The Other Side of the Wind


Because Welles had a large capacity for biting off more than he could chew, unfinished projects were regular occurrences. Of course, his film career began with two false starts before Citizen Kane, so he may have found unfinished projects to be a good-luck charm.

One that grew to gargantuan proportions was The Other Side of the Wind. Kane conceived of the film in 1963 as a tool to bring him back to prominence as a filmmaker. The audacious storyline centered around a film director named Jake Hannaford who’d been in Europe for years and returns to Hollywood to make a cynical film full of sex and violence. The film would contain a big party scene at a mansion, attended by members of the media.

Various stars who appeared in footage of the unreleased film were John Huston (playing Hannaford), Marlene Dietrich, Norman Foster, Edmond O’Brien and Dennis Hopper.

Author Joseph McBride gives a pithy and humorous summary of problems the sprawling project had. He was given a role in the movie, but during its production, as he related to Charles Higham, “he aged from twenty-two to twenty-eight during the shooting, gained twenty-five pounds, and lost a green trenchcoat that was needed for matching shots.”

Higham also says that at one point that after a marathon day stretched to 4 a.m., Welles tried to get the crew in by 2 the next day. With a mutiny on his hands, Welles exploded, “I can’t work in this atmosphere, with everybody against me.”

His chief ally in this ambitious project was Oja Kodar, a gorgeous model, sculptor, and aspiring actress from Croatia. While Welles was married when he met her, the two were perceived to be a couple. She came about the Wind project as an actress in it, but soon not only collaborated with Welles on an overhauled version of the script but also began helping with the financing.

One of the chief sources of funds for the film was a French-based Iranian cabal headed by Medhi Bouscheri, brother-in-law of the shah. The group was interested in collaborating with western movie directors as a way of modernizing their nation through arts and culture.

Welles and Kodar were shooting in Spain, and needed an emissary to go to Paris to physically get the money from the Iranians. But this emissary’s initial efforts were fruitless. Welles would later claim that he’d learned the trusted go-between was getting the money in cash and was pocketing it, claiming to have come up empty. The Iranians soldiered on, continuing to funnel money to Welles. But when their production company, l’astrophore, was given a new head, momentum began to slow. He was incensed at the slowness of the production, deeming it to be a damning example of l’astrophore’s overall inefficiency. Thus, he drew up a contract whereby Welles could finish the film with his own edits, but could screen it to only three friends. The official version of the film would then be subject to edits from the Iranians. Welles reacted to this odd proposal by trying to buy out l’astrophore’s share of the film, to no avail.

The project burned the tread on its tires for years while Welles worked on F Is For Fake and began starring in Masson wine ads.

At the end of the decade, the Shah was toppled and the film fell into the hands of the Ayatollah Khomeini. However, while courts ruled that the film now technically belonged to Welles, that didn’t void the financial interest of Bouscheri. He wanted Welles to live up to an earlier stipulation that he would edit the film in France, where the negatives currently resided. This was not financially viable for Welles, but a French arbiter ruled that the film would have to stay in France.

Welles died with the film both unreleased and unfinished. Director Peter Bogdanovich, Showtime, and other entities wrangled with Bouscheri to obtain the existing footage, do the necessary work, and release the movie.

It remains unreleased. Northwestern University journalism professor Peter Karp has written a book, due out in 2013, entitled An Adventure Shared By Many Men (That finally came to nothing) that chronicles the long, twisted affair.


Sources
Higham, Charles. Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of An American Genius. New York: St. Martin’s. 1985.
Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles. New York: Viking. 1983.
Kelly, Ray. “Something Cloudy, Something Clear: a book on Orson Welles’ ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ due out in 2013”

Comments

  1. Peter Bogdanovich did eventually get control of the film and was able to finish the project. It had limited releases before being available for viewing on Netflix in 2020.

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