Orson Welles’ final film was a passion project he worked on piecemeal for years, as financing became available, hoping to create a film as revolutionary and as influential as Citizen Kane.
Welles began writing The Other Side of the Wind shortly after Ernest Hemingway died in 1961. For the film’s main character, a troubled filmmaker played by Chinatown director John Huston, Welles drew on Hemingway for inspiration. He raised money for the project where he could, filming it in the early 1970s, and while shooting was nearly complete by 1976, Welles died in 1985 without a final version.
Welles had asked fellow director Peter Bogdanovich, who also stars in the film as a filmmaking rival to its protagonist, to finish the film. But its fate was tied up in limbo for decades over a legal dispute about financing and ownership.
Last year, Netflix jumped in to help distribute the film and ensure the troubled project finally reached a completed version ready for release. A team involving Frank Marshall, who was Welles’ production manager on the film, and Bob Murawski, who won a film-editing Oscar for The Hurt Locker, helped bring bring the project to theaters and screens.
In an interview with Bogdanovich, Welles spoke before his death about his hopes for the then-unfinished film. “We’ll see, but it is my best story,” Welles said. “It’s terrifying ― and it’s right for now.” Welles also discussed the improvised acting on the film and how Welles pursued it “because it touched some kind of nerve with me.”
The Other Side of the Wind will have its long-delayed, worldwide debut Thursday during the Venice International Film Festival, which begins this week. The festival will also screen They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, a documentary about the film’s troubled history, which was directed by Morgan Neville. Neville’s film about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, became this summer the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all-time.