The esteemed director of Mank is saying that young Orson Welles never got past the burden of being over-rated — that he got lucky with the help of Gregg Toland and Herman J, Mankiewicz in the making of Citizen Kane, but in the long aftermath he more or less killed his career with hubris.
Welles “was above all a showman and a juggler with this immense talent. [His] tragedy lies in the mix between monumental talent and filthy immaturity.
“Sure, there is genius in Citizen Kane…who could argue? But when Welles says, ‘It only takes an afternoon to learn everything there is to know about cinematography’…pffft. Let’s say that this is the remark of someone who has been lucky to have Gregg Toland around him to prepare the next shot…Gregg Toland, damn it…an insane genius!”
“I say [this] without wanting to be disrespectful to Welles. I know what I owe him, like I know what I owe Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or Hal Ashby. But at 25, you don’t know what you don’t know. Period. Neither Welles nor anyone. It doesn’t take anything away from him, and especially not his place in the pantheon of those who have influenced entire generations of filmmakers.
“But to claim that Orson Welles came out of nowhere to make Citizen Kane and that the rest of his filmography was ruined by the interventions of ill-intentioned people…it’s not serious, and it is underestimating the disastrous impact of his own delusional hubris.”
Cue Welles biographer Joseph McBride, longtime Welles pally and collaborator Peter Bogdanovich and other Welles loyalists.