A Final Cut for Orson: 40 Years in the Making (2018) - full transcript

A glimpse behind the scenes into the complicated process of recovering and completing the final film of legendary director Orson Welles.

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We're here today to go into the vault...

where Orson Welles' last film
has been kept

for over 30 years now.


This is really amazing.

There! Peter in the car.

-Peter. Car. Jake, Peter.
-Do you think that's...

The story of how we completed
Orson Welles' last unfinished movie,

The Other Side of the Wind,

is nearly as complicated
as the film itself.

This is what we hope not to find.

-Empty boxes.
-There's plenty of that.

It's truly been a labor of love

for so many people who volunteered
their time and energy

to finally bring Orson's vision
to the screen.

And this is how we did it.

Fireworks, everybody. Fireworks.

For me, it all began in 1971

in Carefree, Arizona.

When I first arrived on the set

of Other Side of the Wind, t really wasn't a set, it was a house,

and Orson and Gary Graver and Oja and I,

and Polly Platt,

were all there making a movie.

But because there were only four of us,

we had to do everything.

So, this is me doing the slate

And this one is Orson and I
up on the rocks

in the backyard at the Carefree house

and there's my first job
on The Other Side of the Wind was

to create these dummies.

This is me...

playing one of the, uh,
documentary cameramen.

I was also the accountant.

We had a bank account in Gary and my name

where I signed all the checks.

We all did everything.

We acted, we shot some of it,

we built the sets,

we were all living together,
just like a family.

We called it
a V.I.S.T.O.W. alert back in those days,

Volunteers in Service to Orson Welles.

Studio bus, scene four! Take one!

It was like being on a film school movie

where everybody just pitched in
and did everything.

Please don't look up this way.
Look at each other.

Destroy scene twenty-two, take six.


Everybody who worked on the picture

was dedicated to doing the best
they could for Orson Welles.

-And rolling.


Take one.

People loved Orson.

He could be difficult,

but you had to love him.

No, not looking down, Larry. Looking away.

Looking away, Larry! Larry! Cut!

Orson liked to fire me,

because he usually had
to have somebody to blame

when something didn't go right.

A little further forward. Keep going...

keep going... keep going...

Cut. That shot was
rendered useless by Frank.

I knew that if I just went back
to the hotel

that somebody would call me
within the next day

and say, "Come on back."

I think he was shooting and it was lunch.

Orson just turned to me out of the blue,

there was no conversation
leading up to it,

and he just turned to me and said,

"If anything ever happens to me,
I want you to promise me

you'll finish the picture."

And I said, "Jesus, Orson.

Why do you say a thing like that?
Nothing's gonna happen to you."

"I know.

Nothing's gonna happen.

But if it does...

I want you to promise me
you'll finish the picture."

"I will, of course I will, but..."

"That's fine. We can drop the subject."

That was it.

So I never discussed it again.

I just felt I owed Orson

to make good on the promise.

I didn't think we wouldn't do it,

I just thought,
"When are we gonna get it done?"

For several years
after Orson passed away in 1985,

Gary Graver,
Orson's longtime cinematographer

was trying to get the money
to finish the film.

Then I started helping Gary

and we had all kinds of people coming
in and out of the woodwork.

Most of them were scared
by the chain of title.

They all felt it was too risky.

Especially because the original negative
was stuck in a lab in Paris.

It was very frustrating,
and we almost had the money a few times.

Almost. People were
talking about it and...

it went on for years.


I first became aware
of The Other Side of the Wind

in May of 2009.

It seemed like
a very interesting pursuit to explore.

After Orson died,

a French judge ruled

that the negatives be locked
under court order.

Nobody was able to figure out
the legal wrangle in France.

I realized
that whoever controlled the negative

will ultimately control the film.

Nobody had seen the negative in Paris.

Nobody knew whether it was dust or it was usable or, you know, what was there.

The French court ruled

that an agreement had to be reached
with all three parties.

So, Orson's daughter Beatrice had

a claim on the rights there,

as did Oja Kodar, Orson's co-creator,

and then the Persians,

at that point operating through their
French production company, Astrophore.

You had these three units that all had to come together
to approve things,

in order for us to get
the negative in Paris.

I always believed it would happen,

I just didn't know when.

This was Orson Welles' last movie,

the guy who made Citizen Kane.

Filip was coming at it from one way,

I was coming at it from another way,

and we decided to pool our resources

and go together and that's
when everything started to happen.

However, before we got
all three rights' holders

to finally sign off,

the lab in Paris where the negatives
were stored went bankrupt.

And all the elements were shipped out
to warehouses outside of Paris.

We were able to find all of them,

and they were scattered
across a few different warehouses.

It was definitely a relief to finally see
all the materials together

in one place.

To see the volume of materials.

It was a mountain of film.

Until we got into that vault,

we were kind of clueless

as far as how big the job was going to be

to try and put this all together.

Once we secured all the rights,

the negative traveled from Paris to L.A.

And then once the materials
arrive in Technicolor,

we knew that now this was real

and we could get down to work.

Ooh, come in. This is negative.

This is really old stuff.

Look at that.

Once we got the negative back,

we were off to the races.

We just didn't know
what we were getting into.

It was like dredging up the Titanic.

A scavenger hunt the whole way through.

We had a very old,
handwritten inventory from the '70s.

There were, I believe, 1083 film elements.

Step number one was to find everything,

collect it, and then
to properly inventory it.

Make sure that everything matched up
with those old records.

We started to unravel and understand

exactly how the film was prepared.

Forty years in the making, this movie.

And here it all is.

We had to go back
to a totally analog way of working.

That meant finding a negative cutter
to reassemble the negative,

and there's no one better than Mo Henry.

Mo's been doing this for awhile.

And she's
a fourth-generation negative cutter.

I'm a negative cutter

and I have been for many years.

And I'm one of a handful of people left

who do this, as far as I know.

So, like, "Something


second day sequence."

This is its own animal. It's different
from anything else I've worked on.

It's a combination
of many kinds of film stocks.

35, 16 mm...

lots of different items,

so we're learning as we go.

The other day I was going through
a magnifying glass on this tiny film

and I saw Orson holding the slate

with his cigar in his mouth,

and it was really exciting to see.
I was really jazzed about it.

Bus studio, scene 58, take two.

Jaws was the first feature
I ever worked on

and it was at Universal,

and, according to my dad, at the time

they thought it was gonna
be a huge bomb

so they let me practice on it.


I was really impressed
how beautifully kept this film was.

So, Technicolor asked
that we assemble all of these rolls

in key number order

and these are the key numbers,

which is kind of hard to read.

So, I'm splicing a roll of negative

to the leader.

And then it's time for the cement.

We lock it down and wait for 30 seconds.

So, now the heat has dried the cement,

and there's the splice.

I have to do my work
on these really old-fashioned machines,

but the next step is very high-tech

scanning machines.

All of the data
that we've captured by hand

goes back to Technicolor,

and they take all of that information

that we did with magnifying glasses

and pencils,

and then it becomes
data for their scanners.

We're kind of the bridge
between the film world

and the digital world.

These 85 boxes represent

Orson's workprint.

A workprint is a copy
of the original negative,

which Orson used to edit the film.

It arrived today having made its way
from Zagreb, Croatia,

where it had been for quite a few years.

So we'll be slowly going through
the process of inventorying this

and then ultimately

matching it back up to the negative that is already out of pallets

and, uh, sitting here behind me.

So, the workprint here has taken
an interesting journey.

These were smuggled out
by Orson from Paris

and taken to Rome.

And then from Rome came to L.A.,

and then Orson
was editing these ultimately,

uh, here in L.A. on his Moviola.

So, this is the closest thing

that he had
and had been working on for 15 years

off and on, and so, um,
so this is basically, uh,

the starting point for us.

Orson once told me that the movie
was going to be like a painting

with a frame around it.

And the beautiful painting in the middle

is the movie within the movie,

which is shot in gorgeous 35 mm color.

And then the frame around the picture

was gonna be this night at,
uh, Jake's birthday.

And the party would then be shot by
all these different cameras and formats,

and cut together in a kind of a frenzy,

while still telling
the story of the evening.

-Mr. Hannaford! It's me.
-Happy birthday!

Orson said,

it was gonna be made up
of all these different viewpoints,

8 mm, 60 mm,

all these different cameras.

He said, "Imagine what fun
it'll be editing."

Orson had, himself, edited

total of about 40, 45 minutes.

How much harm can you do to
the third biggest grosser

in movie history?

So, we had an idea from what he'd cut

of how he saw the editing.

Your friend there stands
to walk away with 40 million dollars.

-Yeah, and she's gonna say that I'm--
-40 million dollars?

The editing was so unique.

Nobody had ever edited
in this style before Orson,

and it was a challenge
to find the right editor,

somebody who understood this.

When Peter and I sat down
with Bob, we knew

this is our guy.

Bob was somebody who had
a connection with Gary Graver,

with the cinematographer.

Get that spook outta here.

Come on, you guy--
Hey, Mister, get outta here!

When I moved to Studio City,
I became friends with Gary Graver,

who was a cinematographer.
It turned out that he was living

three houses down from me.

First and foremost, I wanted to work
on the movie because Gary was my friend,

and I really knew
how much it meant to him.

Like the way Gary wanted to

get the movie done because of Orson,

in a way I almost wanted
to get the movie done for Gary.


For me, just getting started,

I really wanted to do
as much research as possible.

Reading like every book
on Orson I could find,

and the earliest versions of all the
scripts and treatments and everything,

as well as, like, letters
that he was writing to the editors

he was working with in Paris...

Just to really kinda
get into his head and see

where he was coming from
in that time period.

I mean, it's forensics.

You go back and you try to make sense of

why did he leave things
the way that he left them.

Mr. Hannaford?

Mr. Hannaford?

Old friends are old...

and that's the trauma.

We started our editorial process

by digitizing the scenes Orson
had cut himself.

Then we strung them together
and sat down and watched it.

Picking up from where he left off,

I mean, he left us with a mess.

Hi, Matt.

Remember me?

Billy Boyle.

That is one crazy movie.

-Well yeah, it's several crazy movies.

It just-- it really feels disjointed.

It's confusing. Yeah.

It was just like--

it seemed like such a mess, so unclear.

And like everybody, I was like,
"Is there even a movie here?"

-You see the movie itself.

You see the movie, yes,
that they're making, yes.

The whole thing becomes a movie

in front of that camera.

There were no scene numbers,
and not only that,

but in some cases Orson reshot scenes.

He blew it.
Must be all that candy he eats.


That felt really odd to me, like...

It's all this kind of,
like, transitional scenes

that I don't even think we really need.

Yeah, I think we have to stay on point
as much as we can.

At the end of the day when I started
cutting the movie, I just said,

"I just wanna do what's best for the movie

and let's just try to make it."

Everything that Orson had fine cut,

we used those as anchor points.

And luckily those scenes appear
throughout the entire film.

That, to us, was the framework.

We tried to emulate
that style and that rhythm.

And then, scenes
that were looser assemblies

or just string-outs of shots...

Zimmie? We oughta have
a drink with Zimmie.

We oughta have a drink with Zimmie.

Orson would take one line

and maybe have
three different versions of it,

one after the other,

and then obvi-- He was gonna pick
one of those.

Nobody in the plural.

Nobody in the plural.

And then who in the particular?

Mr. Otterlake, for instance? Mr. Otterlake, for instance?

Well, it turns out
one of our biggest challenges

was how to start the movie.

The first line in the script

is O.W. voiceover.

Orson intended to narrate the opening.

He never did the voiceover.
Unfortunately, we don't have it.

But the information
that he wrote for that introduction

was very important to tell the audience.

We thought
of just skipping it, but we couldn't

because it sets everything up.

So, Peter came up with this great idea.

I said, "Well, I can do it
as Brooks Otterlake.

I can do it as my-- as my character."

"That's the car,

or what was left of it after the accident.

if it was an accident."

So, I basically used Orson's words,

I added about a paragraph

to explain who I was

and why I was doing this.

"My name is Brooks Otterlake.

For years I personally didn't want
this document shown

because, frankly,

I didn't like the way
I came off in the piece."

I had a feeling I could hear him laughing

when I said the line about,

"I didn't like the way I came out in it."

But this rough magic, he here abjures.

Take back that last. It doesn't fit.

What does "abjure" mean?

-You went to Harvard.
-Give up.

Is that a suggestion?

Abjure. He knows what it means.

It's odd to see myself
in my thirties acting,

and, uh, in an Orson Welles film.


That scene...

in the car where I said to him...

What did I do wrong, Daddy?

Huston wasn't there.

It was Orson I was playing it to.

His direction to me was,

"It's us."

Our revels...

now are ended.

You bet your sweet cheeks.

This is a quarter inch full-track.

Uh, it was originally recorded on a Nagra.

The sound rolls consist
of the daily production sound

that were recorded each day.
That's why they call them dailies.

Dawn, take six.



Many happy returns.

Wonderful, now look back at him.

Same look again, just be looking at John.

Without the frown, though. Relax totally.

Relax your face. Sad, empty. Empty.

Now, say, "Many happy returns,"
so I hardly hear you.

Many happy returns.

Because Orson wasn't around
for me to interact with,

hearing his direction on the sound
recordings was pretty invaluable.

You pronounced it too carefully.

Many happy returns.

For instance, directing Norman Foster,

who was not primarily an actor,
he was primarily a director,

was super-important
in trying to figure out

how he was trying
to focus the performance.

Don't move your head or anything.
Just let it come out of you.

It was great to be able to get a insight
into what he was trying to do.

Many happy returns.

-I heard you--
-Cut! That was beautiful.

Okay, let's get to the movie, shall we?

Once we had an assembly,

I believe it was just shy of three hours,

we needed to, at that point,
reference that back

to over one hundred hours
of original negative scans.

We were so lucky to find Video Gorillas.

We're really a kind of
virtual technology company,

and this is our office in Studio City,

in my garage.

Computer vision basically is
artificial intelligence

that focuses on imagery.

It's the same kind of technology
that's used with autonomous vehicles,

and it's used to compare
the different frames

and to create the end conform.

If you look at this image right here,

there are a number
of different interest points,

and it doesn't matter
that the reference cut was cropped.

Those interest points are
the same between these two things,

and that's what the algorithm does.

It's able to match those interest point,
and then basically determine

a confidence that,
"Yes, this is the same frame."

From a technical standpoint,

we haven't worked
with this much footage before.

It was something that actually
forced us to innovate.

There were 282.000 frames
in the reference cut that we received,

and we were looking
at basically eight million frames.

There were two trillion frame compares.

On average, we were comparing
12 million frames, per second.

That process took about
two and a half days of machine time.

If a human being were to do it,

it would probably take,
uh, eight, nine months to do.

We often wondered how Orson, you know,
could have finished this film.

In a way, technology has caught up
with the movie,

because I think a lot of these problems
were insurmountable

even 10 or 15 years ago.

What if, Jane Fonda?

I don't think
we could've ever finished the movie

if we were only working on film

It was kind of meant to be

that it took this long,
because now we have the ability

to put it all together and make it work.

Orson probably would've finished the movie

if he had been working
on the Avid back in those days,

To be able to edit digitally,
where you can mix up all the formats,

build select rolls
or do whatever you wanna do

and immediately always
have access to your material.

It would've been a huge boon for him.

We're working with ILM
on a visual effects element shoot.

These are shots that Orson
didn't get a chance to shoot.

Orson always intended to get these shots
of the dummies exploding,

but we never had the expertise
or the money to do them.

So, I called my good friend John Knoll

who's been up at ILM
for over thirty years and he's a genius

at figuring out this kinda stuff.

And John said,

"Look, I- I'll do anything
to work on this movie.

When do I get a chance
to collaborate with Orson Welles?"

This very site is
a very first stage and model shop

for Industrial Light and Magic
in Northern California

where they started work
on Empire Strikes Back.

It's probably been about over 400 movies
that have passed through this facility

since 1978.

We're shootin' five dummies.

These little guys have just enough kick

to get through the dummy's face.

It's fun. We build things and blow 'em up.

That's the fun part about the job.

Roll camera.

-Ready to go hot.
-OK, we're live.

Okay, go hot.

-And action!

Ready and action!

-What the hell are we doing?
-We're having a party.

-Okay, good. Cut.
-And cut!

Thank you very much. Do we have that?

Once we had an assembly of the film,

we realized that the film
would greatly benefit

from a score,
something that would actually bind it.

The first person who was brought up
was Michel Legrand.

We felt that we should
go to Michel first because

he'd worked with Orson, so he knew him.

-Let me introduce you to Michel Legrand.
-Michel, how are you?

-Peter, very nice meeting you.

-Nice to meet you.
-Very happy to see you.

I first met Michel
at the spotting session that we had.

He'd just gotten off the plane from Paris,
and he wanted to come in

and just watch the film.

My dreams are...

to have music everywhere in the movie,

from beginning to end.

I would love to have the hook...

We're in Malmedy, Belgium,
just outside of Brussels.

We are here recording the orchestral part

of Michel Legrand's score.

This process has been
somewhat unorthodox for us.

Michel's been writing
for the past few months,

and this is the very first time
we're hearing

any of the music he's written.

This score is super important,

because it'll sort of
glue the movie together

and give it a little
more of a through line.

He really got the film within the film

and what it should be
as far as musically goes

and was quite unique
in the instruments that he used.

He really brought

this unique, avant-garde almost,
um, music to it.

It's a very traditional score,
but it's also very cutting edge,

because it's mixing a lot of elements
of orchestra, jazz,

big band, a lot of stand up bass.

And really outrageous percussion.

It's kind of dissonant sounds.

Just to create
a really cool tapestry of sound.

We're here today at Studio Guillaume Tell
in the heart of Paris.

We're moving on to traditional
Big Band style arrangement.

In the annotated script,
there was mention of jazz,

specifically New Orleans jazz.

Jazz is a integral part
of Michel Legrand's score.

Michel has a jazz background.

Orson Welles always wanted
a jazz score for this movie.

A lot of these cues
with the three-man trio

are supposed to be a band playing

somewhere at the party off-camera,

you know, providing entertainment
for the party guests.

It's a really unusual score
for a super unusual movie.

Sound is always important in a movie,

but in this movie it was crucial.

This is far bigger of a concern
than the film.

This is gonna be one of the first
shooting days, that's when they started.

A challenge came up in that we realized

we didn't have
the original quarter-inch sound

from all the production period in 1974,

which is really the whole base
of the party scene.

That meant going back to second
or third generation source.

Not having the quarter inch tapes has
really been a nightmare for us.

So it's been a Herculean job
for the sound team.

We have a normal process here
when we make the movies,

but all of that was
out the window on this one.

Just go right ahead
and talk, Mr. Hannaford.

Don't mind us.

The first time I heard
any of the film, I couldn't understand...

...85 percent of what was being said.

I couldn't track
the story because of that.

You heard him. Let's get him out here.

And it seemed like
this was going to be overwhelming.

Mr. Hannaford, is the camera eye
a reflection of reality?

The dialogue was always the centerpiece,
because this is a dialogue driven movie.

So we had to go and dig
very deep with our softwares

and try to clean up that dialogue.

Hey, you, Pocahontas!

Daniel Saxlid has done an amazing job

so that the dialogue is audible.

To listen to it in the beginning
and listen to it now,

it's like two different movies.

-What're you doin' Billy, smoking?
-What does it look like?

You know, what you do
in a normal movie is,

when you have a line

that's got problems,

uh, you do ADR, but obviously

most of our actors are gone.

The old man is a destroyer.

The old man is a destroyer.

What are you gonna use if you don't have
the actor to replace their voice?

You have to use voice-alikes.

Does it matter? What'd you say?

We had Anna Mackenzie,
who brought in perfect sound-alikes,

and Daniel tried to use
as little as he could of it,

sometimes he replaced a word,
sometimes half a line,

and used sound technology
to blend it to make it work.

He wouldn't know his cineaste
from a hole in the ground.

No, probably a midget with a grudge.

Danny Huston was really the star
of the show when it came to ADR.

He wouldn't know his cineaste
from a hole in the ground.

No, probably a midget with a grudge.

Probably a midget with a grudge.

Uh, one more time please
so I could hear it.

What was strange was to see
my father projected on the screen.

And then, um, say the words.

Putting a little extra zing
in the 'ol lobster's claw, Brooksie.

And then see my father
speak them back to me.

Putting a little extra zing
in the 'ol lobster's claw, Brooksie.

Do the same for you.
We, Imitation Hannafords,

have got to stick together.

The sound that we emit from our mouths

is not dissimilar.

And one that, uh, I can kind of fall into

quite easily.

I just think of my father

and I can find the "ah-has", and "action",


What a party that was.

What a party that was.

Well, I remember
a doctor asking my father

how many cigars he smoked

and his resp- his reply was,
"As many as I can."

Don't be pompous, Brooksie.

You made his company all that loot.

It's quite magical

just connecting
with his voice, and it just

brought him back to life.

Don't give up the ship. Eh, Brooksie?

That's the car.
What was left of it after the accident.

If it was an accident.

Everybody who's worked on this film

was dedicated to Orson.

And we were all doing it for him.

Mr. Hannaford, is the camera eye
a reflection of reality

or is reality a reflection
of the camera eye?

For me, when I look back it's--

I was learning how to be a producer,

because I was solving problems,
I was getting the film made,

and I was servicing
the vision of the director.

It just brings back
really good memories of being there and...

and how exciting and creative

and inspiring it was
to be there with Orson.

Orson has been a part of my life
for such a long time,

that he'll always be a part of my life.

I refer to him often, I quote him often,

I miss him often.

He's not somebody you get over.

Or you don't wanna get over him.
You wish he was around.

Darling, this marvelous bash
you're giving him,

and if I understand,
your whole idea was to get

Jake Hannaford in touch
with the new generation.

Hopefully Orson will be happy
wherever he is

knowing that the movie's done and, um,

that we all worked and tried to make it
as good as we could do it.

Honestly, it's gonna take
a little bit of time

for this to settle in.

Very curious to see the film
with an audience,

to see it with people who have no idea
who Orson Welles is.

To see them introduced

to a master's final film,
but also to his body of work.

I feel like this movie needs to be seen,

because it's Orson's
sort of last thoughts.

Before any of you creeps
could put this stuff together,

we'll have our own movie.

A real movie!

When I see the film,
I'm struck again by Orson's

being so far ahead of his time.

He's so far ahead of his time,
that 50 years after the picture was made,

he's still ahead of his time.