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Netflix buys rights to an unfinished Orson Welles movie, some 50 years after it was shot

A young Orson Welles is pictured in this file photograph.
A young Orson Welles is pictured in this file photograph.
A young Orson Welles is pictured in this file photograph.
Hollywood’s most famous unreleased movie finally found a home — and 86 million potential viewers.
Netflix announced on Tuesday it has acquired the rights to The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’ unfinished film, the A.V. Club reported.
“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,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told The Guardian in a statement.
Welles, the acclaimed director behind Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, left behind several uncompleted projects when he died of a heart attack in 1985. Perhaps the most famous of these was The Other Side of the Wind, a film which he began shooting in 1970 and was mentioned in his New York Times obituary as a “major project” which “remains unfinished.”
Not only has the movie has been the subject of several books, it has long been at the centre of legal battles among its rights holders, which included Welles’ daughter Beatrice and Mehdi Bushehri, the brother-in-law of the former shah of Iran. Meanwhile, 1,083 reels of negatives gathered dust in a Paris warehouse, the New York Times reported in 2014.That same year, Royal  Road Entertainment announced it reached an agreement to purchase the rights to the film, which it planned to complete and screen on May 6, 2015, the 100-year anniversary of Welles’ birth. A producing team of Frank Marshall, an original line producer on the film, Filip Jan Rymsza and Peter Bogdanovich, who acted in the film, would finish the movie using Welles’ notes.
Rymsza told the newspaper of the reels, “I was relieved to see it was in such good condition — no mould or any degradation and the materials were in their original boxes.”
At the time, Rymsza said the purchase was backed by a private investor, whom he did not name. That financing, as Slate reported, fell through. An Indiegogo campaign to crowdsource the US$2 million required to finish the film only raised US$406,605, and Royal Road Entertainment essentially fell silent until Tuesday’s announcement. It remains unclear what happened to that money. Also unclear is when the film will be finished and released. “That’s the beauty of Netflix,” Rymsza told the New York Times. “We can now take our time.”
Welles reportedly worked on the movie for 15 years, hoping it would serve as his triumphant comeback in Hollywood. (The last original, full-length film he directed was F for Fake in the mid-1970s.) Myriad reasons exist for the movie not being completed in the first place, the most likely might being Welles’ consistently shifting vision for the picture.
The film, which features Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer, Dennis Hopper and Bogdanovich, is ostensibly about a director named Jake Hannaford (played by John Huston) who returns to Hollywood from Europe to work on his comeback movie (also) titled The Other Side of the Wind. But one of the screenplay’s original drafts, for example, was about “a hyper-manly, middle-aged, American novelist living in Spain who has lost his creative powers and become obsessed with a young bullfighter,” inspired by a 1937 fistfight and subsequent friendship he shared with Ernest Hemingway, according to an adapted excerpt in Vanity Fair of Josh Karp’s book about the movie. After burning through several scripts — enough to fill a “three-volume novel” — and revising them nightly, Welles at one point in 1966 said “We’re going to shoot it without a script.”
Though Welles hoped to make two distinct films — the main story about Hannaford intercut with scenes from Hannaford’s movie —he planned to shoot the entire enterprise in eight weeks. That soon turned into six years of filming, much of which he did before even casting an actor as Hananford, the main character.
The filming itself would often start and stop, as Welles would exhaust his budget and then work on other projects to make enough money to continue.
By 1976, Welles had wrapped up the main shooting, but he couldn’t raise money to finish editing the raw footage.                     w
— Washington Post
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