‘Citizen Hearst’ Screens At Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle, the inspiration for Xanadu in “Citizen Kane,” saw its movie role revisited Friday as the landmark hosted the West Coast premiere of Leslie Iwerks’ documentary “Citizen Hearst.”

About 100 people — including several of the top brass at Hearst Corp. — attended a rare screening at the Hearst’s private theater at the complex near San Simeon. The event included a presentation to Iwerks of the San Luis Obispo Film Festival’s Spotlight award.

Iwerks’ doc, which debuted in October at the Hamptons Film Festival, explores the 125-year history of the Hearst empire from the days of William Randolph Hearst’s sensationalistic newspapering, the construction of the massive Hearst Castle and the growth of global media brands — including interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Dan Rather, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. “Citizen Hearst,” with William Macy providing narration, opens in limited release on Friday.

“I’m sort of geeking out being here in Hearst’s theater,” Iwerks told the audience, noting that the Hearst Corp. — which had commissioned the movie — provided her with extensive access to the sprawling facility and members of the Hearst family.

Popular on Variety

Iwerks also pointed out that despite Hearst’s lavish lifestyle, maintained even during the Great Depression, Hearst remained committed to the notion of sticking up for the common folk. “He was a true champion of the people,” she added.

The Hearst family became a part of the festival last year when William Randolph Hearst’s grandson Steven Hearst agreed to a first-ever screening of “Citizen Kane” at the Hearst Castle visitors center — even though his grandfather had tried unsuccessfully to suppress the film.

Steven Hearst, a Hearst Corp. VP and manager of its Western properties, indicated then and again on Friday night that enough time has passed for the family to acknowledge the artistic achievement of Orson Wells’ drama, while attempting to set the record straight about Hearst.

“It was not an accurate depiction of my grandfather, but it is a great film,” he noted.

Hearst Corp. chairman Will Hearst, also a grandson of “WR,” said that the sceening’s location was particularly appropriate. “This is kind of ground zero for everyone involved with Hearst,” he added.

Iwerks began shooting “Citizen Hearst” at the castle during the same weekend that “Citizen Kane” screened there last year.

Hollywood star power at the event, a benefit for the Friends of Hearst Castle, was provided by Daryl Hannah. Iwerks noted that the thesp had narrated her Keystone XL pipeline documentary “Pipe Dreams,” which was shown as the fest along with five other Iwerks docs: “The Ride,” “Industrial Light & Magic — Creating the Impossible,” “The Pixar Story,” Recycled Life” and the story of her grandfather, who created Mickey Mouse — “The Hand Behind the Mouse: the Ub Iwerks Story.”

Iwerks also told Variety that she’s been working on a Disney-commissioned documentary about its Imagineering division, which creates its theme-park attractions. She said she’s been pleased at the level of access, noting, “They gave me the keys to the kingdom.”

The event also included 10 minutes of restored home movies shot at the castle during the 1920s showing a playful Hearst with notables such as Irving Thalberg, Louella Parsons and John Gilbert.

More Film

  • Joe Keery appears in Spree by

    'Spree': Film Review

    It didn’t seem like there was a large portion of the movie-going population who felt that Todd Phillips’ “Joker” was too subtle, in either its commentary on the modern era of those who are involuntarily celibate, or its homage-like appropriation of classic Martin Scorsese movies. But maybe writer-director-producer Eugene Kotlyarenko has other information, since that’s [...]

  • Dream Horse Review

    'Dream Horse': Film Review

    Louise Osmond’s 2015 Sundance audience winner “Dark Horse” was one of those documentaries that played like a crowdpleasing fiction, its real-life tale of underdog triumph had such a conventionally satisfying narrative arc. And indeed, the new “Dream Horse” proves that same material is indeed ready-made for dramatization. Euros Lyn’s feature springs few true surprises within [...]

  • Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein appear

    'The Nowhere Inn': Film Review

    Bill Benz’s high-concept rock mockumentary opens with a white limo speeding through the desert. The driver (Ezra Buzzington) has never heard of his passenger, the cult sensation Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent. “I’m not for everybody,” she shrugs. The driver is unsatisfied. “Don’t worry,” he glowers. “We’ll find out who [...]

  • THE_GLORIAS_DM_02-12-2019-00128.arw

    'The Glorias': Film Review

    In “The Glorias,” Julie Taymor’s pinpoint timely yet rousingly old-fashioned biopic about the life and times of Gloria Steinem, the legendary feminist leader is portrayed by four different actresses at four different stages of her life. Alicia Vikander plays her as a young woman wearing a sari as she travels through India, planting her flag [...]

  • Black Bear

    'Black Bear': Film Review

    Actor-writer Lawrence Michael Levine’s first two directorial features, “Gabi on the Roof in July” and “Wild Canaries,” were idiosyncratic indie hipster comedies of a familiar stripe. His third, “Black Bear,” is a much trickier proposition, a kind of narrative puzzle box in which one might be hard-pressed to find a solution, or even determine there [...]

  • Wendy

    'Wendy': Film Review

    Eight long years after “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin brings that same rust-bottomed sense of magical realism to the legend of Peter Pan, reframing J.M. Barrie’s Victorian classic through the eyes of the eldest Darling. “Wendy,” as the indie-minded not-quite-family-film is aptly titled, re-envisions its title character as a working-class kiddo raised at [...]

  • The 40-Year-Old Version

    'The 40-Year-Old Version': Film Review

    In Radha Blank’s semi-autobiographical comedy, the quadruple-threat plays “Rahda Blank,” a Harlem-based playwright who faces many of the same struggles and setbacks as her creator. It’s been more than a decade since Radha (as we’ll call the character) earned a promising “30 Under 30” award, and now, instead of getting her work produced, she’s teaching [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content