I recently interviewed director Curtis Harrington for a film magazine. Here are his reflections on acting for Welles in The Other Side of the Wind.
I understand you did some acting for Orson Welles in 1970.
CH: I first met Gary Graver, Welles’ favorite cinematographer in his later years, when he worked as an usher at a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. This is when he was very young, before he became a cameraman. Gary was a film buff and we became friends. I never worked with him until I made Usher. We were friends all those years when Gary was working with Orson Welles. Gary would report to me on the experiences he had with Orson. I found all that very exciting. Through Gary, I finally met Orson. We all had dinner together at Ma Maison one night. Then Orson invited me to play myself in his last unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind. So I am proud to say that I have actually been directed by Orson Welles. God willing, The Other Side of the Wind will be released someday and you’ll be able to judge the quality of my performance.
Did Welles coach you at all?
CH: Yes! I wasn’t playing a part. I was playing myself. There is a scene where a leading character, a film director (subsequently played by John Huston), is at a party of young Hollywood types. He has a chat with various young directors. One of those chaps was me. We did this scene the night before I was to start shooting What’s the Matter with Helen? I remember thinking… my God, I’ll be so tired tomorrow on the first day of shooting, I’ll be a wreck. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in an Orson Welles film. Orson played the part of John Huston offscreen. The only real acting I’ve done was in Usher, filmed much later. I did not consider myself to be an actor. I was very self-conscious even just playing myself! So Orson relaxed me by plying me with Scotch. And yet the next day went very well, as I recall!
I am also one of the few American directors to cast the great Irish actor Micheal MacLiammoir in a film. He played Iago in Orson Welles’ version of Othello. That evening, it was great to be able to tell Orson that I had engaged his old friend Micheal MacLiammoir to come from Ireland to play the flamboyant elocutionist in What’s the Matter with Helen? So we chatted quite a bit about Micheal. Orson was presumably discovered as an actor by Micheal MacLiammoir in Dublin at the very beginning of his career. Orson was very fond of Micheal. Coincidentally, John Huston had just cast Micheal in The Kremlin Letter.