AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS, THE LEGENDARY FILMMAKER’S SWAN SONG SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY
“I started at the top and worked my way down.”
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.