Crowdfunding request: Rescue Orson Welles' last film

Orson Welles, the actor-director best remembered for "Citizen Kane," one of the greatest films ever made, is also remembered for the many films he left unfinished. Now, 30 years after his death, an online effort has been launched to raise $2 million to complete his most famous unfinished movie, "The Other Side of the Wind."

Shot over several years beginning in 1970, the film starred veteran director John Huston as an aging Hollywood filmmaker attending his 70th birthday party, where his career, reputation and friendships are caught in the glare of paparazzi cameras.

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John Huston and director Orson Welles during filming of "The Other Side of the Wind."
St. Martin's Press

Welles shot "The Other Side of the Wind" (which also starred director Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Lilli Palmer, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper and Susan Strasberg) without the backing of a studio, having long since burned many bridges among the moneymen of Hollywood. He faced constant financial pressures with various business interests during filming; a French production company held onto the negatives demanding compensation, while the original Iranian backers (which included the brother of the Shah) collapsed in the wake of the revolution in 1979.

Disputed contracts and financial question marks made anyone else wary of tackling the final editing of the film following Welles' death in 1985, which also prompted legal tussles between Welles' family and Kodar (Welles' mistress and leading lady) over who controlled the rights.

Until now, all that people have seen of "Wind" were clips from a workprint that Welles and others shopped around beginning in the mid-1970s. Scenes were shown at a 1975 American Film Institute tribute to Welles (broadcast on CBS), and later incorporated in a documentary, "Orson Welles: One-Man Band."

To watch a promotional video for the completion of "The Other Side of the Wind," click on the video player below.

Now, what is renowned as the most famous unreleased movie may finally see the light of a projector.

A group of filmmakers, including Bogdanovich, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" producer Frank Marshall (who was line producer on "Wind"), and producers Filip Jan Rymsza and Jens Koethner Kaul, has announced plans to complete post-production on the movie ... and they've launched a crowdfunding effort on the online platform Indiegogo to help pay for it, in time for the 100th anniversary of Welles' birth.

"When we were discussing what options we had, how do we move forward with it, I kept bringing [crowdfunding] up," Rymsza told CBS News. "I said, 'This is something Orson would have embraced had he been around.' And unanimously everybody said yes.

"Orson would have been so amused by this," Rymsza said, of movie fans being able to participate in the process. "Had it been around [in the '70s], he would have finished this film."

"This is a film that leads us into another direction of filmmaking," Bogdanovich told CBS News. "It's very daring, very unusual, and certainly had a very unusual birth.

"It's funny, it seems very modern to me. It seems like it was way ahead of its time. Even though the seventies was kind of a free-for-all in terms of filmmaking, nobody quite made a film like this."

The movie was shot in various film formats -- 8, 16 and 35mm -- in the manner of a mockumentary before there were mockumentaries. "There was a complete script," said Bogdanovich. "It's true that he rewrote a lot, mainly dialogue. He would say, 'Just a minute,' go type something up, and say 'Try this,' or he'd throw you a line and say 'Try that.' Or he would ask for us to improvise something. [though] there wasn't that much improvisation actually."

Bogdanovich, who had been a scholar of Welles' work (the two collaborated on a posthumously-published book of interviews), took over the role of a protégé and fellow director opposite Huston's mentor, replacing Rich Little. Parts of the film were even shot in Bogdanovich's house in Bel Air.

The footage he has seen, Bogadanovich says, reveals an extraordinary performance by Huston. "I've never seen anything quite as naked and complicated -- a brilliant performance," he said.

Rymsza says, unlike the workprint, the quality of the negative -- most of which has been in cans in a Paris storage facility for four decades -- is pristine. He said they will be basing their work on Welles' scripts and cutting notes, the edits he completed before his death, and what he'd communicated to Bogdanovich or Marshall.

"We wanted to make sure going into it, from an artistic standpoint, that we would finish everything in keeping with his wishes," Rymsza said.

The campaign, launched on Thursday, will be active for 40 days, and the producers' goal is to finish the film by the end of this year, commemorating the Welles centenary. And maybe then, the film -- and Welles' long, determined effort to get it finished -- will be honored. (It will, once released, be eligible for the Oscars).

"He used to say to me, 'God, how they'll love me when I'm dead!'" Bogdanovich laughed.

To visit the Indiegogo funding page for "The Other Wide of the Wind," click here.


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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.