In 1970, renowned auteur and wine lover Orson Welles began production on a film entitled The Other Side of the Wind about a legendary director who’d been in European exile for a number of years but had at last returned stateside to make his masterpiece, which bears the same name as this film. John Huston was cast as the director alongside such talents as Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Lili Palmer, Cameron Crowe, Dennis Hopper, Natalie Wood, and Edmond O’Brien. It was, naturally, meant to be Welles’ own comeback film, a send up of Hollywood, art, and the myriad struggles to unite the two. Shot mockumentary style over a six-year period, the film became more famous for its struggles, and even though principal photography was completed, financial and legal issues resulted in the negatives being impounded; Welles wouldn’t live to get them back.
But being as all that’s necessary to complete the film is a dash of post-production editing, for the last 40 years there have been several attempts to get it in the can and in front of audiences. In 2002 Showtime announced it was going to finish and distribute the film, but a lawsuit from Welles’ daughter killed that. In 2015, filmmakers Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the paltry two million required to edit, but again, nothing came of it. Then a year later uber-producer Frank Marshall announced at CinemaCon that he was negotiating with Netflix to finish the film, to which moviegoers replied with a shrug. We’d heard this all before. But now, Marshall has proven true to his word as Netflix has indeed ponied up the cash necessary for completion in exchange for exclusive distribution.
There’s no release date as of yet, but the work is apparently underway. There’s also no word on who’s doing the editing, but as Welles was working on the project, at least mentally, until his death in 1985, there are copious notes from him on exactly how he wanted the project cut.
This might sound like a small story, but it really, really isn’t. Welles started his career in the metaphorical penthouse and finished it in a floor-level apartment, along the way infamously leaving a lot of projects in various stages of unfinished production, but The Other Side of the Wind is far and away the most famous, and by all accounts of those who’ve worked on it or seen the raw footage, it did stand the chance of resurrecting Welles’ star. He’ll never know how it turned out, nor will a lot of his cast, but with any luck by the end of the year the rest of us will have seen this classic-in-waiting.