Netflix is taking on the responsibility of finishing and releasing Orson Welles’ final film “The Other Side of the Wind,” which has been in the works for over 40 years.
The streaming service announced Tuesday that it’ll be acquiring the global rights and will finance the restoration and completion of the film.
“Like so many others who grew up worshipping the craft and vision of Orson Welles, this is a dream come true,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. “The promise of being able to bring to the world this unfinished work of Welles with his true artistic intention intact, is a point of pride for me and for Netflix.”
“The Other Side of the Wind” is one of the most famous unrelated films in Hollywood history. The movie is about a director named Jake Hannaford, who was returning from semi-exile to make his final film, also called “The Other Side of the Wind.” Welles began filming it in 1970 and claimed it wasn’t semi-autobiographical. John Huston starred as Hannaford.
It’s a tough movie to sell, even if it is by one of the most legendary directors of all time. It’s an avant-garde film that acts as a critique of the avant-garde filmmaking that was gaining ground at the time. “The Other Side of the Wind” would detail the last days of Hannaford’s life, interspersed with scenes from the fake film.
Welles sought to finance the film himself, funding the production by taking television gigs and with the help of the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law, Mehdi Bushehri. The latter became a problem in 1979 when the Shah was overthrown, after which Ayatollah Khomeini impounded it. He worked on the film between 1970 and 1976.
There’s been a long history of trying to get the film released, with legal, financial, and creative battles delaying the fight. Many directors were approached to work on it, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, but both declined, saying they wouldn’t know what to do with the material.
A fight between rights holders, including Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles and his longtime collaborator Oja Kodar, kept all 1,083 reels of film in a warehouse for years until Royal Road Entertainment announced it had bought up the rights in 2014.
Frank Marshall, who was a line producer on the film, and Peter Bogdanovich, who played a supporting role, were tasked with helping to complete and release it. Affonso Gonçalves (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) had been hired to assemble it. Their plan was to release the film on May 6, 2015, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the director’s birth.
According to an Indiegogo campaign set up to finance the effort, about 40 minutes of the film was cut by Welles himself. He also left detailed notes on his vision, which would allow Bogdanovich, Marshall, and others to complete it in his image.
However, delays once again hit the release. The team needed $2 million to help pay for post-production, and had hoped they could secure funding by pre-selling distribution rights. There was around 10 hours of unedited footage that they needed to go through first, and the film was missing some vital pieces, such as Welles’ voiceover. However, because the film had last been touched by Welles himself, there wasn’t an edited sequence that they could show potential buyers.
This resulted in the aforementioned Indiegogo project, but it only managed to raise a little over $400,000 — less than half of what they needed.
The deal with Netflix will rectify the financial burdens and bring Bogdanovich, Marshall, and producer Filip Jan Rymsza back to complete the project.
“I can’t quite believe it, but after 40 years of trying, I am so very grateful for the passion and perseverance from Netflix that has enabled us to, at long last, finally get into the cutting room to finish Orson’s last picture,” Marshall said.
Royal Road will co-produce.
There’s always a chance that the deal could fall through, as it has many times before, but Netflix has gotten over the major financial hurdle, so there is a good chance we’ll see it to completion. Currently there is no release date.