The Other Side of the Wind was supposed to take place during a single day, and Welles planned to shoot it in eight weeks. It took twelve years and remains unreleased and largely unseen. Orson Welles’ Last Movie by Josh Karp is a fast-paced, behind-the-scenes account of the bizarre, hilarious and remarkable making of what has been called “the greatest home movie that no one has ever seen.” Funded by the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law, and based on a script that Welles rewrote every night for years, a final attempt to one-up his own best-work. It’s almost impossible to tell if art is imitating life or vice versa in the film. It’s a production best encompassed by its star, John Huston, who described the making of the film as “an adventure shared by desperate men that finally came to nothing.”
Everything Welles ever did was a kind of adventure: The Other Side of the Wind—a film made up as it went along—was perhaps the greatest, maddest adventure of all. Josh Karp’s absolutely riveting book recreates the whole tragic, comic enterprise, creating an unforgettable portrait of a middle-aged Welles…Like some semi-mythic warlord, Welles lays about him, bullying, terrifying, charming, lying, cheating, cajoling, manipulating, destroying, creating in pursuit of a goal he himself barely understands. Orson Welles’s Last Movie is a massive contribution to Welles scholarship, and an unputdownable read.
Like the best Hollywood stories, Josh Karp’s entertaining book veers between slapstick and tragedy, and is filled with larger-than-life characters who are charmed and doomed by their own hopefulness and cynicism, charisma and buffoonery. With wit and insight, Karp has made a valuable contribution to the enduring legend of Orson Welles, and proved once again that in the movie business, improbability may be the one enduring truth.
A maverick director, shady dealings, and the Iranian revolution make up the often incredible true story behind The Other Side of the Wind. Packed with revealing first-hand accounts, Orson Welles’s Last Movie recounts the making and downfall of the ill-fated comeback of the film industry’s most talented prodigal son.
Josh Karp has written a Hollywood epic as grand as any shot by Frank Capra, Preston Sturges or Orson Welles. In the end, this book is about more than a movie that was never quite finished—Karp has added an indelible chapter to the literature of show biz.