Orson Welles’ Final Film Aiming for Release in 2015

Orson Welles Lost Film Found
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Orson Welles’ unfinished final film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” may be heading for a theatrical release next year.

The New York Times has reported that Royal Road Entertainment has reached an agreement to buy the rights to “The Other Side of the Wind” with the aim of showing the film by May 6 — the 100th anniversary of Welles’ birth. The report said Royal Road is planning to promote the distribution at the American Film Market next week.

Welles shot the film-within-a-film between 1970 and 1976 and then worked on it until his death in 1985, leaving behind a 45-minute work print that he had smuggled out of France. John Huston starred as a temperamental film director battling with Hollywood executives to finish a movie –much like Welles did throughout his career. Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer, Dennis Hopper and Peter Bogdanovich played supporting roles.

To obtain the rights, Royal Road has negotiated agreements with Welles’s collaborator, Oja Kodar; his daughter and sole heir, Beatrice Welles; and Iranian-French production company, L’Astrophore. Welles had financed through a combination of TV roles and investors, including Mehdi Bushehri, brother-in-law of the shah of Iran and an investor in L’Astrophore.

As a result of clashing with Welles, Bushehri took control of more than 1,000 negative reels, which have been stored in a Paris warehouse.

Since Welles’ death, a multitude of efforts have been made to sort out the legal issues in order to complete. Two years ago, veteran producer Frank Marshall, who was a line producer on “The Other Side of the Wind,” joined with Royal Road’s Filip Jan Rymsza to approach Beatrice Welles and Oja Kodar.

Beatrice Welles, who manages the Welles estate, told the Times that the 2012 visit was key to starting the process of getting the film finished. Marshall and Bogdanovich will assemble the film.

“We have notes from Orson Welles,” Marshall told the Times. “We have scenes that weren’t quite finished, and we need to add music. We will get it done. The good news is that it won’t take so long because of all of the technology today.”

The character portrayed by Huston originated in an encounter between Ernest Hemingway and Welles in 1937 — four years before the release of “Citizen Kane” — in which a whiskey-drinking Hemingway threw a chair at Welles and they scuffled. Welles decided to use Hemingway as the primary model for Huston’s character.

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  1. Frank Fiore says:

    Back in 1970, the sister of Bogdanovich and I were attending ASU. Marshall was in town and asked us to find some college students as extras to film the birthday party scene of the movie. We asked if any students wanted free food and booze – DUH! So we caravaned up to a home on the rocks in Carefree AZ to hold the party. The crew filmed around us partying and every once in a while we would leave to go outside on the patio and look up in the air at supposed fire works. By the end of the evening, I was asked to be in a scene opposite Cameron Mitchell. I was on the rocks above he pool arranging a row of dummies. I would then look over at Mitchell and say my one line – my claim to fame. “OK Zimmy?” I was told it was some kind of dream sequence and the dummies would be blown up. I wonder if they will keep my line in the finished movie.

  2. Rick Schmidlin says:

    After I produced the re-edit of Touch Of Evil in1998 my friend Gary Graver gave me a copy of a 211 page screenplay and a 90 min cut on VHS that he and Oja put compiled.

  3. Joseph McBride says:

    Also, the script was the usual length. Welles did an experiment by having the actors (including me) help him write our own dialogue. He would ask us what we would say and then revise it, and we’d have to deliver it verbatim. There were ten hours of footage shot. Not hundreds of hours of footage. It would be good to have factcheckers here.

  4. Joseph McBride says:

    It wasn’t Welles’s final film. He did the last shooting on OTHER WIND in 1976. Then he made films continuously for the last nine years of his life.

  5. jhs39 says:

    The problem with this is that the actual script for The Other Side of the Wind was reportedly less than 50 pages long–Welles was writing scenes the day he shot them through most of the on and off production. Whatever version Bogdonovich and Marshall assemble will not be Orson Welles’ version of the movie–it will be Peter Bogdonavich and Garry Marshall’s version of the movie. Editing was extremely important to Orson Welles–he hated Robert Wise for as long as he lived for re-editing The Magnificent Amberson’s when Welles was out of the country–it’s not likely he would be pleased with the version of The Other Side if the Wind that will get released next year. Keep in mind that Welles shot hundreds of hours of footage with virtually no script–if you gave all of the existing The Other Side of the Wind footage to 10 different filmmakers to finish you would likely end up with 10 completely different movies.

  6. Whodatninja says:

    i wanna see his version of Dead Calm. It sounds like it’s all but finished just sitting in legal limbo.

    • jhs39 says:

      I’m sure it would be interesting but roughly two thirds of the movie was shot which is why it was never completed–it would have meant starting from scratch after most of the movie had been filmed–and since it’s a three people on a boat story very little of the existing footage would have been usable.

  7. Cineaste2 says:

    Wonderful news. Now if I could only view:

    1. Welles’ ending of “The Magnificent Ambersons”
    2. Jerry Lewis’ “The Day the Clown Cried”

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