Producer Frank Marshall announced on his Twitter account this week that after decades of mishaps, one of the most anticipated films in the history of cinema will finally get a theatrical release. None other than Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind.
Orson Welles, of course, needs no introduction.
He’s considered one of the best filmmakers to have ever lived and his Citizen Kane is included again and again at the very top of almost every list of best films of all time.
In 2002, two polls among directors and critics by the British Film Institute ranked him as the greatest film director ever.
The film that will bookend Orson’s amazing body of work, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, photographed by Gary Graver, will be coming soon! https://t.co/LABcMXrKj5
— Frank Marshall (@LeDoctor) May 27, 2018
“The Other Side of the Wind” was his last directorial effort, a nightmare-ridden project which he never managed to finish.
Over the years it’s become one of cinema’s greatest myths.
Back in 1970, the famed director was far from his glory days. His films were not doing so great at the box office and critics were growing increasingly sceptic about his work.
Amid difficulties to finance The Other Side of the Wind, Wells resorted to a rather unconventional source of funds, obtaining backing from the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law.
Welles eventually ran out of money in shady circumstances which merit a whole chapter by itself – he later claimed that a production partner had been diverting the Iranian funds without the director’s knowledge – and spent almost ten years scraping for pennies to finish the shoot.
To make matters even worse, the Iranian revolution exploded and in 1979 the Shah was overthrown.
The country found itself under the control of the Ayatollahs, and Khomeini’s regime wanted to seize Welles’ negative, considering it as an asset of the previous government.
The Ayatollahs finally decided to give Welles some slack and withdrew from their intention, but rather than easing the filmmaker’s bad luck, the decision ignited a three-decade legal battle over the rights between a French production company, Welles’s daughter and Orson Welles’ romantic partner and co-writer on the film, Croatian actress Oja Kodar.
Orson Welles died on the morning of October 10, 1985, following a heart attack and without seeing the film finished.
Kodar eventually got hold of the rights and exiled the negatives to Paris, where they remained hidden from the world until Netflix agreed in 2017 to unearth the project and fund the post-production.
Ian Bricke, Netflix’s director of content acquisition, described the streaming giant’s contribution to The Other Side of the Wind as “a meaningful investment” roughly equivalent to the production budget of an average independent film.
Although Netflix has not revealed any official number yet, from Bricke’s statement we can speculate the sum is anywhere between $1 million and $15 million.
Seasoned Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, responsible for Jurassic World and The Bourne Ultimatum – and who actually served as production manager in the original shoot – shepherded the project to completion along with director Peter Bogdanovich, who played one of the main roles on the 1970’s set and Polish-born producer Filip Jan Rymsza.
They enlisted film editor Bob Murawski, who won an Oscar for his work on The Hurt Locker and tasked him to squeeze gold out of an absolute organizational nightmare.
They had to make sense of Welles’ intentions from infinite piles of unnumbered, uncatalogued film reels only marked with vague descriptions like “Sex”, “Jake in Car” and “Peter at Bathroom Door”.
The editing team managed to cut the film using notes from Welles’, entries from a datebook from cinematographer Gary Graver and on-set recollections from Marshall and Bogdanovich.
This past January, the producers screened the finished film to a very select and small audience that included Alexander Payne, Rian Johnson and Quentin Tarantino.
The reception was unanimously positive, with almost everyone who attended saying their minds were blown by the final product.
But for a moment, it seemed like Lady Destiny didn’t want a happy ending for the project after all.
The grand Cannes premiere envisioned to cap off the film’s 48-year journey was scrapped for good amidst a feud between the festival and the streaming giant.
Netflix withdrew all of its films from Cannes’ lineup after the festival’s artistic director Thierry Fremaux imposed a new rule that bans movies without a theatrical release from competing for the main prizes.
Netflix could’ve screened the film in the “Out of Competition” categories, but despite the pledges of fans and even from Welles’ youngest child, Beatrice, the film did not have its dream screening at the world’s most prestigious film fest.
Producer Filip Jan Rymsza said in a statement, “There would be no The Other Side of the Wind without Netflix, but that doesn’t lessen my disappointment and heartbreak.”
The film will still have a short theatrical run as Frank Marshall announced this week on Twitter and the streaming service will debut Orson Welles’ ill-fated final work in the Fall.