Is a Showtime deal near to complete Orson Welles’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND?
The Other Side of the Wind is Orson Welles only unrealized film project that could possibly be completed without the great man himself. There are many arguments to support this hope. But my goal would be to work with everybody who worked on the picture, Oja Kodar, and anybody who was around a lot. Frank Marshall was there for quite a while, so I would ask them what they all remember, and we would all pool are memories of what Orson had in mind. The idea would be to try and get as close as we can to what Orson had in mind, following the script and following notes that he made, and things he said to Oja about writing the script, and things he might have said to me. There’s a certain rhythm (in the film) that he obviously had in mind, and we’d try to get to that kind of rhythm, depending on the scene and also depending on the things we know about Orson.
With the recent comments in Variety from Frank Marshall and Peter Bogdanovich about
how close they are to striking a deal with Showtime (yet again), I thought I'd update the timeline Welles scholar Kari Elovuori supplied to Wellesnet, with a few more additions of my own.
This new updated timeline includes some more recent information about the rather amazing backing Showtime has provided for the project, along with a very interesting script excerpt which shows how easily the film could be put together, if only the various factions would each agree to a reasonable amount of money!
1966 – Orson Welles writes a script The Sacred Beasts, about a young bullfighter and an older film director who follows him around Spain and "admires" him. Ironically, Welles envisioned shooting this film very quickly.
August, 1970 – Shooting begins on The Other Side of the Wind in Hollywood. The script has now morphed into the story of an aging film director who is making his "comeback" movie. In place of a bullfighter, the director is now enamored with a handsome young man, whom he first encounters off the coast of Mexico. When the boy is attempting a “faked” suicide, Hannaford not only rescues him, but proceeds to cast him as the lead in his upcoming movie.
1971 – Acting as his own producer, Welles continues shooting wherever and whenever he has enough money to continue. He hasn't yet decided who will play the 70-year old film director, himself or John Huston.
1972 – While editing the initial footage of The Other Side of the Wind in Paris, Welles begins working on a personal essay film, F For Fake.
January, 1974 – Shooting resumes in Arizona for three months. Welles has finally decided to give the role of Jake Hannaford to his old friend and colleague, John Huston who joins the company for six weeks of intense work at a house Welles has rented in Carefree, a luxurious new housing development in the desert, outside of Phoenix.
March, 1975 – Orson Welles presents two sequences from The Other Side of the Wind at his AFI life achievement award. Ironically, the film "experts" at the AFI attempted to veto Welles idea to show this footage, and he has to threaten them with not appearing in order to get the clips shown.
1976 – Principal photography is basically completed, but Welles becomes involved in a bitter legal dispute with his Iranian partners over ownership rights to the film. This dispute will effectively keep the picture from being completed during Welles lifetime. However, Welles continues to work on the editing of the film during the final nine years before his death in 1985.
1985 – Orson Welles dies unexpectedly on October 10. Oja Kodar inherits the rights to all of the many Welles movie projects that were still in progress. Kodar, with the help of Gary Graver and Peter Bogdanovich, attempts to find new backers who will “buy out” the Iranian backers and allow the film to be completed. None of the major (or even minor) Hollywood studios show any interest in funding the project.
August, 2002 – Oja Kodar reaches a deal with Showtime to finance the completion of The Other Side of the Wind, but the deal falls apart when Beatrice Welles claims she has the right to “approve” any such deal. Thomas White, Beatrice Welles representative says at the time: “Under the law, Beatrice stands in the shoes of Orson Welles in all matters that would have been his to decide. She controls the estate and protects her father and won't do anything that she knows he wouldn't have approved of. Therefore, the only way this project can go forward is with her blessing." Ironically, in his will, Welles clearly states that anyone who attempts to interfere with Oja's rights to his films would be completely disinherited. Why this provision has never been brought up in U.S. courts remains a mystery.
March, 2007 – A new Showtime deal is reached, which apparently placates Beatrice Welles with a substantial payment. Peter Bogdanovich announces that work can finally go forward on completing The Other Side of the Wind.
April, 2008 – Peter Bogdanovich films the opening of the Los Angeles vault where Oja Kodar has kept the rough-cut and other related material for The Other Side of the Wind.
June, 2008 – Showtime sets up an editing suite in Los Angeles, to begin the preliminary logging in work for all of The Other Side of the Wind footage. Tim King is the Showtime executive in charge of post-production. Sasha Welles, a nephew to Oja Kodar, is also working on the project as an assistant editor.
Dec. 2008 – After six months of work, Showtime puts the editing on “hold,” due to an unspecified complication. One possibility is that the negative is still unavailable for inspection in the Paris film vault where it is being held by French Officials. There is reportedly over ten hours of negative footage in the Paris vault, making access to it vital to properly complete the project.
February, 2009 – Peter Boganovich and Frank Marshall tell Variety the project is still viable. Marshall says: “Showtime is willing to pay for it, but they want to make sure the materials are there. The negative is in a lab in Paris, but we can't get the estates together to get us into the lab to confirm that the negative is in good shape.”
Bogdanovich says: “It's going to happen in the next month or so. We're aiming for Cannes (in 2010). Everybody wants it to happen. It's film history. It will be something for it to finally be seen after all these years."
Script Excerpt follows:
Presumably, one of the the most bewildering things about the rough cut footage of The Other Side of the Wind is that in his script Welles did not include any descriptions for his "hip, with it sex movie" that is supposedly being shot by director Jake Hannaford.
These movie within the movie scenes were either improvised or scripted just before Welles's actually shot them.
However, having seen the rough cut and having carefully studied the script, it seems astonishing to me anyone could claim they wouldn't work when cut together. Not only do they work and make perfect sense, but it seems to me they would be bravura examples of Welles's talent as an editor.
The problem is, in Welles's rough cut, none of the movie Jake is shooting for his film is actually cut into the footage that takes place at Jake's party. There is also no music for most of these scenes. As a result, it all plays out without the inter-cutting that Welles intended to make it work, and thus can seem long, ponderous or boring, which was actually part of the effect Welles was attempting to convey, since it was all done mostly in the style of Antonioni.
Therefore, in this script excerpt, I have combined descriptions from one of the lurid sex scenes from Jake's film, into the obvious place it was intended to go in Welles's script. It works quite beautifully, and would certainly make a very interesting scene if edited together by any experienced Hollywood film editor.
This script excerpt begins as the guests at Jake's birthday party are watching scenes from his film on the sofas and chairs in the projection room at his ranch house. Thus, there are constant interruptions to the actual action on the screen, as Welles would be cutting away to the characters at the party who are actually watching the film and also commenting on it.
JAKE'S FILM CONTINUES (IN THE PROJECTION ROOM)
On Screen JOHN DALE is sitting naked on the abandoned back lot of the studio. He is starting to put his pants on when THE ACTRESS approaches him from behind and pushes him down on an old bed frame made only of metal springs, allowing the ensuing sex scene to be shot by JAKE’S cameras from both above and below.
And now, another interruption; There is a low buzz of interest as JAKE’S shadow is cast upon the screen... Drink in hand, he takes a chair at the side of the room and sits there watching...
From the SOUND TRACK JAKE can hear his own voice (picked up on the set by his own microphone speaking from behind his own camera) issuing directions to the actors – giving quiet but insultingly obscene commands to the actor JOHN DALE by way of guiding the erotic action.
On screen THE ACTRESS is above JOHN DALE and begins to caress him as he lies prone on the metal bed.
JAKE: Push him down dear... Hold him down. Jolt him. Drive that cunt in his mouth... Jolt him!
JOHN DALE is lying passively on the bedsprings, while THE ACTRESS begins moving towards his crotch.
JAKE (with relish): You know where to go!
On Screen THE ACTRESS suggestively brandishes a pair of scissors, before she places them in one of the coils of the bed frame.
JAKE: Kid, listen... now you’re getting your courage up... Are you getting it up? Or are you fresh out of courage, kid?
The long Indian beads THE ACTRESS is wearing around her otherwise naked body suddenly get entangled in the metal coils of the bed.
JAKE: Cut it... snip, snip. Why don’t you cut ‘em. What’s going to happen, kid?
Your little jewels, Johnny, or hers? You like suspense Johnny... Come on honey, feel it. Suspense, baby... Pure Hitch-COCK!
THE ACTRESS takes the scissors and cuts the beads free from her neck, and they roll across the floor.
Suddenly A VOICE is heard in the projection room itself:
THE VOICE (hoarsely vulgar): We oughta be coming soon to that shot
where he walked off the picture... Huh, Mr. Hannaford.
No reply to this from JAKE.
THE VOICES in the audience persists.
ANOTHER VOICE: Sure; they got it all on film, y’know... I was there; Jake went right on cranking the whole thing – where he marches straight out of the studio bare-assed...
Again no comment from JAKE.
And now as JAKE sits watching it, we come to that moment in the action when JOHN DALE jumps up off the bed, strides through the mass of movie equipment, off the set and away...
JAKE’S VOICE is heard from the SOUNDTRACK of his film:
JAKE: ...Kid, you just can’t stand it! Roll cameras, I’d like a record of this! Keep it rolling.
Follow him. That’s it, hold on him... and goodbye to Johnny Dale!
A wave of half-stifled laughter in the projection room accompanies this... Then a slightly embarrassed silence...
JAKE (quietly): Let’s keep going.
But nothing happens.
In the shadows we can just make out JAKE as he turns an inquiring look in the direction of the projectionist. The door to the projection room opens, but this time no bright light is thrown on the screen. All lights, in fact, have been turned off, and what enters now through he door is an immense comic birthday cake – a fabrication of film cans crowned with a perfect forest of kitchen candles. “Ohs!” and “Ahs!” (rather campily) from the crowd. THE BARON is in charge of ceremonies (the gag is clearly his)... Everyone gathers in a circle around the mass of candles. They are big kitchen candles, far too numerous to blow out in the traditional single puff. The buzz and chatter trails away into silence...