The Other Side of the Wind
|The Other Side of the Wind|
|Directed by||Orson Welles|
|Country||United States / Iran|
|Budget||c. $2 million|
The Other Side of the Wind is an unfinished film directed by Orson Welles, shot between 1970 and 1976.
Starring John Huston, Bob Random, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and Oja Kodar, it is a satire of both the passing of Classic Hollywood and the avant-garde filmmakers of the New Hollywood of the 1970s. The film was shot in an unconventional mockumentary style in both color and black-and-white, and it incorporated a film-within-a-film that spoofed the work of Michelangelo Antonioni.
The film is particularly known for its troubled production schedule. The six-year shoot was plagued by difficulties with production, finance and casting, as well as complex legal problems that led to the negative being impounded and the film left unfinished for over 40 years. Welles had intended the film to serve as his comeback picture, heralding his return to the United States after a quarter of a century of working mainly in Europe, but the film's legal problems meant that it remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1985.
In October 2014, it was announced that the film would be completed and screened to coincide with the centenary of Welles's birth in 2015. Post-production was delayed when some potential distributors asked to see edited footage from the original negative before committing funds to finish the film. On May 7, 2015, producers launched a two-month crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $400,000 to help complete the film.
The film covers the 70th birthday party of movie director Jake Hannaford, who is struggling to make a commercial comeback. It opens with Hannaford's death just after the party, and mostly focuses on the night before his death. We also see extracts of Hannaford's daring new film-within-a-film, The Other Side of the Wind. As we learn more about Hannaford at his party, the audience realises that he is a far more complex character than he seems, and harbors several big secrets.
The film presents a cynical portrait of Hollywood in the 1970s, parodying the passing of the studio system, and the experimental new film-makers of the new Hollywood, as well as mocking successful European directors such as Antonioni. It was shot in a variety of different styles—color, black-and-white, still photography, 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film, all rapidly intercut together, and was planned as a collage of these different styles.
The film features John Huston as Jake Hannaford, an aging Hollywood director modeled on Ernest Hemingway. The film opens with narration over the wreckage of Hannaford's crashed car, casting doubt as to whether the crash which killed him on his 70th birthday was really an accident. The narrator sets the tone for the film by telling us "This [film] was put together from many sources—from all that footage shot by the TV and documentary film-makers—and also the students, critics and young directors who happened to bring sixteen and eight millimeter cameras to his birthday party …" Just before his death, Hannaford was trying to revive his flagging career by making a "hip, with-it" film in the style of Antonioni, laden with gratuitous sex scenes and violence, with mixed results. At the time of Hannaford's party, this film (The Other Side of the Wind) has been left unfinished after its star stormed off the set, for reasons not immediately apparent to the audience. The film includes extensive excerpts of this film-within-a-film, as well as excerpts of a documentary on Hannaford's life.
After the titles, we see a screening of some incomprehensible parts of Hannaford's unfinished experimental film. The screening is being held to attract "end money" from clearly unimpressed studio boss Max David (Geoffrey Land). Hannaford himself is absent, and a loyal member of his entourage, the aging former child star Billy Boyle (Norman Foster) makes an inept attempt to describe what the film is about. David asks, "Jake is just making this up as he goes along, isn't he?" After an awkward pause, Boyle can only reply, "He's done it before." Intercut with this scene, we see various groups setting out for Hannaford's 70th birthday party at his Arizona ranch, including Hannaford and his young protégé Brooks Otterlake (played by Peter Bogdanovich), a young, commercially successful director with a talent for mimicking celebrities. (Bogdanovich, then a successful young director, also has a talent for mimicry.) One of the people they share their car with is the obnoxious cineaste reporter Mr. Pister (Joseph McBride), whose flurry of intrusive questions culminates in, "Mr. Hannaford, in the body of your film work, how significantly would you relate the trauma of your father's suicide?" and he is thrown out of Hannaford's car.
Stranded in the desert, Pister hitches a lift on a bus that is taking crew and reporters to Hannaford's birthday party. Although there are many journalists in the bus, they are also carrying several dozen life-size clay dolls of Hannaford's leading man, taken from the set of the unfinished film. The scene is indicative of the experimental nature of the picture, and includes much overlapping dialogue: a tape recorder belonging to reporter Juliette Riche (Susan Strasberg) playing back Hannaford's voice, while a member of Hannaford's entourage Pat (Edmond O'Brien) reads out an authoritarian anti-hippy diatribe of Hannaford's, fellow reporter Pister struggles to thread the tape back onto his reel-to-reel tape recorder, and at the same time, film footage of the scene is rapidly intercut with footage from Hannaford's film. Further scenes depict the festivities at Hannaford's party, including fireworks, assorted midgets, and a musical number with John Carroll leading a rendition of "The Glow-Worm".
Many of the journalists attending are all brandishing cameras, and the film follows the perspectives of individual journalists as they follow Hannaford everywhere, even to the toilet, asking personal questions. In the second half of the film they begin querying Hannaford's sexuality and whether he has long been a closet homosexual, in spite of his macho public persona. Each camera's footage is displayed in a distinctive style, representing the perspectives of different directors and cameramen. Throughout the film, there is rapid inter-cutting between simultaneous conversations at Hannaford's party, so that the viewer hears a few lines of dialogue from one conversation, switches to another conversation, then another, before returning to more of the original conversation. (A similar technique was used in the 1998 restoration of Welles' Touch of Evil.) Several party guests comment on the conspicuous absence of John Dale (played by Bob Random), Hannaford's androgynous-looking, leather-clad leading man in his last film, whom Hannaford first discovered when Dale was attempting suicide by jumping into the Pacific Ocean off the Mexican coast. Meanwhile, guests are shown more scenes from the film in the private cinema Hannaford has at the ranch.
The scenes of the film-within-the-film intercut throughout the film include the following:
- A scene set in a Turkish bath, which plays over the opening titles.
- John Dale's onscreen character pursuing "The red, red Indian" (Oja Kodar) on his motorcycle, with increasing ambiguity as to which of them is pursuing the other. These scenes involve extensive use of flat landscapes and plains; and tall, high-rise glass skyscrapers, the mirrors and windows of which form various optical illusions reminiscent of the 'hall of mirrors' scene in Welles' earlier The Lady from Shanghai. (This is mixed in with the sound of the audience responding unenthusiastically.)
- A graphic sex scene between Random and Kodar in a station wagon being driven through heavy rain, culminating in the driver of the car (Robert Aiken) throwing Kodar out.
- A sexual dream sequence involving Kodar walking at least partially nude in front of a giant black phallus. (Commentary from Huston can be heard through this.) This short scene was directed by Kodar.
- The violent death of John Dale's character in the film-within-the-film.
- A graphic sex scene between Random and Kodar, filmed from below, looking through the bedsprings in the style of Russ Meyer. The scene takes place on a rusting bed in a deserted movie lot. Throughout this scene, Hannaford provides increasingly voyeuristic and intrusive/abusive off-screen direction, prompting an enraged and humiliated John Dale to storm off the set.
As the party continues, Hannaford gets progressively drunker. He is washing his face in the bathroom when he tearfully breaks down in front of Otterlake, asking for the young director's help to revive his flagging career, and desperately trying to sober up before returning to the screening of his still-unfinished film. A power outage in the middle of Hannaford's party interrupts the screening mid-way. The party continues by lantern-light, and eventually reconvenes to an empty drive-in cinema, where the last portion of Hannaford's film is screened. Later in the film, Dale arrives at the party. At one point, a drunken Hannaford makes a pass at Dale, and is rebuffed. Hannaford has a history of seducing the wife or girlfriend of each of his leading men, but maintains a strong attraction to the leading men themselves. Hannaford then uses a rifle from his Indian trophy room to shoot several life-sized clay dolls of Dale. This is paralleled by a subplot about the unnamed actress playing "The red red Indian" seducing Dale at Hannaford's party and being rebuffed, leading to her shooting at him towards the end of the film. Dale is no longer alive by the end of the film.
Having relocated to the drive-in cinema, intrusive journalist Juliette Riche asked Hannaford the most explicit questions of all about his sexuality. At this moment, Billy Boyle stops the film cameras, although with the soundtrack still running, and through a montage of still photos, we gather that Hannaford violently assaults Riche. The film's final scene features Hannaford's sports car—which he had originally bought as a present for Dale—crashing into the screen of the drive-in cinema, killing him. At the time, the screen had been projecting the end of Hannaford's new film, and the sun sets behind it. It is left ambiguous whether his death was the result of drunk driving or suicide.
A monologue from Hannaford is heard in voice-over during the final scene:
Remember those Berbers—up in the Atlas? They wouldn't let us point a camera at 'em. They're certain that it … dries up something. The old eye, y'know, behind the magic box. Could be it's an evil eye at that … Medusa's … Who knows, maybe you can stare too hard at something. Huh? Drain out the virtue; suck out the living juice … You shoot the great places and the pretty people—all those girls and boys … shoot 'em dead …
The film concludes as Hannaford's voice says, "Cut!"
- John Huston as Jake Hannaford, modeled on Ernest Hemingway. Welles denied speculation that the character was also based on himself or Huston, although he noted that there were elements of early Hollywood directors with macho reputations, such as John Ford, Raoul Walsh and William A. Wellman.
- Bob Random as Oscar "John" Dale, the pretty, androgynous leading man of Hannaford's new film, who walked out mid-filming, leaving the picture unfinished.
- Peter Bogdanovich as Brooks Otterlake, a protégé of Hannaford's who is now a commercially successful director in his own right, and who has a talent for mimicking celebrities. The character has many parallels with Bogdanovich himself, who took over the role after the departure of comedian Rich Little.
- Susan Strasberg as Juliette Riche, a savage film critic. The character was a thinly veiled spoof of Pauline Kael, with whom Welles was in a public feud over her allegation (later discredited) that he did not write Citizen Kane. The role had originally been written with Jeanne Moreau in mind, and was initially played by Bogdanovich's then-wife Polly Platt, who also served as the film's production designer, before eventually being taken over by Strasberg, who reshot the scenes previously filmed with Platt.:165
- Oja Kodar as The Actress aka The Red, Red Indian. The unnamed, enigmatic actress features prominently in the film-within-a-film, and is also at Hannaford's party. Much of her role is silent.
- Joseph McBride as Charles Pister, an amalgamation of various cinephiles and socially awkward film critics whom Welles had met over the years. The role was originally played by Bogdanovich, but then re-shot with McBride when Bogdanovich switched to playing Otterlake.:164, 177, 200
- Lilli Palmer as Zarah Valeska, who owns the ranch which hosts Hannaford's party, was based on Welles's old friend Marlene Dietrich, whom he very much wanted to play the role, but Dietrich was unavailable for filming.:165:195
- Edmond O'Brien as Pat, an aging reactionary actor, and one of Hannaford's cronies.
- Mercedes McCambridge as Maggie Fassbender, a cineaste married to Marvin P. Fassbender, working as Hannaford's Secretary.
- Cameron Mitchell as Zimmer.
- Paul Stewart as Matt Costello, a leading member of "the Hannaford Mafia" of the director's old Hollywood cronies. He is reputed to have a long-standing association with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- Peter Jason as Marvin P. Fassbender, a bumptious film journalist.
- Tonio Selwart as The Baron, a parody of Welles' former business partner John Houseman, whom he had acrimoniously separated from in the 1940s, and who published several memoirs throughout the 1970s which were scathing of Welles.:165
- Howard Grossman as Charles Higgam, Hannaford's biographer, a parody of Charles Higham, who had written an influential and unflattering 1970 biography of Welles which had wounded him with its Freudian accusation that he had a "fear of completion" on films. A 1970 Higham article publicising the biography had directly led to one major investor pulling out from The Other Side of the Wind, who was put off by the "fear of completion" charge.:165
- Geoffrey Land as Max David, a young studio boss and former child actor, spoofing Robert Evans.:165
- Norman Foster as Billy Boyle, an aging former child actor from Hannaford's early films, and a member of his entourage, portrayed as a stooge. He is a recovering alcoholic, and a compulsive eater of candy.
- Dennis Hopper as Lucas Renard, a young avant-garde director with parallels to Hopper.
- Gregory Sierra as Jack Simon.
- Benny Rubin as Abe Vogel, based on veteran Hollywood agent Abe Lastfogel.:165
- Cathy Lucas as Mavis Henscher, a spoof of Bogdanovich's then-girlfriend, actress Cybill Shepherd (who was present for at least some of the filming, and whose brother, Bill Shepherd, was part of the production crew filming in Arizona). A young actress, Henscher has difficulty balancing her acting career with the correspondence course her home state makes her take while working.:165
- Dan Tobin as Dr. Bradley Pease Burroughs, Professor of English Literature at Clivedale Academy, a boys' boarding school in Franahan which had been implicated in a pederasty scandal involving another teacher. His former star pupil is John Dale. When Pease Burroughs is brought out to Hannaford's party to discuss Dale he is noticeably ill-at-ease in the unfamiliar atmosphere of Hollywood.
- George Jessel as himself
- Richard Wilson as himself
- Claude Chabrol as himself
- Curtis Harrington as himself
- Henry Jaglom as himself
- Paul Mazursky as himself
The film features an exceptionally large number of film directors in acting roles in the film, including Claude Chabrol, Norman Foster, Gary Graver, Curtis Harrington, Dennis Hopper, Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky, mostly playing Hannaford's entourage of journalists and young film-makers. Other Hollywood celebrities who were friends of Welles were asked to participate, including Jack Nicholson, but were either unavailable or declined.
Impressionist Rich Little was originally cast as Brooks Otterlake, but his role was recast part of the way through. There are differing accounts as to the reason for his departure. Welles expressed dissatisfaction with the impressionist's acting ability, and stated that he fired him. Little says that he doesn't know why he lost contact with Welles part of the way through filming. Cinematographer Gary Graver tells a different story: "We shot many, many scenes with him, and he was quite good in each of them....One day, completely out of the blue, Rich showed up with his suitcase in his hand. "Orson," he said, "I haven't seen my wife in a long time. I have to go home." And like that, he was gone!...Orson didn't get angry. He just sat there looking incredulous. He couldn't believe what was happening. The rapport between Orson and Rich had been a good one, so no one had expected Rich's sudden departure." Filming was completed with Bogdanovich playing Otterlake. This necessitated reshooting all of Little's scenes. Little's interpretation of the Otterlake character would have had him using a different accent or impression for every single scene – a device which Joseph McBride thought "uncomfortably labored". By contrast, although Bogdanovich did several impressions in character as Otterlake, he played most of his scenes with his own voice.:165
Bogdanovich taking over the role of Otterlake meant refilming the scenes featuring Pister, since Bogdanovich had originally played that (much smaller) role.:169 Bogdanovich played Pister by doing an impression of Jerry Lewis (at Welles' request), although there is no evidence that Joseph McBride played the role that way when he took over.
The characters played by Foster, Jessel, McCambridge, O'Brien, Stewart and Wilson form Hannaford's entourage, representing the "Old Hollywood"; while Chabrol, Harrington, Hopper, Jaglom and Mazurski play thinly veiled versions of themselves, representing the "New Hollywood." The "Old Hollywood" characters serve as something of a chorus for Hannaford, providing various commentaries on his life.:177–178 According to the shooting script, Welles intended to provide the film's short opening narration, intending to dub it in post-production. However, he never recorded it. Many of the cast and crew worked either for free, or for low wages and/or in exchange for favours from Welles. Huston, a close friend of Welles, worked for the nominal fee of $75,000 — some of which is still owed to his estate, after one of the film's producers embezzled part of the budget. Welles said he could not afford to pay his cinematographer Gary Graver, so instead gave him his 1941 Academy Award statuette for the script of Citizen Kane by way of thanks. McBride's salary comprised two boxes of cigars. Mazursky recalled that he was never paid for his one night of acting.
Shot over many years in many locations, the film had many crew members, some of whom may be difficult to ascertain. The following crew list also contains the locations where they worked and any authenticating references. The crew members often were performing multiple tasks, so that defining the various roles is difficult to reconstruct.
- Orson Welles, Director, Camera Operator
- Gary Graver, Director of Photography, Camera Operator
- Bill Weaver, Camera Operator (Arizona), He was the co-inventor (with Robert Steadman) of the Weaver-Steadman balanced fluid head, 2 and 3 axis camera supports widely used in Hollywood productions.
- Peter Jason, Production Assistant, Camera Assistant (Arizona), Primarily an actor in the film, but he also slated scenes for the camera department. He has over 200 acting credits on IMDb.
- Neil Canton, Production Assistant (Arizona). He went on to produce Back To The Future Parts I, II, & III, The Witches of Eastwick, Caddyshack II, Trespass, Get Carter, Geronimo: An American Legend and others.
- Rick Waltzer, Production Assistant, Camera Assistant (Arizona)
- Larry Jackson, Grip (Arizona), He also acted in the film as the director of the documentary film crew following Jake Hannaford. He went on to become vice president of international acquisitions for the Samuel Goldwyn Company.
- Bill Shepherd, Grip (Arizona)
- Ruth Hasty, Post Production Supervisor (Hollywood), joining the production in 2014, she has Post Production Supervisor and other credits on The Talented Mr. Ripley, Mission Impossible, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Jurassic Park and many others.
Although the film is unfinished, several scenes have been available to a wider public over the years.
The most commonly seen of these are two edited scenes (in workprint form), which can be seen in the documentary film Orson Welles: One Man Band, which is available as a bonus feature on both The Criterion Collection R1 and Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite R4 DVD release of F for Fake. The scenes included in the documentary are as follows:
- 1. A scene from the start of the film featuring John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich and Susan Strasberg at Hannaford's 70th birthday party. (2 minutes, 14 seconds, color)
- 2. A scene from Hannaford's sensationalist film-within-a-film featuring Oja Kodar and Bob Random having sex in a station wagon driven by actor Robert Aiken. (2 minutes, 41 seconds, color — the full sex scene runs to around seven minutes, and follows the clearly uncomfortable driver becoming increasingly incensed, and ends in Kodar's character being ejected from the car mid-climax, but the released version only shows the first part of this.)
The scenes were originally cut by Welles to show during his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony in 1975.
However, Welles did not screen the sex scene for the AFI in the end. (He may have been influenced by it being a prime-time broadcast). Instead, he screened the above scene from Hannaford's birthday, combined with one further scene:
- 3. This involved the screening of a rough cut of Hannaford's film to a clearly unimpressed studio executive, while Norman Foster plays a Hannaford aide ineptly trying to describe what the film is about (3 minutes, 56 seconds, color and black-and-white).
This scene has been less widely seen because it was not originally included in the One Man Band documentary; but the entire AFI ceremony was broadcast in the 1970s as the TV special AFI Salutes Orson Welles, and was subsequently released on VHS. The tape of the ceremony includes the above scenes number (1) and (3).
Nonetheless, when the One Man Band documentary was screened by Turner Classic Movies, it was re-edited by Peter Bogdanovich, with additional material, and so the TCM edit of One Man Band includes all three of these scenes.
A fourth scene is included in Gary Graver's 1993 direct-to-video documentary Working with Orson Welles, and uses footage in Graver's possession:
- 4. It involves an extensive dream-like sequence from the film-within-the-film, portraying Bob Random's character chasing Oja Kodar. Much use is made of optical illusions with mirrors and reflections in glass skyscrapers and phone booths. (color)
A fifth scene has been circulated on internet video websites since 2008, in two different edits of the same scene. Both versions are filmed in black and white and consist of Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky arguing together on the nature of film, then asking increasingly personal (and sometimes pretentious) questions to Hannaford.
- 5a. The shorter version is more tightly edited and runs to five and a half minutes, featuring only Jaglom and Mazursky. (5 minutes, 34 seconds, b/w)
- 5b. The longer version runs to six and a half minutes, contains the same footage as above, but also has Dennis Hopper joining in, as well as contributions from John Huston's character. At the time this scene was filmed, in 1971, Huston had not yet been cast, so his own lines are unread, and were evidently meant to be dubbed in later. In this version, Welles can occasionally be heard providing off-screen direction between lines of dialogue. Hopper's comments appear to refer to his own film The Last Movie, which he had just completed at the time of filming. (An extra 57 seconds of b/w footage, bringing the scene to 6 minutes, 28 seconds)
Regarding scene (5), Gary Graver wrote that this was all filmed in one night:
- "Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky hated each other. They'd had some sort of rivalry going on for some time. Orson knew this, so he pitted them against each other in the movie. It was quite humorous. Orson let them both get stoned! They were drinking and smoking grass, and this became quite a heated exchange. And both of these men were known to talk a lot as it was, and under these circumstances it was even more so. That exchange could be a ninety-minute movie in itself!"
During attempts to attract funding to finish The Other Side of the Wind in the late 1990s, Joseph McBride outlined such plans in a memo. Nine reels (90 minutes) of this black-and-white footage exists, and it may be edited down to as little as one minute of the final film, but McBride suggested that the 90 minutes of rushes would make a fascinating feature in their own right, either as a separate documentary, or as a DVD extra.
In November 2012, Henry Jaglom uploaded 22 minutes of footage of The Other Side of the Wind to his YouTube channel. This included the long version of scene 5, with Dennis Hopper, and the following additional scenes:
- 6. A brief shot of Paul Stewart wandering through the party, dismissively describing the elaborate festivities to an unidentified man. (17 seconds, color)
- 7. A confrontation scene between Huston and Bogdanovich, in which Huston's character admits that he's broke, and is asked by Bogdanovich why the disappearance of his leading man is so upsetting to him. (1 minute, 4 seconds, b/w)
- 8. An exchange between Dan Tobin's schoolteacher (who is disorientated by the presence of so many cameras) and Norman Foster; numerous arguments between several members of Hannaford's entourage and Foster, who discuss abortive efforts at film funding and the alcoholism of Foster's character; Huston meeting Cathy Lucas' character for the first time; and Huston rebuking Foster for blowing several earlier money pitches. (7 minutes, 22 seconds, b/w)
- 9. After a brief exchange with Lucas, Huston is introduced to Tobin, and gives him an extensive grilling on the topic of homosexuality, while his entourage looks on and makes comments. (7 minutes, 8 seconds, b/w)
The film has a troubled production history. Like many of Welles's personally funded films, the project was filmed and edited on-and-off for several years.
The project evolved from an idea Welles had in 1961 after the suicide of Ernest Hemingway. Welles had known Hemingway since 1937, and was inspired to write a screenplay about an ageing macho bullfight enthusiast who is fond of a young bullfighter. Nothing came of the project for a while, but work on the script resumed in Spain 1966, just after Welles had completed Chimes at Midnight. Early drafts were entitled Sacred Beasts and turned the older bullfight enthusiast into a film director. At a 1966 banquet to raise funds for the project, Welles told a group of prospective financiers:
Our story is about a pseudo-Hemingway, a movie director. So the central figure … you can barely see through the hair on his chest; who was frightened by Hemingway at birth. He's a tough movie director who has killed three or four extras on every picture … [but is] full of charm. Everybody thinks he's great. In our story he's riding around following a bullfighter, and living through him … but he's become obsessed by this young man who has become … his own dream of himself. He's been rejected by all his old friends. He's finally been shown up to be a kind of voyeur … a fellow who lives off other people's danger and death.
When Welles moved back to the United States in the late 1960s, the script's setting changed to Hollywood, and second-unit photography started in 1969. Principal photography in 1970–71 focused on Hannaford's film-within-a-film. Welles was initially unsure who to cast as the film director and whether to play the role himself, finally settling in 1973 on his friend the actor-director John Huston. The few party scenes shot before 1973 were shot without Huston, and often contained just one side of a conversation, with Huston's side of the conversation filmed several years later and intended to be edited into the earlier footage.
Filming ground to a halt late in 1971 when the US government decided that Welles's European company was a holding company, not a production company, and retrospectively presented him with a large tax bill. Welles had to work on numerous other projects to pay off this debt, and filming could not resume until early 1973.:197
In 1972, Welles said that filming was "96% complete," (which seems to have been an exaggeration, since many of the film's key scenes were not shot until 1973–75—although it was literally true that The Other Side of the Wind, the film-within-the-film, was complete by that stage) and in January 1976 the last scene of principal photography was completed.
Welles described the film's unconventional style to Peter Bogdanovich during an interview on the set:
I'm going to use several voices to tell the story. You hear conversations taped as interviews, and you see quite different scenes going on at the same time. People are writing a book about him—different books. Documentaries … still pictures, films, tapes. All these witnesses … The movie's going to be made up of all this raw material. You can imagine how daring the cutting can be, and how much fun.
[PB: Have you written a screenplay?]Four of them. But most of it's got to be ad-libbed. I've worked on it for so long—years. … If I were a nineteenth-century novelist, I'd have written a three-volume novel. I know everything that happened to that man. And his family—where he comes from—everything; more than I could ever try to put in a movie. His family—how they were competing with the Kennedys and the Kellys to get out of the lace-curtain Irish department. I love this man and I hate him.
John Huston confirmed that the film was photographed in a highly unconventional style: "It's through these various cameras that the story is told. The changes from one to another — color, black and white, still, and moving — made for a dazzling variety of effects." He added that principal photography was highly improvised, with the script only loosely being adhered to. At one point, Welles told him, "John, just read the lines or forget them and say what you please. The idea is all that matters."
In addition to the tightly edited montage of different styles for the main film, Hannaford's film-within-the-film was photographed in an entirely different style, at a much slower pace, as a pastiche of Antonioni. Welles said at the time: "There's a film with the film, which I made [in 1970-1] with my own money. It's the old man's attempt to do a kind of counterculture film, in a surrealist, dreamlike style. We see some of it in the director's projection room, some of it at a drive-in when that breaks down. It's about 50 of the whole movie. Not the kind of film I'd want to make; I've invented a style for him.":196
Much of the party scene was filmed on Stage 1 at Southwestern Studios in Carefree, Arizona. Welles used the living room set and furniture designed for The New Dick Van Dyke Show that remained standing when the show left Southwestern Studios to return to CBS in Hollywood. Southwestern Studio was demolished in 1999. Other party scenes were shot in a private mansion in the boulders of Carefree that was rented by Welles and used as his and other members of the company's residence during the shoot. A house on the same street was used in Michelangelo Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point. An Arizona ranch house also is reported to have been used for filming scenes.
Part of the film was shot in Bogdanovich's own Beverly Hills house, which Welles stayed in for nearly two years, and which doubles for other parts of Hannaford's house. Other scenes were shot in Reseda (where the drive-in cinema scenes were filmed in the same location as the climax of Bogdanovich's Targets), Culver City, Connecticut, France, the Netherlands, England, Spain, Belgium, and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer backlot. (The latter was filmed without MGM's permission, with Welles smuggled onto the backlot in a darkened van, while the rest of the cast and crew pretended to be a group of film students visiting the studio. The backlot, which was seriously dilapidated, was demolished shortly afterwards, and only one more film – That's Entertainment! (1976) – was shot there before its demolition.)
Principal photography was undermined by serious financial problems, including embezzlement by one of the investors, who fled with much of the film's budget. Barbara Leaming described the situation in her biography of Welles, based on extensive interviews with Welles:
The first of the backers Orson managed to find in Paris was a Spanish acquaintance of his from the international film community who enthusiastically agreed to kick in $350,000, a little less than half of what Orson and Oja had already invested. Shortly thereafter an equivalent sum was pledged by a French-based Iranian group headed by Mehdi Bushehri, the brother-in-law of the Shah … Dominique Antoine, a Frenchwoman, made the deal with Orson on behalf of the Iranians … Orson left France with the understanding that the Spanish partner would act as intermediary with the Iranians in Paris …
But no sooner were Orson and Oja in Spain than trouble started. "We were perfectly all right as long as I was using Oja's money and mine," says Orson, "but the moment we got associates!" The Iranians appeared not to be living up to their end of the deal. Orson heard from the Spaniard who had flown in from Paris, that the Iranians had not given him the money they had promised. There were heavy rains and flooding in Spain, so Orson and Oja were basically cooped up in their hotel, where they worked on a new script together. The Spaniard returned to Paris to try again. "In a minute they're going to have it," he told Orson later. "It looks all right." In lieu of the Iranian funds, he gave them very small sums of money, which he said were part of the investment he had agreed to make. Not until afterward did Orson discover that the Iranians had indeed been giving the Spaniard the promised money, which had come from Iran in cash, and that, instead of bringing it to Spain, the sly fellow was pocketing it. Says Orson: "We just sat, month after month, while he went to Paris, received the money, and came back and told us that they wouldn't give him any money. He was very convincing to us, and very convincing with them in Paris. He kept flying back and forth extracting money from them. We didn't know them, you see. We knew him." The small sums of money he had been giving Orson as if from his own pocket actually came out of the Iranian funds. His constant reassurance to Orson that the Iranians were about to come through was calculated to keep Orson in Spain out of contact with them. On his part, Orson did not want to interfere in what he presumed were his emissary's delicate negotiations with them. It simply never occurred to him that the fellow was lying—and had never any money of his own to invest in the first place...Meanwhile, on account of the foul weather, Orson had decided to abandon Spain for Arizona, where John Huston and a host of other faithfuls joined him. … The swindler continued his game of collecting cash from the Iranians who, having heard only from him, still did not know that anything was wrong. When they received a telex purportedly from John Huston's agent to ask for a $60,000 advance, Dominique Antoine did ask for further verification. But this did not deter the swindler, who sent her a Screen Actor's Guild form with a bogus Social Security number and signature from the States. The Iranians dispatched the $60,000, which was pocketed by the Spaniard rather than Huston, who, out of friendship for Orson, was actually working for much less. After having sent the money, Dominique Antoine had second thoughts about it. Until now she had deliberately left Orson alone because she sensed he preferred it that way. But now something told her there was a problem. "I think I have to go there," she told Bushehri, "even if Orson isn't pleased." Since Orson had yet to receive a penny from the Iranians, their French representative was the last person he expected to see in the Arizona desert. He could not have been happy to see her. When almost instantly he asked her where the money was, she nervously told him that she had been making regular payments to the intermediary, who obviously hadn't passed them on to him, he broke down.:476–479
The film's producer Dominique Antoine subsequently endorsed the above account from Barbara Leaming as being "entirely accurate." A July 1986 article in American Cinematographer also corroborates this story, describing Antoine's arrival in Arizona on the set at Southwestern Studios late at night. This story is further corroborated by Peter Bogdanovich, who wrote in November 1997 of the production, "another producer ran back to Europe with $250,000 of Orson's money and never was heard from again (although I recently saw the person on TV accepting an Oscar for coproducing the Best Foreign Film of the year.)" In 2008, film scholars Jean-Pierre Berthomé and François Thomas identified Spanish producer Andrés Vicente Gómez (who collected a Best Foreign Picture Oscar in 1994) as the alleged embezzler, and they date his withdrawal from the project to 1974. Gómez first met Welles in Spain in 1972, during the making of Treasure Island, in which they were both involved. Gómez then negotiated Welles's deal with the Iranian-owned, Paris-based "Les Films de l'Astrophore", the first product of which was the 1973 film F for Fake, followed by The Other Side of the Wind. As well as the accusation of embezzlement, Welles also had this to say of Gómez: "My Spanish producer never paid my hotel bill for the three months that he kept me waiting in Madrid for the money for The Other Side of the Wind. So I'm scared to death to be in Madrid. I know they're going to come after me with that bill."
Gómez has since responded to these accusations in a self-published memoir on his company website:
Regarding the end of my relationship with Orson Welles some lies were told, although he assured me they did not come from him. [A point contradicted by the extensively-quoted Leaming account above, which showed the accusations came from an interview with Welles himself; as well as the quote about the hotel bill, which comes from a recently-emerged (in 2013) audio tape of Welles.] Accordingly, I don't want to go into that matter. I don't deem it relevant to mention the details of our split considering that our relationship was always polite and amicable and we had wonderful moments and experiences together. However, I must make it clear that if I abandoned the project, I didn't do so for financial reasons. My agreement with Welles, written and signed by him, envisaged my work as a producer, not an investor. … Certain people who were close to Welles and part of his inner circle - the same ones who are spoiling his works and making a living from them—tried to justify his difficulties by linking them to the fact that I pulled out. They have even gone so far as to say that I had pocketed some of the Iranian money which in fact never existed, beyond the funds that were spent appropriately.
In February 1975, Welles was awarded an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, and used the star-studded ceremony as an opportunity to pitch for funding to complete the film. (With a touch of irony, one of the scenes he showed his audience featured Hannaford screening a rough cut of his latest film to a studio boss, in a bid for "end money" to complete his picture.) Sure enough, one producer made what Welles later called a "wonderful offer", but Antoine turned it down on the assumption that an even better offer would arrive. No such offer came, and Welles later bitterly regretted the refusal, commenting before his death that if he'd accepted it "the picture would have been finished now and released.":480–484
Welles estimated that the editing of the film in a distinctive and experimental style would take approximately one year of full-time work (which was how long he had spent on the experimental, rapidly cut editing of his previous completed film, F for Fake – like F for Fake, the film would have averaged approximately one edit per second, and would have lasted around half an hour longer). On F for Fake, Welles had used three separate moviolas, arranged side-by-side, to simultaneously edit the film. He would perform the cuts to the negative himself, then leave an editing assistant at each moviola to complete the edit while he moved to the next moviola to begin the next edit. The Other Side of the Wind necessitated even more complicated editing, and Welles lined up five moviolas in a semi-circle around a table, with a staff of assistants to help him.
A change of management at the Iranian production company in 1975 resulted in tensions between Welles and the backers. The new management saw Welles as a liability, and refused to pay him to edit the film. The company made several attempts to reduce Welles' share of the film profits from 50% to 20%, and crucially, attempted to remove his artistic control over the film's final cut. Welles made numerous attempts to seek further financial backing to pay him to complete the editing full-time, including attempting to interest a Canadian backer, but no such funding materialised, and so Welles only edited the film piecemeal in his spare time over the next decade, between other acting assignments which the heavily indebted actor-director needed to support himself.:484–487
The following dates are provided by Jonathan Rosenbaum's chronology of Welles' career:
- August 17, 1970: Tests begin shooting, Los Angeles.
- August 30, 1970: Principal photography begins, Los Angeles. (Film-within-a-film scenes.)
- September-late December 1970: Shooting & editing continues in Los Angeles, including on the MGM backlot, Century City. (Film-within-a-film scenes, and car scenes.)
- 1971: Four months of filming in Carefree, Arizona, then later in Beverly Hills. (Party scenes)
- Late 1971/1972: Break in filming due to Welles's recurring tax problems after a fresh IRS audit. Welles turns to raise money by working on other projects, including F for Fake, which is made for Iranian-French production house "Les Films de l'Astrophore", with Iranian money provided by Mehdi Bushehri and the participation of French producer Dominique Antoine. For the completion of The Other Side of the Wind, Welles secures funding through a three-way deal, with a third of funds raised by himself, a third from Bushehri through "Les Films de l'Astrophore", and a third from Spanish producer Andrés Vicente Gómez.
- Early 1973: Welles and Kodar are stranded by flooding in Madrid for three months, while negotiating with Gómez for TOSOTW funding. They eventually relocate to Paris.
- June-mid-September 1973: Filming in Orvilliers and Paris. (Party scenes.)
- January–April 1974: John Huston is cast in the leading role, which has been vacant up until now. Filming in Carefree, Arizona. (Party scenes.)
- Sometime in 1974, circa March: Producer Andrés Vicente Gómez leaves the project after allegedly embezzling $250,000 of its budget, and having failed to contribute his promised third of the budget. Eventually, most of the outstanding budget is put forward by Mehdi Bushehri through Les Films de l'Astrophore, leading to legal disputes over whether they owned 33%, 50%, 67% or 80% of the final film. Welles also pours more of his own money into the film, including money borrowed from friends; Peter Bogdanovich puts $500,000 in the film.
- August 1974: Filming in Orvilliers. (Car scene.)
- November–December 1974: Editing in Paris and Rome.
- February–June 1975: Filming at Peter Bogdanovich's house in Beverly Hills. (Party scenes.)
- September 1975-January 1976: Editing in Beverly Hills.
- January 1976: Principal photography completed.
Ten hours of raw footage exist, including multiple takes of the same scenes, but the film is missing the following elements:
- Welles never recorded the opening narration. Bogdanovich has speculated that he could do the narration instead, in character as Otterlake.
- There is one scene missing - Hannaford's car exploding as it crashes behind the cinema screen, with the explosion being unseen, but a plume of smoke rising from behind the screen. Since the Reseda drive-in theatre used has been demolished since filming in the 1970s, this would most likely need to be accomplished by a model shot.
- With 40–50 minutes of film edited by Welles, approximately 70–80 minutes still require editing. Welles consistently maintained that he did not enjoy films lasting over two hours, and most of his films were just under two hours.
- The film currently lacks a musical score.
Sifting through the ten hours of film would present less of an effort than was involved in finishing Sergei Eisenstein's incomplete ¡Que viva México! over 40 years after it was filmed, when a 90-minute feature was cut out of between 30 and 50 hours of raw footage shot by Eisenstein.
Legal difficulties, and efforts to complete the film
By 1979, forty minutes of the film had been edited by Welles. But in that year, the film experienced serious legal and financial complications. Welles's use of funds from Mehdi Bushehri, the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran, became troublesome after the Shah was overthrown. A complex, decades-long legal battle over the ownership of the film ensued, with the original negative remaining in a vault in Paris. At first, the revolutionary government of Ayatollah Khomeini had the film impounded along with all assets of the previous regime. When they deemed the negative worthless, there was extensive litigation as to the ownership of the film. By 1998, many of the legal matters had been resolved and the Showtime cable network had guaranteed "end money" to complete the film.
However, continuing legal complications in the Welles estate and a lawsuit by Welles's daughter, Beatrice Welles, caused the project to be suspended. When Welles died in 1985 he had left many of his assets to his estranged widow Paola Mori, and after her own death in 1986 these were inherited by their daughter Beatrice Welles. However, he had also left various other assets, from his house in Los Angeles to the full ownership and artistic control of all his unfinished film projects, to his longtime companion, mistress and collaborator Oja Kodar, who co-wrote and co-starred in The Other Side of the Wind. Since 1992, Beatrice Welles has claimed in various courts that under California law, she has ownership of all of Orson Welles' completed and incomplete pictures (including those which he did not own the rights of himself in his own lifetime), and The Other Side of the Wind has been heavily affected by this litigation. The Guardian described how she "stifled an attempt by US cable company Showtime and Oja Kodar (Welles's partner in the latter part of his life) to complete The Other Side of the Wind", whilst the Daily Telegraph stated that Beatrice Welles had "blocked" the film. Matters have been exacerbated by much personal animosity between Oja Kodar and Beatrice Welles - Beatrice blames Kodar for causing the break-up of her parents' marriage, while Kodar blames Beatrice for attempting to block the screening or re-release of a number of her father's works, including Citizen Kane, Othello, Touch of Evil, Chimes at Midnight and Filming Othello. (The latter claim has been supported by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who has accused Beatrice of being solely motivated by profit in claiming royalties from these films, then settling out of court as studios have been keen to avoid costly legal battles.) A clause of Welles' will, specifying that anybody who challenges any part of Kodar's inheritance will be automatically disinherited, remains unenforced - Kodar sought to have it enforced in the 1990s, but could not afford the legal fees as the case dragged on.
While the original negative of the film remains in a Paris vault, two workprint versions of much of the raw footage were privately held - one by Welles' cinematographer Gary Graver, who shot the film, and one by Welles himself, who covertly smuggled a copy out of Paris after the legal difficulties started. Welles left his own workprint copy to Kodar, as part of the clause of his will giving her all his unfinished film materials. (Kodar can be seen visiting a storeroom containing these materials in the Orson Welles: One Man Band documentary.)
Over the years, there have been repeated attempts to clear the remaining legal obstacles to the film's completion, and to obtain the necessary finance. Those most closely involved in these efforts have been Gary Graver (the film's cinematographer), Oja Kodar (as Welles's partner, co-writer and co-star of the film, and director of one of its sequences, as well as the copyright holder of Welles' unfinished work), director Peter Bogdanovich (a co-star and investor, although he only wants the return of his $500,000 rather than any share of profits), film critic Joseph McBride (who has a supporting role in the film), and Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, one of whose first jobs in the film business was as Production Manager on the film. Marshall in particular was instrumental in getting several major studios in the late 1990s to watch a rough cut, although most were put off by the film's legal issues.
Before a deal was put together in 1998, Oja Kodar screened Gary Graver's rough cut of the film for a number of famous directors in the 1980s and 1990s, seeking their help in completing the film, but they all turned it down for various reasons. These included John Huston (who was by then terminally ill with emphysemia and was unable to breathe without oxygen tubes), Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood and George Lucas. Lucas reportedly claimed to be baffled by the footage, saying he didn't know what to do with it, and that it was too avant garde for a commercial audience. Kodar subsequently accused both Eastwood and Stone of plagiarism from the film, citing Eastwood's performance in Unforgiven (1993) as a copy of John Huston's, including one line of dialogue ("I'm Marvin P. Fassbender." "Of course you are."), and Stone's adoption of the film's distinctive rapidly cut editing and camera style for his JFK (1991), Nixon (1994) and Natural Born Killers (1994). Given the film's unreleased status, it is impossible to verify the accuracy of her accusations of plagiarism.
Peter Bogdanovich, a director in his own right as well as a Welles expert and film historian, announced in 2004 that he planned to restore the film and release it soon. He cited a conversation before Welles' death in which "Orson said to me, 'If anything happens to me, you will make sure you finish it, won't you?' It was, of course, a compliment and also a terrible moment. He pressed me to give some assurance." Details of the release, however, were murky at best. A common reservation was that while raw footage exists for the entire film, editing the remaining footage in Welles's style may be difficult. However, Welles himself finished editing between 40 and 50 minutes of the film and reportedly left behind extensive editing notes for the rest of the film.
A turning point came in 1998, when Mehdi Bushehri changed his mind, and was convinced by the film's surviving makers that his best hope of recouping his money was to see the film released. He therefore compromised on his earlier claims to owning two-thirds of the film, and reduced the share he claimed. This resolved several of the film's legal problems. Bushehri's death in 2006 has not affected matters, as his heirs similarly accept that the best hope of any return on Bushehri's investment is for the film to finally be released. The 1998 deal struck with Bushehri led to funding being put up by the Showtime network, until the lawsuit from Beatrice Welles later that year stalled matters once more.
In 2006, Oja Kodar grew concerned about a proposed deal Beatrice Welles had made with Showtime to turn the uncompleted version of The Other Side of the Wind into a "kind of" documentary with the intention of never allowing it to be released as a completed theatrical film. A new deal was then eventually struck in 2007, in which the three parties previously involved (Oja Kodar as the heir of Welles' unfinished work, Mehdi Bushehri's heirs, and the Showtime Network) agreed to pay off Beatrice Welles with an undisclosed sum and/or share of profits from the film.
Oja Kodar also asked Paul Hunt for help. Paul Hunt had worked on the film in the 1970s as a Line Producer, an Assistant Editor, Assistant Camera Operator and Gaffer, and Kodar knew of his devotion to Welles and his valuable experience as an independent producer, so she guided him as to who controlled the rights and what kind of deal they would accept. Together with his producing partner Sanford Horowitz, Paul Hunt then formed a company, “Horowitz Hunt LLC” of Malibu CA, and within three months had a signed deal with Mehdi Bushehri to acquire his rights of the movie.
At a March 29, 2007, appearance during the 16th Florida Film Festival, Peter Bogdanovich responded to a question about the status of the film. He announced that the four parties involved had come to an agreement earlier that week and that the film would be edited and released in the very near future. Bogdanovich also stated in an April 2, 2007, press report that a deal to complete the film was "99.9% finished", with a theatrical release planned for late 2008.
On August 6, 2007 Horowitz Hunt LLC filed with the US Copyright office Mehdi Bushehri’s signed agreement to transfer the rights to the movie.  Horowitz and Hunt's goal was to release two versions of The Other Side of the Wind; a completed theatrical version and another uncompleted but original version, just the way Orson Welles left it.
In March 2008, Bogdanovich said that there was over a year's worth of work left to be done, and a month later, he filmed the opening of the Los Angeles vault where Oja Kodar had kept the workprint material cut by Welles, along with other positive film materials. (However, the full original negative remained in France.) Throughout the rest of 2008, some work was done on the Los Angeles material. In June 2008, the Showtime Network set up an editing suite in Los Angeles, to begin preliminary logging in work on all of the material. Bogdanovich personally directed the work, Tim King was the Showtime Executive in charge of post-production, Sasha Welles (a nephew of Oja Kodar) worked on the production as an Assistant Editor, and internships were advertised for people to work on cataloguing the film materials.
Horowitz Hunt LLC eventually began negotiations with Oja Kodar to acquire her rights, but they were unsuccessful in coming to terms with Kodar to acquire her rights when Beatrice Welles put an injunction on access to the negative stored at the LTC Film Vault in Paris, by proclaiming an inheritance claim, thus preventing the opening of the Paris vault containing the full ten hours of original negatives, some of which had not even been seen by Welles in his lifetime. The attorney for Bushehri neglected to send in their documentation nullifying Beatrice's claim and thus the project stalled once again. This resulted in the closure of the Showtime editing suite in December 2008, and Showtime eventually put the project on hold.
An article in Variety in February 2009 stated that Showtime was still willing to pay for its completion, but they wanted to be sure all the materials exist. The negative still resided in a vault in Paris, unseen since the 1970s, but the permission from all the estates needed to be obtained before access to the negative could be granted. Bogdanovich commented, “It’s going to happen in the next month or so. We’re aiming for Cannes (in 2010). Everybody wants it to happen. It’s film history. It will be something for it to finally be seen after all these years.”
In January, 2010, during a public Q&A after a screening of one of his films in Columbus, Ohio, Bogdanovich stated that the film had been examined and was in good condition, but "Orson left such a mess with who owned what", and wondered whether editing the film would even be possible. (These comments were made a year before the death of Paul Hunt removed the last remaining legal obstacle to the film's copyright status.) Bogdanovich indicated that the original negative is in excellent condition, with the picture quality being far superior to the poor-quality workprints of the publicly available scenes described above.
A report in The Guardian in January, 2011, suggested, once again, that a legal settlement was close and that a release would be possible in the near future. This report, however, was accused by Welles' partner Oja Kodar of being a hoax.
Paul Hunt died in 2011. That same year, Sanford Horowitz and financier John Nicholas launched a company called "Project Welles The Other Side LLC" and the website www.projectwelles.com to attract additional capital and complete negotiations with Kodar and Beatrice Welles. Their goal is to present an uncluttered account of events, make peace with all the players, present their chain of title compiled by the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knuff and gain access to the film negatives stored in the LTC Film vault in Paris.
As of 2011, the situation is that all copyright difficulties have theoretically been resolved between the respective parties. However, the Showtime network which had previously pledged to provide funding for the project has refused to specify what the budget would be. Oja Kodar has stated that she does not want a repeat of the debacle over Welles' posthumously completed Don Quixote, which was universally panned after being cheaply put together from badly decayed, incomplete footage which was sloppily edited, badly dubbed, and often incoherent. As such, she will not grant permission to proceed until she has received assurances that the project will be done professionally, and to a high standard, with an adequate budget.
Furthermore, in March 2012, Deadline.com reported the retirement of Matthew Duda, the Showtime executive who had championed funding for The Other Side of the Wind since 1998. It is unclear whether his successors at Showtime retain Duda's enthusiasm for the project, although there has been no suggestion that the existing agreement has been withdrawn.
Crucially, sometime between 2008 and 2011, Peter Bogdanovich was finally granted access to the Paris vault, and viewed the original negative material, which he confirmed was in excellent condition, and of far better quality than the scratchy workprint material Welles had worked from. In April 2012, he told Canada's Toro magazine: "We’ve looked at the footage and it’s great. I cut two scenes together that hadn’t been finished. There are a few scenes that Orson already cut together and then for the scenes that I cut, he had picked takes but just hadn’t assembled them. So we just used his takes and I could tell what he had in mind. It’s very different than anything else he made and quite strange. I don’t think any of us will know what it is until it’s done. I don’t know when it will come out, but I think one day it will."
On October 28, 2014, the Los Angeles-based production company Royal Road Entertainment announced that it had negotiated an agreement, with the assistance of producer Frank Marshall, and would purchase the rights to complete and release The Other Side of the Wind. Bogdanovich and Marshall will complete the film in Los Angeles, aiming to have it ready for screening May 6, 2015 — the 100th anniversary of Welles's birth. Royal Road Entertainment and German producer Jens Koethner Kaul acquired the rights held by Les Films de l'Astrophore and the late Mehdi Bushehri. They reached an agreement with Oja Kodar, who inherited Welles's ownership of the film, and Beatrice Welles, manager of the Welles estate.
On May 1, 2015, it was disclosed that the film was far from completed. Post-production was to be funded by pre-selling distribution rights, but in December some potential distributors asked to see edited footage from the negative, not the worn workprint. “People want to help us, but they have a business decision to make," producer Frank Marshall told The New York Times. "They would first like to see an edited sequence, and I think that is a fair request."
A 40-day crowdfunding drive was launched May 7, 2015, on the Indiegogo website, with a goal of raising $2 million for digital scanning and editing. Plans were announced for the 1,083 reels of pristine negative footage to be flown from Paris to Los Angeles for 4K resolution scanning and editing by Affonso Gonçalves. Producers hoped to complete The Other Side of the Wind in 2015, the 100th anniversary of Welles's birth, but no specific release date was identified. Noting that completion of the film should not be driven by a deadline, Marshall said, "We still think we will make it this year."
The Indiegogo campaign deadline was extended in June and the goal revised to $1 million after potential outside investors offered to match that amount. Acknowledging that the campaign had struggled, Marshall said that his objective is to put the first 15 to 20 minutes of the film together to win over a distributor who will help finish the post-production. "They don't trust the fact that he was this genius and the guy that made Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons, and there might be this fantastic movie in there," Marshall said. The campaign closed July 5, 2015, having raised $406,405. At the end of 2015, efforts to complete the film were at an impasse.
On April 5, 2016, Wellesnet announced that Netflix has been negotiating for months on a two-picture deal worth $5 million for the completion of The Other Side of the Wind and a companion documentary. The potential deal requests the approval of Oja Kodar to finalize the agreement.
As a member of the cast, film historian Joseph McBride saw the rushes, and later saw a two-hour rough cut assembled by Gary Graver in the late 1990s to attract potential investors. McBride wrote that the film "serves as both a time capsule of a pivotal moment in film history - an "instant" piece of period nostalgia set in the early seventies - and a meditation on changing political, sexual and artistic attitudes in the United States during that period.":175 However, he differentiated the bulk of the film — which he praised very highly — from the footage of Hannaford's film-within-a-film:
- I found that while the languid visual style of the film-within-the-film interludes would give the audience ample time to recover from the frenetic pacing of the party scenes, a more serious obstacle to the film's playability is the largely undramatic nature of much of the material putatively shot by Hannaford. Little or nothing happens in these sequences except for Oja mysteriously wandering seminude around picturesque locales and Bob Random doggedly roaring his motorcycle through expressionistically lit landscapes. The footage is beautifully shot, and there is some stunning photographic magic, such as a sequence filmed among the skyscrapers of Century City with the two characters' images vanishing into ten mirrors arranged invisibly among the stone steps and glass columns of the coldly geometrical modern office buildings...However, in the rough cut assembled by Graver to show potential investors, the film-within-the-film sequences not only interrupt the narrative but also go on at such length that they lose their satirical point, becoming exasperating examples of what Welles was trying to spoof.:214–215
Film critic and historian Jonathan Rosenbaum has seen most of the film, either in rushes, or in scenes cut by Welles, and has praised "its complex and shocking reflections on machismo, homophobia, Hollywood, cinephilia, eroticism, and late-60s media, not to mention its kamikaze style", and has contrasted this with the opinion of David Thomson, who has not seen the film, and who wrote in his highly critical biography of Welles, "One day, it may be freed. I hope not. The Other Side of the Wind should stay beyond reach." John Huston described a private screening in which Orson Welles showed the unfinished film to some friends: "I didn't get to see it, but those who did tell me it is a knockout."
Andrés Vicente Gómez, who was originally involved in the film's production, has been quoted in the press stating his opposition to the film ever being completed; he believes it would be an "act of betrayal". His argument is that the film was always unlikely to be finished because Welles's "physical condition was delicate. He didn't have the energy to cut it." However, as Gómez was accused by Orson Welles, Dominique Antoine, Peter Bogdanovich, Mehdi Bushehri and others of embezzling $250,000 of the film's budget and absconding with the proceeds, he does have a strong motive for wanting the film to not reach wider public attention.:476–479 Additionally, Gómez's links to the film were severed in 1974; but filming was not finished until 1976 (which is when most of the editing started), so Gómez was in no position to know whether Welles was up to editing when editing actually began.
Welles declared that he had written at least four versions of the screenplay by 1972. However, the improvisational style of filming meant that none of them was followed to the letter. For instance, in the various versions of the screenplay John Dale is not present at the party, yet in the final shoot Bob Random improvised some scenes playing him at the party, leading to Dale's death.
For years, bootleg copies of various screenplay drafts offered the most detailed glimpse of the film. Despite threats of legal action from Beatrice Welles, Cahiers du Cinéma and the Locarno International Film Festival went ahead with joint publication of a screenplay in 2005, in a limited edition. The published edition is an amalgamation of two versions of the screenplay. Although the edition is in French, it includes the original English-language screenplay text, and numerous photographs from the shoot, as well as French-language essays by Kodar, Bogdanovich, Giorgio Gosetti, Bill Krohn, Paolo Mereghetti, André Labarthe, Stefan Drössler and Daniel Kothenshulte.
The film is covered in depth in the following books:
- Giorgio Gosetti (ed.), [Orson Welles and Oja Kodar], The Other Side of the Wind: scénario-screenplay (Cahiers du Cinéma & Festival International du Film de Locarno, Switzerland, 2005) 221pp.
- John Huston, An Open Book (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1980), 448pp.
- Clinton Heylin, Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios (Canongate, Edinburgh, 2005), 402pp.
- Josh Karp, Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind (St. Martin's Press, 2015), 352 pp.
- Barbara Leaming, Orson Welles: a biography (New York: Viking, 1985), 562 pp.
- Joseph McBride, Orson Welles (New York: Da Capo Press, 1972 [rev. 1996 edn]), 245 pp.
- Joseph McBride, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles? A portrait of an independent career (University Press of Kentucky, Kentucky, 2006) 344 pp.
- Mercedes McCambridge, The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography' (New York: Times Books, 1981), 245 pp.
- Andrew J Rausch (ed.), Gary Graver, Making Movies with Orson Welles: a memoir (Scarecrow Press, University of Michigan, 2008), 191 pp.
- Jonathan Rosenbaum (ed.), Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles, This is Orson Welles (DaCapo Press, New York, 1992 [rev. 1998 ed.]), 550 pp.
- Andrés Vicente Gómez, A Crazy Dream
- McBride, Joseph (2006). What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2410-7.
- Champlin, Charles (May 12, 1973). "Falstaff in King Hollywood's Court: An Interview Concerning 'The Other Side of the Wind'". In Gottesman, Ronald. Focus on Orson Welles. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. (published 1976). pp. 195–199. ISBN 0-13-949206-2.
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- unpublished autobiographical manuscript made available online in 2013 by Gómez on his company website