Netflix Will Finish Orson Welles’ Last Film

Will The Other Side of the Wind live up to its iconic reputation?

Other Side
John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of The Other Side of the Wind. Chapman University

Orson Welles finished his masterpiece Citizen Kane when he was just 26 years old, making an indelible mark on movie history. But though he made other films, he never managed to follow up on that youthful success—and his life was riddled with unfinished projects. Now, Brooks Barnes reports for The New York Times, one of those films will finally be completed thanks to Netflix.

The streaming powerhouse has acquired the rights to The Other Side of the Wind, Barnes reports. The movie, which Welles began making in 1970, was never finished, but now Netflix has negotiated an agreement to piece together a complete version of the film using existing footage, Welles’ handwritten notes and memories of those who were involved.

The Other Side of the Wind was going to be Welles’ last film—his big comeback. But it never came to fruition because of a strange course of events that have haunted the movie ever since. As Josh Karp, who wrote a book about the unfinished movie, writes in Vanity Fair, the movie “began as a tale of art imitating life, but ultimately morphed into life imitating art.”

That’s because it echoed Welles’ own life. The film tells the story of Jake Hannaford, an iconic director who has come back to Hollywood after years of self-imposed exile in Europe. John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and Dennis Hopper, among others signed on to star.

While the movie satirized Hollywood, the film industry’s many foibles eventually tanked it. The slow shoot was plagued by conflict and financing problems. Welles died before he could get enough money to finish it.

The movie gained iconic status, even though it was never completed—and an extended tussle over its ownership fueled the mystery around the movie. The New York Times’ Doreen Carvajal reports that the rights were owned by Welles’ daughter, his longtime companion and an Iranian-French production company, but that all three parties could not agree on how to deal with the unfinished property.

Now, finally, Netflix has brokered a deal and the movie will be finished. Will Netflix do justice to the famous auteur? It's too soon to say. But for fans of his work, the chance to view his unscreened opus will be worth the wait.