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A crazy Dream

ORSON WELLES (LA ISLA DEL TESORO)

("Treasure Island").

This film, financed with money from five or six different sources, marked the beginning of my friendship with Orson Welles. From the very first moment, a mutual feeling of friendship and interest between us was established and would continue almost until his death a few years later. The first time I met Orson was in Paris at the restaurant "Maxim´s", where Harry, he and I had arranged to meet to see what he thought of the script we'd given to him seven days earlier. After an exquisite lunch with excellent dry, white French wine, Welles handed us an envelope with a script of "Treasure Island" - a version written by him, under a pseudonym. He told us he wanted the film to be made based on that script. Harry, who always avoided direct confrontations, accepted Orson's condition and we shot the scenes in which Long John Silver appeared using his script, though using Harry's screenplay for the remaining scenes. I recall that several weeks later, at the Hôtel du Cap d´Antibes, I was in a meeting with the chairman of American International, Sam Arkoff, and I asked him what he thought about the script. He replied: "Listen boy, Harry has written many scripts for us before, most of them on flights between Singapore and London, but this one seems to have been written on a London-Dublin flight." And it was true; in those days Harry always carried an Olivetti portable typewriter and tortured his flight companions with his incessant typing, though usually producing a script by the end of the flight.

That was how in Paris we specified with Orson the terms of his contract. He demanded to be in charge of the wardrobe design too and provided the parrot that was to accompany the character, whose role he played in the movie.

We shot "Treasure Island" almost entirely in Mojacar and Garrucha (Almeria). Orson and I rented two houses adjacent to each other in the residential area of Puerto Rey and there we spent six or seven weeks speaking as little as possible about the film and much about politics, about Buster Keaton (whom he adored), about Chaplin (whom he loathed) and, above all, about many projects which Orson had in mind and which we decided to implement together.

During our stay in Almeria, Clifford Irving, a North American who resided in Ibiza, was arrested for counterfeiting an autobiography of Howard Hughes. Welles knew that Irving and François Reichenbach had filmed a sort of documentary in Ibiza about the famous forgery of Elmyr D´Hory paintings. Fascinated by the idea of forgery and imposture, Welles managed to convince Reichenbach to let him borrow the filmed material and thereby complete a film about three "masters of forgery": Elmyr, Irving and himself. That is how the film "Fake", coproduced by Reichenbach and Welles, with my participation, came into being. We shot many scenes in Almería, at night, "borrowing" the equipment from the "Treasure Island" set. I acted in my first and last film as a TV presenter. We very quickly finished the film, which was to end with a final shoot in Chartres. To complete it, however, I had to pay part of the bail money to get Clifford Irving out of jail in New York. My encounter with him at the Hotel Algounquin was really exciting because I have always liked adventurers and "outsiders."

ORSON WELLES (FAKE)

"Treasure Island" and "Fake" consolidated my relationship with Welles and we signed a three-year agreement of mutual exclusivity through which we expressed our intention to complete all of Orson's unfinished projects. We worked together in 1972 and 1973. Amongst my many memories, I recall the morning we found out that ETA had killed Spanish Prime Minister Carrero Blanco and the long trial sessions against Nixon. Such hot current news delighted Welles. His most pleasurable activity was having lunch at Casa Valentín, opposite the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium and having a siesta in the afternoon while watching the clowns Gaby, Fofó, Miliki and Fofito, whom he adored, on TV.

We shot scenes for "The Making of Othello" with Michéal McLiammoir; we had a meeting with Henri Langlois - the mythical director of the French Cinematheque (Film Library) - to retrieve part of the negative of "Don Quijote" and, above all, we restarted and almost finished shooting "The Other Side of the Wind."

The long task of finishing this film, on which Welles had worked for years, was probably one of the most difficult and complex jobs in my career as a producer. At any rate, it was a most valuable experience, which started in Madrid. It was there that we devised the strategies to be followed. We did it at the Hotel Eurobuilding, where Welles stayed for five months, and continued working in Paris. There, we stayed for the whole summer at the Plaza Athenée trying to obtain the necessary finance. 

Two people played a decisive role in ensuring that our project took off. One of them was Dr. Boucheri, director of "La Casa de Irán" (The House of Iran), a luxury store located in Champs Elisée, where Persian handicrafts and Iranian caviar were sold. Boucheri was married to one of the Shah's sisters and with the promise that we would film in Iran, we got about one million dollars. However, we had to do so much "juggling" that I even felt compelled to send a Spanish set designer, José María Alarcón, over to Iran to convince the Shah's government that we really intended to film there and promise that Welles would show up a few months later.

The other person who played a decisive role at the time of our stay in Paris to complete our financial requirements was, as it turned out, Klaus Hellwing, an excellent producer, a financier and a German distributor of intellectual art house films.

ORSON WELLES (FAKE) 2

Proximity to Welles was for Klaus a good enough reason to move heaven and earth to help us. We had to convince some of Hellwing's TV clients but eventually, with the help of a lot of good food and French wine, we gradually had it our way. That same summer we were able to go to the USA with thirty boxes of Churchill cigars hidden inside A-Z filing cabinets and almost a million dollars in cash.

We settled in the middle of the desert, in the house where Antonioni had filmed "Zabriskie Point", with a technical crew of ten people that included Rich Little, John Huston, Mercedes McCambridge, Gary Graver and Norman Foster amongst others. For six months, we tried to complete a film which could never be finished, undergoing all sorts of experiences and adventures, some of them comical and others less than comical. However, finally we had to give up: there was no way to finish that film. I know that attempts have been made to compile and edit the material that was shot, but most of it is in Paris, in the hands of the Iranians who contributed to the financing of the film and who, in the end, claimed their share of it.

Regarding the end of my relationship with Orson Welles some lies were told, although he assured me they did not come from him. Accordingly, I don't want to go into that matter. I don't deem it relevant to mention the details of our split considering that our relationship was always polite and amicable and we had wonderful moments and experiences together. However, I must make it clear that if I abandoned the project, I didn't do so for financial reasons. My agreement with Welles, written and signed by him, envisaged my work as a producer, not an investor. Welles knew that I didn't have the financial resources to finance films made in the USA. I did commit myself though, just as he did, to work on an exclusive basis and try to finish his uncompleted films. When I became convinced that doing so would ruin my personal life, jeopardize my relationship with my family and my children, I decided to go back to Spain. I didn't make any money or profit, although I don't regret having spent my time doing what I did. Certain people who were close to Welles and part of his inner circle - the same ones who are spoiling his works and making a living from them - tried to justify his difficulties by linking them to the fact that I pulled out. They have even gone so far as to say that I had pocketed some of the Iranian money which in fact never existed, beyond the funds that were spent appropriately.

LA UNIVERSIDAD ORSON WELLES

During the shooting of "The Other Side of the Wind" we had many Hollywood personalities, like Dennis Hopper, Joseph Cotten, Claude Chabrol, Charlton Heston as guest stars with us. When I said farewell to Welles in Cave Creek, the small Arizona settlement where we spent over six months, I decided to pay a visit to Hopper and ask him to play the leading role in a new project I was preparing. The film was called "The Sky Is Falling" or "Las flores del vicio" in the Spanish version. The script was written by Win Wells and Silvio Narizzano was supposed to be the movie director. Silvio had already attained certain fame through a film he directed called "Georgy Girl", which launched Lynn Redgrave's and Charlotte Rampling's acting careers. At the time, Dennis lived in Taos, New Mexico, an artists' town famous for its Indian reservation. I flew from Los Angeles to Albuquerque and from there to Santa Fe, where Hopper was waiting for me with a jeep loaded with beer that we drank on our way. Now and then we would stop for a rest and fill the air with the smoke of tobacco that was fashionable at the time. After spending three days in Taos, where the Río Grande originates, Hopper promised to come over to Spain a year later to be in the movie. 

After my adventure with Welles, an office awaited me in Madrid that served the purpose of a production-distribution company. I started to distribute art house films, particularly Hungarian and French, apart from rerunning and sometimes premiering classics by Buster Keaton and Chaplin and movies like "Johnny Guitar", by Nicholas Ray.

As a producer, albeit with a minority stake in the project, I participated in the French initiative "Le Complot", which involved shooting for two weeks in Madrid. For me it was a wonderful experience to work with great actors like Michel Bouquet, Michel Duchaussoy, Jean Rochefort and Marina Vlady. I remember that during the filming, the actors requested to have a word with me one day. They wanted to talk about Fernando Florido, the makeup artist, who would approach them to retouch their makeup with a cigar butt in his mouth just before the director called "action". I recall Bouquet saying to me: "Andrés, all of us are very good professionals, but the difference between a good and an excellent performance might lie in just a simple detail, like the makeup artist's cigar that is distracting us and making us lose our concentration." Except for that, the relationship of the actors with Fernando Florido was great although they wanted me to keep Fernando from approaching them with the cigar in his mouth. Sometimes a producer must do little jobs like that.