Born Olga Palinkaš in Zagreb to a Hungarian father and a Croatian mother, Kodar was the partner and lover of Orson Welles during the last twenty-four years of his life. They met in Zagreb in 1961, when Welles was in town filming The Trial. Forty-six-year-old Welles, at the time still married but estranged from his third wife Paola Mori, took a liking to the twenty-year-old "dark, beautiful and exotic-looking" Palinkaš. Soon after they began their relationship, Welles gave her a stage name Oja Kodar.
All throughout his time living with Kodar, Welles never divorced Mori nor did he marry Kodar. It took a whole year following his 1985 death for Kodar and Mori to agree on settling his will.
Kodar now manages Welles's estate.
Most of Kodar's career in movies revolved around Welles's projects, some of which were never completed.
In 1966, several years after they met, the couple went back to the Yugoslav coast where Welles began shooting The Deep based on Charles Williams' novel Dead Calm with Kodar playing one of the main roles. Welles envisioned the film as a commercial project, designed to do well at the box-office; however, the production ran into financial and technical difficulties and has not been completed.
In 1969, Welles started shooting The Other Side of the Wind, which he co-wrote with Kodar. With a plot revolving around an aging film director's 70th birthday party, the film was conceptualized as a cynical portrait of the 1970s Hollywood - parodying the end of the studio system, and the experimental new filmmakers of the New Hollywood, as well as mocking various European directors. The shooting, featuring Kodar in an explicit sex scene with Bob Random in a station wagon, dragged on for years and never got completed.
Kodar co-wrote and appeared as herself in Welles's free-form documentary, F for Fake (1974), which initially received negative reviews, but grew in stature in the years since due to its groundbreaking editing techniques.
In 1980, Kodar collaborated on a script for Welles's film The Dreamers based on Karen Blixen's stories. The production in which Kodar played the main role began, but ran into financial problems in 1982 and was never completed.
Four years after Welles's death, Kodar made her debut as a feature film director, with the release of Jaded. The film was produced by Kodar and Gary Graver (one of the cameramen on F for Fake), who doubled as the director of photography. The film starred Randall Brady, Elizabeth Brooks, Scott Kaske, Jillian Kesner, Kelli Maroney, and Oja Kodar. Portions of the film were shot in an artist's loft in downtown Los Angeles.
In 1993, Kodar directed her second feature film, war drama Vrijeme za... whose plot is placed during the 1991-1995 war in Croatia. The film was co-produced by the state-owned Croatian production house Jadran Film and the Italian state television channel Rai Tre, along with the Italian production house Ellepi Films.
She later co-directed and co-wrote the German-French documentary Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995). For this film, she supervised a compilation of unused footage shot by Welles over the final 20 years of his career. Kodar is interviewed in Los Angeles and in Orvilliers, France where they shared a house. This documentary is included on The Criterion Collection DVD release of F For Fake. The documentary goes into details about the three unfinished films Kodar and Welles worked together on. The Other Side of the Wind was largely completed and according to media reports in April 2007 speculated on a release in 2008. The other films were never completed for reasons explained in the documentary.
Kodar supervised the assemblage of a finished version of Welles's Don Quixote, released in 2008; critical and fan reactions have been mixed.
- Oja Kodar at the Internet Movie Database
- Orson Welles: The One-Man Band at the Internet Movie Database