Genius(ish).



Film I've just got back from seeing Simon Callow give a talk at my FACT Liverpool about writing his new book 'Hello America', which is the second volume of his biography of Orson Welles. As expected he was an extraordinarily brilliant storyteller and although there was an interviewer, his job was closer to verbal shepherd taking Callow through each section of Welles life than genuinely posing questions. Callow's book covers the years between The Magnificent Amberson and Macbeth to the subsequent exile in Europe. It's this period that fans generally point to as reason that Welles' genius was compromised as he was thrown out of Hollywood and forced to make films in an adhoc way.

The writer's approach is that actually the director himself had something to do with the career problems that ensued because he could never finish a project because he would always become engrossed in something else new and exciting and didn't want to look backwards. He was very slow to take action to save Ambersons because he was in Brazil making a documentary. He actually finished Macbeth but it sat around at Republic Pictures for ages while he pottered about with the editing and redubbing of the accents, which explains much if you've seen the completed film.

I didn't wait around to buy a copy of the book because I wanted to rush home and write about a slightly embarrassing occurrence that happened directly after the talk was over (I've posted it at Behind The Sofa because it fits better there -- no really) but I will be picking up the books because this sounds like a very enjoyable take on one of my heroes. During the talk, scenes from Ambersons, It's All True, The Lady from Shanghai and Macbeth and as soon as I've the time I'm certainly going to revisit his work and look at those items like Shanghai I've previously somehow missed. The man was a flawed genius but at least he seemed to care about his craft.

Updated 16/03/2015

To save you clicking, here's that anecdote in full:

An extraordinary and slightly improbable thing happened tonight.

I've just got back from seeing Simon 'Dickens' Callow give a talk at my local cinema about writing his new book Hello America, which is the second volume of his biography of Orson Welles. As expected he was an extraordinarily brilliant storyteller and although I'm pretty good on Welles arcania there were still a few things I hadn't heard before.

At the end, as everyone left I was stuck halfway up the stairs, I turned around and realised that Callow and his interview were right behind me talking about what they'd had to cut for time. As we walked upwards someone asked him about the film he'd directed and about the footage we'd seen from It's All True one of the Welles' lost masterpieces.

As we walk into the area outside the screen and the crowd waiting for The Da Vinci Code, I realize that I'm the only person actually with Callow.
"Can I just ask you?"
Callow looked at me.
"Have you heard Invaders From Mars?"
Callow's still looking at me and I can tell he thinks I'm a loon. Anticipating a 'What's that?' question, suddenly I get an attack of the nerves but I continue ...
"... the Doctor Who audio play by Mark Gatiss in which Doctor Who* goes back in time and helps Orson Welles to stop a real invasion from Mars."
Callow's surprised. Genuinely surprised.
"No. Mark's kept that a secret."
"He didn't mention it to you?"
He grins.
"No."
By now we can walk forward through the crowd.
"Well a company called Big Finish puts out audio cds and this is the one that Mark wrote before the tv story. It's set on Halloween. Its got people like Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson in it."
"Who plays Orson Welles?"
Aaaah.
"I can't remember. But he enjoyed playing it so much that he took a one man show around the country in which he played Welles."
Callow raises his eye brows.
"A bit like your Charles Dickens." I finish.
Simon gives one of his belly laughs. The interviewer appears.
"Are you ready."
"I am. But I must go to the toilet first." Simon says.
"Pleasure to have met you." I say, but he's ushered away and doesn't hear me.

I would have thought someone might have mentioned it. I mean didn't Doctor Who Magazine ask the question?

* I know. But as I said I was nervous. I couldn't believe I was having the conversation.

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