Frank Marshall has, by this point in his career, achieved “legendary producer and filmmaker” status. If, somehow, you aren’t familiar with Marshall, you probably love a lot of the movies he’s worked on, films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Color Purple, — the list truly goes on and on and on. But he may have just pulled off his greatest feat.
You see, way back in the early 1970s, one of Marshall’s early jobs was working on Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind. Little did Marshall know back then that The Other Side of the Wind wouldn’t see the light of day until 2018. (Where it just played this week at the New York Film Festival.)
The story of The Other Side of the Wind is long and somewhat tedious and complicated. To sum it up in one sentence: there are a lot of people who claimed to have the rights to the unfinished film and it took about 40 years to sort that all out. Now, here we are. The film itself is basically a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary about a director (played by Jon Huston) who made a bizarre avant-garde film called The Other Side of the Wind that he’s trying to convince colleagues is a work of genius. Also, as Marshall says ahead, Orson Welles would make everyone take a break from filming every day so that he could watch reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Also, at one point Marshall had to find a human skeleton because Welles wanted a human bone for the movie.
Ahead, Marshall talks about the movie that he’s been technically working on longer than any other. Also, he tells us what movie in his filmography people would talk about more (hint, it stars Christian Bale), and explains why the love of The Goonies is still a bit baffling to him. He also insists that, despite the delays, Indiana Jones 5 will be happening.
I can’t believe we’re talking about this movie.
Isn’t it incredible? Neither can I.
Without Netflix does this movie exist?
No. It doesn’t. There’s no way it exists. There’s no way it exists the way we were able to do it, which was everything we wanted. There is a way for someone to come in and say, “I’m gonna give you X amount of dollars,” and you just have to make that work. They stepped up every time.
Welles has had movies in the past that were put together maybe not the right way, and it didn’t go well.
Yeah. And so, because of their love of movies, that’s where it came from. It’s a great thing. And, look, people were upset when VHS came along. They were upset when DVDs came along. They were upset when television came along. It’s another way for us to tell stories.
When was the last time you ever spoke to Orson Welles?
It was probably 1973.
Okay, so well before he died.
Yeah. We had dinner with him after we shot Daisy Miller. Peter Bogdanovich, Cybill Shepherd and I went down to Madrid. And we saw him in Madrid and that was the last time I saw him.
When I was a little kid Orson Welles was everywhere. He was in The Muppet Movie.
Oh yeah. He was everywhere.
At one point he wanted to be a talk show host.
He went on Johnny Carson. He was a magician. He was doing shows. It was crazy. And he loved to create. And I think what you see in this movie is his artistry, of how he was pushing the envelope on how we tell stories on film. And he was constantly doing that. And that’s what was exciting for him. But he was everywhere.
He wasn’t making movies in his last few years, but he was sure on television a lot.
We would stop shooting at 4:30 in the afternoon so he could watch, or we could all watch, the original The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Because he loved Dick Van Dyke. So it’s things like that that I went, “Wow. This is an incredible guy.”
So you watched The Dick Van Dyke Show with Orson Welles?
With Orson Welles, and he would roar with laughter. It was fantastic. He just appreciated performance and artists.
I’m thinking of the intro when Rob Petrie trips over the sofa.
Yeah, He would just roar! And then he had this great laugh, as you know. And then, “Okay. Back to work.”
There are a lot of random people in this movie. I saw Cameron Crowe’s name in the credits.
Yeah, well, that was kind of the fun. I would either see somebody, or I would go, “Oh my gosh, Neil Canton. Oh there’s Neil.” In those days it was, “Do you want to be in an Orson Welles film?”
It reminds me of the current Terrence Malick movies, where you don’t know who might pop up in them.
Exactly. Well, you know, there’s Peter Fonda. There are all of these characters, who else am I trying to think of?
Dennis Hopper. Yeah. When you think about it, I mean that was the ’70s. We all knew each other. Peter knew Marty, who knew Coppola, and everybody was exchanging and everybody was excited about filmmaking. It was the rise of the independent film. So wouldn’t you want to be there and see how Orson Welles worked? So even when I went to ASU and I would be in the cafeteria and saying, “You want to be in a scene that Orson Welles is directing? Come out to this house on Friday and you can be in a scene.” These kids would flock there.
They’re not in the credits because I can’t remember their names.
Someone is going to come knocking, “Put me in the credits. I was in that scene.”
You know the bone that John Huston uses? That he reads the thing off of? I went and I got a plastic bone. And Welles said, “No. I want a real bone.” I went to a novelty store and got a bone to write the thing. He said, “No, no, no. It’s gotta be a real bone.” I said, “A real one?”
Where did you find a real bone?
So I called up ASU. I called the physiology department or whatever it’s called.
Right, you can’t go to a local 7-11 and pick up a human bone.
So, and I called them up, and I said, “I need to borrow a human skeleton for a movie that Orson Welles is shooting.” And the guy said, “Oh, okay.” I drove down, and I got the skeleton.
It was that easy?
Yeah. So I brought this whole skeleton out. So I took a little bone off the foot and that’s the bone that’s in the movie. And then I went to put it back together and I couldn’t. I thought, “Oh this is gonna be really simple.”
No I don’t think it is. That’s why people go to medical school.
The skeleton at ASU, if you look at the foot, it might look like a broken foot!
Of all the movies you’ve been involved with, which one do you wish were brought up more?
Empire of the Sun.
Oh, that’s an interesting answer.
Not only as the movie, but the making of it. You know I can’t separate those things because of the challenges that we had on that movie were amazing and defined Christian Bale.
Also, you hire this kid, and who knows how that’s gonna turn out, and it’s Christian Bale.
I know. And I’m not sure that anyone else before or after had shot on The Bund in Shanghai. No American movie ever shot there. And we shot there a whole Sunday with thousands of Chinese extras. That itself is an amazing achievement. But the movie itself is so incredibly emotional. And there were no visual effects back then. All of those action scenes with the Japanese Zeros and Mustangs, those are all real.
Those are remarkable scenes.
That shows you Steven at the height of his skill. Directing those shots and creating those images and telling that story of this kid who had never acted before.
There should be a re-release and a big 4K release. I think a lot of people would discover that movie.
That would be great. And thank you for that. I’m writing this down.
Well, I don’t have any sway.
But great idea. And I did a doc for it, too.
Get Christian Bale to show up at a big screening.
Well, here’s the really scary-weird thing is, Kathy [Kennedy] and I live next door to Christian Bale now. Isn’t that weird?
You could just knock on his door.
[Laughs] Across the fence! I don’t even have to go to the door. His kids play right on the fence.
There’s going to be a new Arachnophobia. Having directed the original, are you involved in this one?
On the peripheral.
Are you happy about that?
I don’t know. Well, I’m kind of flattered. I don’t know what the move is yet, I hope they are not going to remake my movie, but if it inspires them to tell another story about spiders, that’s okay.
James Wan is a good director.
Yeah. That’s the reason I said, “Yes.” They did ask me.
They had to get your approval?
Well, I don’t know if I had to, but, you know…
It works better if they do.
Yeah, it was the first Hollywood picture, and it was an Amblin picture, so I think they want to make sure I’m okay with it.
They don’t want you in the press saying, “I’m against this!”
[Laughs] “How dare they!”
So, Indiana Jones 5 has been delayed again. I keep thinking, if it gets pushed a couple more years, in the movie Indiana Jones could just buy a ticket to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in theaters.
[Laughs] Oh… you’re right!
Isn’t that weird?
Well, all these things are weird when we start talking about the movies that we’ve made that you never dreamed would have this kind of effect.
Most of yours do.
Well, you know I’ve worked with some fantastic people.
Yeah, but your batting average is impressive.
I don’t know. The movie that I’m always surprised about is Goonies. What about The Color Purple? Or those movies that we made in the ’80s? And maybe it’s because I wasn’t as close to Richard Donner as I was to Joe Dante or Zemeckis. Dick was more of an adult filming and making our movies. I don’t know. I just never thought it would have that kind of a lasting effect, but now I understand it. Those are kids that kids identified with. Having that adventure, and that’s Steven. That’s the kid in Steven.
And now there’s Stranger Things.
Yeah. Exactly. And we’re all still kids inside, somewhere. And that’s what we’re tapping into. I didn’t know at the time, but now I see it.
I love reading Donner talking about his Goonies experience. He seemed so annoyed.
No, I know. And you probably heard the story that he just started and the kids were driving him nuts. And then we sent the kids to Hawaii to see him. We love playing those kind of jokes. It was an era where we’re having fun, and he couldn’t believe it. He opened the door, it was great.
So Indy 5 is going to happen, right?
Every time there’s a delay I get worried.
We just have to get the story right this time. We know that it’s a cherished franchise, and we gotta get it right.
The Other Side of the Wind will open in select theaters, and be available on Netflix, on November 2nd. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.