For years the saga of the much-written-about effort to assemble a completed version of Orson Welles‘ never-finished The Other Side of The Wind has been missing a key element — i.e., a bad guy. Whenever a collaborative project stalls, it’s usually because somebody in the loop is being unreasonably demanding or flaky about something. Like Larry Silverstein, the obstinate greedhead who held up the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. The mark in this instance is Oja Kodar, Welles’ lover and comrade-in-arms for the last 24 years of his life and a current, Croatia-residing holder of rights to TOSOTW. Wellesians have long been reluctant to speak ill of Kodar given her tender history with Welles, but now a key chronicler has said “fuck it, let’s call her out.”
“And now we face the sad realization that Oja may be stalling the completion of The Other Side of the Wind,” Kelly writes early on.
“In Joseph McBride‘s What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, Wellesians first learned of the troubled efforts to finish TOSOTW and how Oja and Peter Bogdanovich sacked McBride, a key player in brokering a $3 million deal with Showtime to finish TOSOTW in 1999. The pact soon fell apart.
“In Josh Karp‘s Orson Welles’s Last Movie, numerous individuals (investors, attorneys, executives and others) who have been involved with the project during the last 15 years all told a variation on the same tale in which Oja derailed attempts to complete the film by (a) reneging on agreements, (b) pitting investors against each other, (c) secretly shopping for better deals and (d) shifting her allegiances at critical junctures.
“Oja’s actions prompted an attorney for the Boushehri family, a co-owner of the film, to write in a 2007 memo: ‘We have been waiting for many years for her to agree to a deal…my own personal feeling is that she is incapable of making a deal with anyone..our client has never been the problem. Kodar has been.'”
“In a less complicated world, Affonso Gonçalves would have already been weeks into editing TOSOTW, but the 1,083 reels remain locked away outside Paris, pending the resolution of an impasse between Oja and producers.”
A source close to this situation describes current relations as “delicate,” says that “this project has never lacked for challenging personalities” and accepts that “Oja is the way that she is.”
This morning I called Filip Jan Rymsza, one of the producers of the Other Side of the Wind project, and asked him about the Kelly piece. He replied that “in terms of anything Ray Kelly wrote, if there’s any truth to it, some of it is speculation and other parts of it are dated.”
Rymsza also stated that he expects the editing on TOSOTW to begin in September once an addendum to last October’s agreement has been signed by Kodar’s legal rep, Alexander (a.k.a. “Sasha“) Welles, a nephew of Kodar’s whom Welles apparently adopted. Alexander is said to be sailing around the Aegean on a yacht, but is due back in port at the end of the month.
Rymsza stated that “the original negative, of which there is a copy, is packed in Paris and ready for shipment.” He declined to predict how long the project might take once it begins, and he didn’t offer any specific options or possibilities about how to raise the extra dough needed to complete the project, above and beyond the $400K raised so far with an Indiegogo campaign.
I then called Kelly. We discussed the reasons why Kodar may be holding things up and noted that this ridiculous situation has been going on for nearly ten months, or since a 10.28.14 N.Y. Times story announced that all the disparate parties were finally on the same page as far as completing The Other Side of the Wind was concerned.
Kelly gave me the following statement: “Obviously sometime between 10.28 and early May, something happened in the relationship between Oja Kodar and the producers. She has not been a visible participant in the campaign to complete this film. She signed an agreement in October 2014, and if a new agreement is being or has been negotiated, the question is (a) is she looking for more money or (b) is she looking for greater artistic control?”
Kelly’s piece begins as follows: “For 30 years, Oja Kodar has been given a pass by Wellesians. Let’s be honest [and admit that] no one has asked tough questions about her relationship with Orson Welles — mistress, artistic collaborator and/or real-life Susan Alexander Kane?”
Knowing absolutely nothing, I smell a onetime gold-digger who had a great 24-year ride with one of the most mesmerizing creative malcontents of the 20th Century, but who’s now 74 years old and thinking about security and determined to get all she can while the getting’s good.