One of the saddest things to realize about Orson Welles late career was the lack of support he received not only from studios, but from the "bankable major stars." Part of the reason he couldn't launch a movie during the eighties was because most top actors, like Redford, Nicholson, Newman, Beatty, Eastwood, etc. were demanding and getting an incredible amount of money.
One only has to recall the story of Welles trying to cast any of the above actors for the leading role in The Big Brass Ring, to realize how lucky Welles was in the olden days of Hollywood to have friendship's with people like Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Jeanne Moreau and Mercedes McCambridge. When they got a call from Welles most of them would usually try their best to drop everything in order to appear in his film. But how times changed...
By 1980, top actors, many of whom stated they loved Orson dearly and would be do anything for him, (like Jack Nicholson and Burt Reynolds), found convient excuses not to appear in The Big Brass Ring--even though they would make at least $1 million. In retrospect, it makes all the actors who agreed to appear in The Other Side of the Wind for virtually nothing, real Wellesian heroes. But as Mercedes McCambridge points out in this wonderful chapter from her 1981 autobiography, The Quality of Mercy, Only a certain breed of actor should ever even try to work for Orson Welles. And to all those actors, who worked soley for ars gratis artis,rather than for profit, we should be erternally grateful.
Actors like McCambridge, Tamiroff, Dietrich, Moreau, Gielgud, Redgrave, Huston, Keith Baxter, and virtually everyone who ever appeared in a Welles film before the mid-seventies. Those actors usually worked for peanuts, just so they could be in a film by a great director.
I'm one of a host of people who were in a film of Orson's that has never been finished. I don't see how it can ever be finished. Those of us who began the film when it began are either dead or unrecognizably older. People change over a span of a decade or more.
The filming turned up from time to time in strange places and stranger situations. One scene was shot in the San Fernando Valley on Mother's Day, in a battered rented yellow school bus filled with life-sized cloth dummies dressed in GI raincoats and frizzy blond fright wigs
sixteen of these things strapped into the seats of the beaten-up old bus! The actors were Edmund O'Brien, Cameron Mitchell, Paul Stewart, and I.
It was a hot valley-Sunday morning, and weaving up and down peaceful little streets called Ethel and Dorothy and Eunice was a bus full of strange things to come across on a Mother's Day. People on their way to Sunday service watched us pass. Sitting next to the bus driver on a makeshift stool and facing the rear of the bus was a monster; naked, bearded, and smoking a large cigar! Orson was naked only to his waist, but the churchgoers had no way of knowing that. Gathered around him and over the head of the squeezed-in driver were several half-nude young hippie-type fellows holding camera equipment. We would travel up Dorothy Street and back down Ethel, then across Eunice to Agnes and then back down to Harriet Place. Orson was shooting every Blade of grass on every street. It was hot, and we were hungry and thirsty. We said so.
Orson ordered the poor rented bus driver to stop at a pizza palace. There were some customers seated at the outside tables under the garish sun parasols. It must have been unsettling for those people to see our group pile out of our conveyance, leaving behind, strapped into their seats, the sixteen dummies in the raincoats and blond wigs. Orson refused to alight from the bus. That was just as well.