Orson Welles's Last Movie
The Making of The Other Side of the Wind
Journalist Josh Karp shines a spotlight on the making of The Other Side of the Wind—the final unfinished film from the auteur of Citizen Kane in Orson Welles’s Last Movie, the basis of Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville’s Netflix Original Documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.
In the summer of 1970, legendary but self-destructive director Orson Welles returned to Hollywood from years of self-imposed exile in Europe and decided it was time to make a comeback movie. Coincidentally, it was the story of a legendary self-destructive director who returns to Hollywood from years of self-imposed exile in Europe. Welles swore it wasn’t autobiographical.
The Other Side of the Wind was supposed to take place during a single day, and Welles planned to shoot it in eight weeks. It took six years during his lifetime—only to be finally completed more than thirty years after his death by The Last Picture Show director Peter Bogdanovich, who narrates the film, and released by Netflix.
Orson Welles’s Last Movie is a fast-paced, behind-the-scenes account of the bizarre, hilarious, and remarkable making of what has been called “the greatest home movie that no one has ever seen.” Funded by the shah of Iran’s brother-in-law, and based on a script that Welles rewrote every night for years, the film was a final attempt to one-up his own best work. It’s a production best encompassed by its star—the celebrated director of The Maltese Falcon, John Huston—who described the making of the film as “an adventure shared by desperate men that finally came to nothing.”
Orson Welles (1915 1985), one of cinema's most acclaimed and eccentric actors and directors, spent the last 15 years of his life feverishly working on a film he never completed, a frenetic journey that Karp (Straight Down the Middle) chronicles in this informative but at times overly dense account of art and madness. Like Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, the film that made Welles famous at age 25, Welles was larger than life in every way. Given the very rare honor of editing the final cut of Kane, he expected such control for the rest of his career and, sadly, never received it, prompting him to leave Hollywood for Europe. In 1970, eager for a comeback this was the era of "New Hollywood," led by films like Bonnie and Clyde Welles arrived with an idea for The Other Side of the Wind, a film centered on an aging director (eventually played by longtime friend John Huston) trying to stage his own comeback; there would be a film within a film. He always strenuously objected to any claims that it was autobiographical. Filmed on locations over the course of years, Welles never shared the script with any of his actors, preferring instead to guide them through long Altman-style improvisations. The funding crises were constant Welles could not manage money and to this day the film remains unedited and unreleased, mired in legal battles that include a French vault and the Shah of Iran's brother-in-law. Karp often gets overly caught up in the minutiae, but his adoration for Welles is obvious, and readers can only hope Wind will one day reach screens.