Not many artists have become as deeply ingrained in modern culture as Orson Welles. By way of illustration I offer Peter Jackson's 1994 release, "Heavenly Creatures" in which our man appears as a fiction that is not only himself, but himself playing fictional Harry Lime from "The Third Man" in a film that is both a somewhat fictionalized and yet a very "real" telling of actual events. As a result, the "Welles as Welles as Lime" device fits perfectly into the moebius strip of fantasy and reality that Jackson, no doubt, intended to concoct.
With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to open a modest little thread about OW, not just as an artist, but also as a character in his own right. That said - and continuing with the "Heavenly Creatures" example, I thought it might be fun to layer the discussion even further by searching for info on the story behind the use of OW in the film. Those efforts brought me to the following source, wherein the actor who played Welles cast in the film recounts how he came to be cast in the role. (And it was with no lack of pride that I discovered him to be a fellow Canadian.)
Here's part of his story, for those interested (and here's a link to the website
from which the following excerpt has been lifted):
Behind the Scenes: Details and tidbits from Jean Guerin
Subject: Re: A Question for It
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 1996 13:44:10 -0400
>How did you get the part?
I was intending to put my intro together, but things kept cropping up. As I'm getting the above question a lot. I should take the time to answer at least that:
For starters, I can tell you about the motives behind the use of "The Third Man". The scene itself is directly pulled from Pauline's diary- it is the night they first made love. On that night they went to see "Trent's Last Case" (1954- British Lion Films). However, Welles makeup in that film makes him unrecogniseable. Peter decided to use "The Third Man" because that was the film where Welles first appeared without any makeup and therefore would be more recogniseable.
Jackson's original idea was to digitally "cut" Orson out of the footage of "The Third Man" and "paste" him onto "Heavenly Creatures". That, however caused some technical limitations (they would be resticted to moves Orson did in the original film). He decided on using a lookalike but casting calls in London, Australia and NZ returned nothing.
It was while attending a film festival in Montreal, Canada back in October 1992 that I first met with Peter and Fran. I was working PR for the festival and had volunteered my car and my services as chauffeur to the various guests. It was Fran Walsh who broke the ice and first mentionned my resemblance to OW. I was literally "discovered" by Jackson and Walsh.
When Peter left at the end of the festival, he still wasn't sure if the scene was going to be included or not. He said: "If we need an Orson, You're it". And mentioned that I should get news before the holidays.
The holidays went by and I sort of put it out of my mind thinking this was too good to be true. Then, on one evening in february (1993), the phone rang and my (ex-) girlfriend picked it up and handed it to me saying it was: someone with a british accent. It was Peter asking if I "wouldn't mind coming down to NZ and being Orson". I first thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me but it was Peter's unmistakeable voice.
Three months later I was in Christchurch, living a dream and falling in love with the film as well as becoming really intrigued by the case. I was fortunate enough to be there during the shooting of a lot of great scenes. If I wasn't on the set all the time, I would still get to see the rushes every night. I remember screening the murder shots and the "dancing half
naked thru the woods" scenes in the same night and being struck by the genius of such a contrast.
The irony of it all is that I was already a fan of Jackson as well as a lifelong Welles nut. I am a writer and critic in Montreal and always had a secret ambition to act. Being part of HC was a tailor made fantasy for me as it would have been my favorite movie of 1994 in any case.
Since then, I've appeared in two more films, as yet unreleased. I play a doctor in "Frankenstein & Me" a kid's movie starring Burt Reynolds due out this summer in Canada. I also played "Orson/Harry Lime" again, this time as a "detective's conscience" in "La Vengeance de la Femme en Noir" a french-canadian comedy due out this fall. I lost a bit of weight since HC, leaving my face more square (and, I am told, more handsome) so they had to pad my face out with prosthetics.