The release of a trailer for The Other Side of the Wind, which had been lost to time, money and the death of its creator, shows that much has changed since the Weekly began tracking the local connections to what will go down as Orson Welles’ final completed motion picture when it premieres at the Venice Film Festival this weekend and is released on Netflix and in select U.S. theaters Nov. 2.
The legendary director of Citizen Kane, which has been hailed as the greatest American film ever, began shooting The Other Side of the Wind in 1970. His star was John Huston, so one cinema legend stood in for another as the obese Welles was loath to stand in front of cameras by then, even though the story was soooooo Orson.
Huston’s grizzled J.J. “Jake” Hannaford returns to Los Angeles after years in self-exile in Europe with plans to complete work on his own innovative comeback movie. “Both a satire of the classic studio system and the New Hollywood that was shaking things up, Welles’ last artistic testament is a fascinating time capsule of a now-distant era in moviemaking as well as the long-awaited ‘new’ work from an indisputable master,” says Netflix, which released this trailer:
Welles based Huston’s character on Ernest Hemingway, who threw a chair at the future Charles Foster Kane during a whiskey-soaked scuffle in 1937. In The Other Side of the Wind, Huston’s Jake Hannaford dies at his 70th birthday party, and his final hours are recounted in a collage of still photos, as well as 8 mm, 16 mm and 35 mm color and black-and-white film shot at the celebration, plus scenes from his unfinished comeback movie.
The cast also included another filmmaker and FOW (Friend of Welles), Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg, the daughter of the famed acting coach Lee Strasberg, Oja Kodar, Welles’ partner during his later years, and Newport Harbor High School graduate Peter Jason.
Another NHHS Sailor, Frank Marshall, served as the original line producer on The Other Side of the Wind. He had met Bogdanovich at a birthday party for the daughter of director John Ford, a friend of his father’s, in 1967. Marshall volunteered to work on Bogdanovich’s first film, Targets, which became his apprenticeship in film production. Bogdanovich offered Marshall a position on The Last Picture Show, in 1970, and he would go on to double as location manager in Archer City, Texas, and as an actor in the seminal film.
Under Bogdanovich’s guidance, Marshall worked his way up from producer’s assistant to associate producer on five more films. He would go on to produce such blockbusters as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist and The Sixth Sense, found Amblin Entertainment with his producer wife, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg, and earn five Oscar nominations.
Marshall has said Welles’ young film crew would sneak into a movie lot or a drive-in, posing as university film students if anyone demanded production permits. They often invoked Welles’ name to requisition props such as a human skeleton or a Porsche. For an Oscar Huston brandishes in the movie, Welles supplied the one he won for Citizen Kane.
He worked on The Other Side of the Wind for the rest of his life, gathering financing through a combination of TV roles and investors, including Mehdi Bushehri, brother-in-law of the shah of Iran and an investor in Iranian-French production company L’Astrophore. After clashing with Welles over the direction of the project, Bushehri took control of more than 1,000 negative reels–18 or 19 hours of footage–which were stored in a Paris warehouse.
In 1975, Welles smuggled a 41-minute work print of The Other Side of the Wind out of France in a van and had it shipped to California, where he lived with Kodar. “He just turned to me rather casually during lunch and said, ‘I want you to promise that you will finish the picture if anything happens to me,'” Bogdanovich recalled of a conversation with Welles in the ’70s. “I was shocked and said, ‘Nothing is going to happen to you.'”
After Welles died at age 70 in 1985 without having finished the edit, Bogdanovich tried for years to get his friend’s last film completed and released. The competing rights of stakeholders–Kodar, Welles’ daughter Beatrice and L’Astrophore–prevented him from honoring Welles’ wish, however. Even a $3 million deal with Showtime was torpedoed.
When it was discovered in 2014 that Kodar had in her possession the work print in Primosten, on the Adriatic coast in Croatia, where she now resides, Bogdanovich’s pal Marshall and Royal Road production company’s Filip Jan Rymsza convinced her, Beatrice Welles and L’Astrophore to let them finish The Other Side of the Wind the way Welles intended in time to release it on May 6, 2015–on what would have been his 100th birthday–and to show it at Cannes about a week later.
“Everyone wants this to happen and to honor Orson’s legacy,” Marshall said excitedly in October 2014.
He oversaw editing and was confident it would be completed by the target date but alas, that did not happen. Money was the issue, and in June of 2015, it was announced that Marshall, Bogdanovich and the Newport Beach Film Festival had launched a campaign to raise funds to complete The Other Side of the Wind.
“I am excited to partner with Newport Beach Film Festival and to share the incredible journey of finishing Orson’s last picture with my hometown of Newport Beach,” Marshall said at the time. “This film has truly been a passion project for me and I am proud to honor Orson’s legacy in this way.”
The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign ultimately raised $400,000, and in March 2017, Marshall and Rymsza finally got their hands on all the footage and Netflix acquired global rights to Welles’ last movie, which hits the streaming services and select theaters on Friday, Nov. 2.
In releasing the trailer this week “for an event 40 years in the making,” Netflix boasted the project relied on editing by Academy Award winner Bob Murawski (The Hurt Locker), who somehow got those 19 hours of footage down to a 2 hour and 2 minute runtime, as well as a new score by three-time Oscar winning composer Michel Legrand (Yentl, The Summer of ’42, The Thomas Crown Affair).
Speaking of Oscar, would the release date make Welles eligible for another statuette and, hopefully, a first one for Marshall?
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.