C. Brown. At this point, I should reveal that BG is an abbreviation for background actor. Gavin has worked on NCIS: New Orleans, where he initially struggled with opening the door to a hummer. Learning how to do it right came in handy when he worked on Red, White and Water, where he got to be in a hummer with J-Law. Gavin spent little more than a week on the film. He found the experience to still being very interesting despite not being on the set for very long. He was interested in the sheer range of personalities, and he managed to find a lot to laugh at. Gavin had this to say about Neugebauer’s NOLA film: “It was called Untitled Soldier Project and it’s now called Red, White, and Water. I had no idea what it was about or who was in it. I’d end up having hilarious conversations with Samira Wiley, and spent about a half hour in a hummer with Jennifer Lawrence. But the funniest moments were with my fellow bg. I think I worked about eight days on this…and no matter how hard I look, I STILL can’t find those damn dill pickle-flavored cashews they had in crafty.”

Wanting to know why the film was reshot, I asked him: What happened during the making of Red, White and Water? It’s taken so long to come out!

Him: I have no clue what happened with that. I think Covid rising and falling, as well as some prior issues. I did some research and the last time they filmed was last year. They might resume at some point.

Me: Thanks for responding. I would love to read a book or article about the making of that movie.

Him: If only they would hurry up and finish it lol. The last there was anything about it, was the article I saw that was dated June of last year. I guess when the new variants of Covid came out, they shut it down again. I don’t know if it will resume or not. I also saw an article that the movie might be ready for Sundance, but that happened in January. I’ll have to ask the PAs what the status of that movie is when I’m on set with them again. I have to remember which ones were on it.

Me: The PAs were Samuel Ali, George Angelico, Anna Donnell, Sam Leija, Sam Nation and Zoe Winston. It’s weird that it’s taken so long since Jennifer had managed to make another movie in between the original shoot and the reshoot: Don’t Look Up was filmed from 18 November 2020 to 5 February 2021.

Him: Okay. I’ll see what I can find out. It was an odd shoot.

Me: I appreciate that. What was so odd about it?

Him: The director collapsing on set and some of her habits. She freaked out several times over clothing changes. There were three sex offenders among us. Another guy got kicked off for harassing Jennifer Lawrence. Apparently, there was a guy going around, claiming he was in the KKK. In fact, I think several of them got booted. Even the setting with us being at a landfill and the smokers not being able to light up. I filmed eight days on it. Maybe more. Every day, there was something lol.

Me: Oh my god. Thanks for the info. I hope the director only freaked out because she was afraid of continuity errors. I also hope that the offender didn’t touch Jennifer. I wonder if the director was replaced when they did reshoots.

The first indication that reshoots were in order was in December 2020 when this person also revealed that they got their info from someone who worked on the movie. Word on the street was that the first reviews were mixed, so two new screenwriters were added (per IMDB) and reshoots followed suit. Elizabeth Sanders wrote a very good short story that was shortlisted for a competition but she wasn’t experienced with the medium of screenwriting, so I can believe that she needed help. One look at IMDB tells me that the rewriters were Luke Goebel and Ottessa Moshfegh. Here is a plot twist: they are a couple who are married. I couldn’t find them for an interview. On the IMDB page for the film, there is a man credited as the camera operator for the reshoots – Michael Drucker. Mike, as he likes to be known, told me: “We reshot approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the movie last summer, so many scenes.”

I’m instantly reminded of what happened when Eric Stoltz was replaced during the making of Back to the Future. Even though Eric shot almost the entire movie, the only footage that needed to be reshot were shots where you could clearly identify him. Michael J. Fox was said to have lost a lot of sleeping hours over having to do reshoots, but there are probably less photos of him yawning when compared to J-Law (or should that be J-Snore?) as seen below. Like what happened with the making of Back to the Future, there is definitely a conspiracy. Chadwick Braselman, as can be seen here, was involved as a prop maker. He had previously worked on season 2 of NCIS: New Orleans as a carpenter. Thinking back to that IMDB list of shared personnel between the two NOLA productions, this makes him shared employee #40 had he been credited.

Like with any good conspiracy, you have a detective who is stonewalled at seemingly every turn. It would appear that only the extras were not told to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Me: What do you remember about the New Orleans military drama that she was in?

Han Soto: I remember she was the Star of the film.

Me: What do you remember about Jennifer Lawrence’s marine drama?

Paul Kolker: I remember shooting it in 2019 and then finding out they were doing some reshoots in 2021. I think it’s supposed to come out this year.

Me: What do you remember about the Jennifer Lawrence film?

Donald Paul: Great project.

Me: What do you remember about the NOLA film starring Jennifer Lawrence?

Gideon Tyler Bowen: Atm nothing. I’d need my memory jogged actually.

Me: How would you describe your score for the Jennifer Lawrence film?

Alex Somers: Patient.

Another journalist, a Jennifer Lawrence fan might I add, managed to get a quote from Linda Edmond: “Jen was a fantastic person to work with. I play her mother and we shot in New Orleans – that’s all I can say.”

Another such reporter learned that Russell Harvard, an actor, had taught sign language to Jennifer. They shared a single scene. Russell remarked: “What a quick learner.”

To add to the conspiratorial vibe, I should note that the crew members were not a random bunch of misfits like a motley crew. Six people worked on Midsommar (2019), sixteen people worked on Logan (2017) and fifteen people worked on Green Lantern (2011). The aforementioned intimacy coordinator had worked on the latter along with Tim Bell – a stuntman and stunt coordinator. The significance being that Deven MacNair is a stuntwoman and a stunt coordinator. As of writing, they have worked on a dozen productions.

Me: Which actors did you supervise for the New Orleans Jennifer Lawrence film?

Deven: What is this about? Who are you?

Me: I ask because I’m a big fan of Jennifer and I’m curious as to what the film was like. This is a big film for Jennifer – it’s her return to indie films but it’s also a potential Oscar comeback.

Deven blocked me.

One of the most common things that you can learn about a film is the budget. IMDB used to display this but then Wikipedia became the go-to place. If you don’t trust Wikipedia, there are sites devoted to such a statistic such as Box Office Mojo and The Numbers. One of the person who I inquired was Pete Olshansky, who is credited as the film’s account executive (one of six accounting people credited on the film).

Me: What was the budget for Jennifer Lawrence’s NOLA film?

Pete: Hey
That’s not something I can share.
How did you know that I worked on the post for that?

Me: I can understand since the film was half reshot.

I wasn’t completely railroaded. A Will Ferrell lookalike by the name of Dave Bass had worked on the movie as an extra, and was more than happy to relay his experience: “Working on the Jennifer Lawrence film was the typical background experience. The job was pitched as being in a very small, intimate scene with the star of the movie, which turned out to be Jennifer Lawrence. My scene with her was four actors, Jennifer and an actor she exchanged lines with and two of us as background. I was a patient in a veteran’s physical therapy clinic. Jennifer was about six feet from me. She spoke to the other actor she had lines with but totally ignored me and the other BG. She seemed very tired and was probably just wanting to get the scenes done so she could wrap on the movie. These were the final scenes to finish the movie after it was mostly shot a year and a half before being delayed by Covid. As you probably know, as a BG actor you can’t expect any interaction with stars so I didn’t take it personally or hold it against her. But overall, all of us BG actors were disappointed with the experience.”

One of the executive producers was the first assistant director. His name is Christopher Surgent, who had previously worked with Jennifer on The Hunger Games – more specifically Catching Fire and the Mockingjay duology. He also worked on Red Sparrow. This is where everything comes full circle in regards to the first paragraph of my article. Both of the red films involved the talents of Mark DeSimone (ADR mixer), David J. Thompson (steadicam operator), Takahide Kawajami (assistant director) and Tyler Newhouse (ADR everything else). David, Takahide and Chris worked on I Am Legend, but there were more people who went from working on Will Smith’s movie to Jennifer’s Russian spy movie. After the harrowing experience of doing such a sexually explicit film, Jennifer clearly had to whittle down the list even further to people who she could trust to be sensible without cracking jokes about her butt crack. Finally, it’s a shame that we don’t have a synopsis for Red, White and Water but some of the casting calls can feed our imaginations: a sketchy bus driver, bus terminal workers, bus kids, a child smearing chocolate on their face, prisoners, an elderly woman walking her poodles and amputees (who were cast during the reshoots).

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