On the set of Showtime's upcoming presentation of Orson Welles' final film, The Other Side of the Wind: John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich.
Here are Peter Bogdanovich's comments regarding the status of completing The Other Side of the Wind as recorded in San Francisco on March 9, 2008.
Following the interview, I have included the opening narration from Orson Welles original script for The Other Side of the Wind. Welles originally intended to speak the narration himself, but it was never recorded. Given that fact, it seems to me as it would be quite appropriate to have Mr. Bogdanovich speak these lines, instead of Welles, as he is the only major actor from the film still around who could do so.
Of course, another alternative would be to simply hire a good voice-over actor, such as Anthony Hopkins, to read the lines instead. I've also included another interview with Peter Bogdanovich, recorded several years ago when The Cat's Meow was first released, where Mr. Bogdanovich talks about Orson Welles in relation to The Cat's Meow and several other projects.
Three directors: John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich at lunch in Carefree, Arizona
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Last March in Florida, you announced that Showtime had finally green-lit plans to finish the editing work on The Other Side of the Wind. Since that time, I’ve heard stories that Oja Kodar had some kind of reservations about actually signing the final contract.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, it wasn’t Oja. I don’t want to go into details, but there were some rights we still needed, but hadn't gotten. But Showtime is still going to go forward with the project. We just have to work out of few more of the rights issues. Since then, I’ve actually seen a lot of the footage I hadn’t seen before, because we got into Oja’s vault in Los Angeles which has all the positive footage. I’d only seen about 40 minutes of the film and now I’ve seen quite a lot of new footage. These are scenes we had shot but Orson never showed them to me. I still haven’t seen everything, because there is so much stuff to look at. It’s the dailies and so on and it looks great.
Orson Welles gets down and dirty - on the floor to check out a low angle shot, while cinematographer Gary Graver looks on. Oja Kodar is sitting behind Welles.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What about the vault in Paris that houses the negative?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: We're working on that still. There’s footage in Paris that I don’t think is here, so there’s a lot of material.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you see any footage of the fireworks they shoot off outside of Jake Hannaford’s ranch house to celebrate his 70th birthday?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, there were some of the fireworks scenes in there.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Several people who say they know the film say they don’t think there’s enough good material to put The Other Side of the Wind together and make it work. But having read the script and having seen a lot of the footage myself, I think it can be quite a brilliant picture.
Orson Welles lights a cigar between takes.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, and there’s plenty of footage. It’s all been shot and we’re going to couch the entire thing as a kind of documentary about making the film.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Some other objections have been raised about how to best use the film within a film sequences, like the famous ten-minute sex scene between Oja Kodar and Bob Random in the mustang. The objection being, if you cut that scene up or shorten it, it won’t be as effective.
Oja Kodar, effectively lit by Gary Graver to simulate passing headlights during the tour-de-force sex scene between Bob Random and Kodar in the front seat of a Mustang (click to enlarge).
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I don’t think it’s ten minutes, but that scene will be in the picture, but it has to be crosscut with people watching it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When you get the final go-ahead on the project, how long do you think it will take to put everything together?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Probably a year or longer. Orson asked me to finish the picture if anything should ever happen to him. One day at lunch in Arizona, we were all sitting around, Orson, Oja, Frank Marshall and myself. Out of the blue, Orson turned to me and said, “if anything ever happens to me I want you to promise me you’ll finish the picture.” I said, “what a terrible thing to say. Why should anything happen to you?” He said, “I know, but just in case it does, I want you to promise me you’ll finish the picture.” I said, “okay, of course I will.” So when Orson died I felt it was incumbent on me to make good on my promise. It’s now been 22 years and I think we are finally going to get it done. I’d say it should happen within the next year. But to catalogue all the material, putting it all together so we know exactly what is there, including what’s in Paris, is going to take almost a year. So there’s still a lot of work to do.
Orson Welles consults with Peter Bogdanovich and Joseph McBride in Bogdanovich's Bel Air home (click to enlarge).
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Will Frank Marshall be helping out on the project?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, Frank will be involved in producing the final version. Of course, Oja will be involved and although Medhi Bouscheri died, his widow wants it to happen, as well. Everybody wants it to happen, but we just had a snag with some people who made problems. Showtime has already got quite a bit tied up in it.
(Here are some of Frank Marshall's comments on the film: We’re working with Showtime on finishing Orson Welles’ last movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which I worked on in the 1970's (as production manager). We have the script. We shot it all—I worked on it for over five years—but we never put it together. Showtime has been incredibly supportive. I’m producing what will be the final movie that Orson directed.)
Orson Welles directs Gary Graver shooting with a arriflex camera to simulate the frenetic cinéma-vérité style camera work that Welles' wanted for the party sequences in The Other Side of the Wind.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In the script, Welles clearly indicates a lot of overlapping dialogue and cutting between different voices coming from tape recorders and so-forth. So you’ll also have to do a lot of elaborate sound editing and add a score to the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes and Orson wanted the picture to have a jazz score. It was supposed to be a kind of song score, because there is music playing at Hannaford’s birthday party.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The French producer of the film, Dominique Antoine said Welles was going to use Michel Legrand to score the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Maybe, but I don’t think so, because it was supposed to have a documentary feel. We’ll never really know, because Orson was such a fresh filmmaker he never put anything in stone. He always kept changing his mind and he’d re-do scenes at the last minute. So to know exactly what he would have done is impossible. All you can do is take what’s there and follow his notes and follow your instincts and do the best you can with what he left behind. There are many scenes that he didn’t edit, but he left edited takes, where he cut off the slates and cut off the tail and just left what he wanted to use from the take, so if you follow the script, you realize what take he wanted to use, and what line reading he wanted to use. For example, there’s a line of mine in a scene with John Huston where he had printed two takes. The first part of the first take is great, but the second part of the first take is lousy. But the second part of the second take was good, so he obviously meant to put them together. If you follow what he laid out, you can follow his reasoning.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Cinematographer Gary Graver said most of the film was shot, but there were still a couple of inserts and effects scenes that needed to be filmed, like Hannaford crashing his Porsche behind the drive-in screen.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I don’t think we need to shoot anything, but we still have to see all the footage, so we’re not entirely sure. But Orson said he didn’t think there was anything left that needed to be shot. We’re going to put the whole thing in the form of a documentary about the making of a film, that was a mockumentary of itself. So we can jump in and say, “we didn’t shoot this.” We won’t connive to do that too often, so we can involve the audience as much as possible, but there will always be an unfinished quality to it, because it is unfinished. If we don’t do that, we’ll have a problem with Beatrice Welles (who controls the Welles estate).
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Because you play the leading role of Brooks Otterlake in the movie, one of the interesting things you might want to do is add the opening narration to the movie, which Welles originally intended to read himself, but it was never recorded.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, we will probably do something like that, because Brooks is the only one around after Hannaford’s death. So he would probably be the one who would put the film together.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you ever act in any scenes with Lilli Palmer?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, all her scenes were shot in Spain. Orson shot wherever he was at the moment.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: I’ve heard stories that John Huston privately expressed misgivings about the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: That is so untrue! John tried to finish the film himself, because he loved his own performance and he thought the film was fascinating. He wanted to cut it with his son, Danny Huston, but Oja wouldn’t let him do it. (Danny Huston told The London Times in 2005: I’ve seen the footage. It’s absolutely fascinating.)
John Huston as J. J. Hannaford, smiles benignly for the swarm of cameras that are covering his every move during his 70th birthday party.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: My own thought on how to complete the film would be to hire a really good film editor from the late sixties, like Dede Allen who was so good at doing the kind of staccato cutting that was in fashion at the time, and that Welles intended to use. Or maybe Donn Cambern who edited Easy Rider and I noticed you worked with him on The Last Picture Show.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Donn didn’t really edit The Last Picture Show. I cut the film by myself, by hand, as I did with Targets. The reason Donn got credit was because the editor’s guild said we had to have an editing credit. I said, “I’m not going to take an editor credit.” It would be too much, but I did physically cut the picture. At the time Donn was cutting another picture, Drive, He Said directed by Jack Nicholson, so as a favor, I asked him if he would order the opticals for me, which I had already marked. Then (producer) Bert Schneider said, “What do you want to do about the editor’s credit, we’ve got to give somebody credit.” So I said, well give it to Donn. Then a year or so later I was going to hire Donn for a picture and he wanted to charge me an arm and a leg, so I said, “Donn… just forget it!” No good turn goes un-rewarded.
Left: Welles oversees Gary Graver's shooting of Oja Kodar walking through a maze of buildings in Century City, while Bob Random watches from his motorcycle in the foreground. Right: Welles directs Gary Graver and key grip, J. Michael Stringer on how to shoot Bob Random on his motorcycle for the Antonioni-like film within a film directed by Jake Hannaford: The Other Side of the Wind.
GLENN ANDERS: What would be nice is when The Other Side of the Wind is finally finished, if Orson Welles got an Oscar nomination for best director and John Huston got a nomination for best actor, like Charlie Chaplin got for Limelight, twenty years after that film was made.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? I don’t think it would ever happen though. It would be too much for the Academy.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: If you can somehow get the picture finished by 2009, it would also be a wonderful way to celebrate your own 70th birthday! So on behalf of every one at Wellesnet, we’re wishing you the best of luck on finishing the picture.
Orson Welles watches a run through.