Random Notes

Meet Bob Random, star of Orson Welles’ long-lost last film

Film Interview | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Other Side of the Wind
Now playing
Netflix

Somewhat quietly, one of cinema’s biggest legends has been solved courtesy of Netflix. Orson Welles’ lost film, The Other Side of the Wind, has finally been completed — 42 years after the shooting ended.

As with any good Welles’ movie, the making of The Other Side of the Wind was a convoluted affair. It took six years, filming was suspended often due to lack of funding and Orson disappeared from set frequently, without notice. The mercurial filmmaker came up with new ideas as he went along. Frankly it’s amazing that a cohesive piece of work came out of all that. Thank goodness Welles took very detailed notes.

The Other Side of the Wind is a drama with autobiographical elements. The film revolves around Jake Hannaford (John Huston), a famously difficult and uncompromising director trying to screen his latest film to a fawning court of friends, journalists and sycophants including another filmmaker (a young Peter Bogdanovich). The studio has grown tired of Hannaford’s antics and this could be his last movie. Ha. Sound familar?

The screening is frequently interrupted by circumstances — pauses that let Hannaford’s associates and acquaintances to show their true colors, and for the artist to demonstrate his contempt for them, the industry and for himself.

There’s also a movie-within-a-movie, an unfinished erotic thriller featuring John Dale (Bob Random), a drifter Hannaford convinced to star in his movie in exchange for a car, and a woman known as “the actress” (Oja Kodar, Welles’ partner at the time), who spends most of the film in the nude. The film is a send-up of New Hollywood and European arthouse cinema, both high on ambience and low in coherence.

The Other Side of the Wind is getting mixed reviews. Some critics argue the idea of the film beats the reality of it. Others highlight Orson Welles’ evolving, proto-MTV directorial style.

While most of the names involved with the movie are gone, one of them is enjoying his retirement in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia. Bob Random’s last screen credit was as an outlaw biker in Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War in 1990. Or it was, until The Other Side of the Wind was finally released three weeks ago. I reached Random via e-mail.

What was your first reaction upon finally watching The Other Side of the Wind?

It’s about time!

For a film with so many Hollywood bigwigs, it must be nice to appear on the credits as “with Bob Random as John Dale”. Was the “with” negotiated in your contract?

No. Orson told me he was going to bill me as “introducing Bob Random”. Clearly, that didn’t happen… and in any case, the introduction took a very long time.

How was the role first presented to you? Does it resemble the final product?

He said “I want you to be in my next movie. You’ll be riding a motorcycle, but don’t worry, I’ll get you a Honda.” I took the $2,000 that he paid me in advance, went straight out and bought a Triumph and called him to say I had a motorcycle. I was not going to be seen in Orson’s movie on a Honda. It’s a biker-guy thing.

I understand your footage was shot from September to December 1970. Considering the film went on shooting until 1976, were you asked to be available at a moment’s notice?

No. Once my three months of shooting were done, I was never called back.

Considering your experience working on film and TV, how was Orson Welles directing style different from other directors you worked with?

Refreshingly spontaneous. There was no script and no dialogue, so he would just yell out to me while we were shooting: “Courageously now, Bob,” “Okay Bob, you see the girl but you don’t quite know what to do”, should you follow her or wait to see what she does?” Bullshit like that.

Were any of the actors fed up with Welles free-wheeling style, or they were on the same page as Orson?

The only other actors I worked with were Oja and the guy driving the car in the rainy sex scene. We were having a great time.

Peter Bogdanovich came back for a short intro at the beginning of the film. Were you asked to participate in any way?

No.

I understand you’re friends with Bogdanovich. Have you heard from him recently?

Another no.

In another interview you mentioned you had a balance of $8,000 to be paid after the release of The Other Side of the Wind. Did you get paid?

No number three.

Are you going to pursue your payment? You have a good case…

No, don’t think I’ll be pursuing more money. It would probably be a lost cause.

When push comes to shove, I don’t really care because it was all worth it, to work with Orson.

How would you say making The Other Side of the Wind affected your career?

It was a wonderful conversation piece.