Pas­sion Project

AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS, THE LEG­ENDARY FILM­MAKER’S SWAN SONG SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY

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“I started at the top and worked my way down.”

— Or­son

One day in 1970, Peter Bog­danovich got a call from Or­son Welles. “What are you do­ing on Thurs­day?” the leg­endary di­rec­tor asked. The neo­phyte ex­plained he was fly­ing to Texas to shoot what would be­come his break­through, The Last Pic­ture Show, but Or­son in­sisted he also act in a film called The Other Side of the Wind. “He said, ‘Your flight’s at three? Meet me at the air­port at noon,’” Peter tells Closer.

Seven years later, Or­son and Peter were still shoot­ing Wind. Dur­ing the film’s spo­radic pro­duc­tion, Peter switched roles, from a jour­nal­ist who in­ter­views an iconic di­rec­tor (John Hus­ton) to one of his pro­tégés — a part orig­i­nally played by im­pres­sion­ist Rich Lit­tle. “Or­son wasn’t happy with him,” Peter ex­plains. “He said, ‘Rich can’t act!’”

More than four decades after Or­son and Peter stopped shoot­ing Wind, it’s been fin­ished by pro­ducer Frank Mar­shall (Juras­sic World) and will be avail­able on Net­flix Nov. 2, along with They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, a doc­u­men­tary about its chaotic back­story. After win­ning raves on the film-fes­ti­val cir­cuit, the movie could earn Or­son an ex­tremely post­hu­mous Best Di­rec­tor nom­i­na­tion at next year’s Os­cars. His sole pre­vi­ous Academy Award nods came for writ­ing, di­rect­ing and star­ring in his 1941 de­but, Cit­i­zen Kane, con­sid­ered by many to be the great­est film ever made.

BET­TER LATE THAN NEVER

The Other Side of the Wind was only one of sev­eral projects Or­son started and never com­pleted be­fore his death in 1985, and it had deep per­sonal mean­ing to him. John’s char­ac­ter, a cin­e­matic trail­blazer fight­ing to stay rel­e­vant in the “New Hol­ly­wood” of the 1970s, bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to Or­son. “We were hav­ing lunch one day in the early ’70s, and he turned to me and said, ‘If any­thing ever hap­pens to me, I want you to fin­ish the pic­ture,’” Peter re­mem­bers. “I promised him I would.”

Now that this vow has been hon­ored, “I think Or­son would be very happy,” says Peter. And that’s what we’d call a true Hol­ly­wood end­ing. — Bruce Fretts

“They liked each other a lot,” Peter Bog­danovich (right) says ofOr­son and John Hus­ton (left).Or­son’s lead­ing lady, Oja Ko­dar, cowrote the film.

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