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Five Minutes, Mr. Welles

Five Minutes Mr. Welles

For years now I've been searching for a print of this rumored short film written and directed by Vincent D'Onofrio about the conception of Orson Welles's most famous line in the film The Third Man. It only screened on the festival circuit and wasn't available on DVD, so I had resigned myself to having missed this one for good. This morning, however, I finally stumbled across it online:

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Me, Orson Welles, and Zac Efron

Anne Thompson says Efron makes good in Me and Orson Welles. Her opinion is generally good enough for me.

Me and Orson Welles

Unless you're a dedicated Wellesian film buff like I am, or a tween madly in love with High School Musical star Zac Efron (I don't think I have too many of either running around here), you might not have heard about the forthcoming film based on the novel with the same title, Me and Orson Welles. I hadn't even heard of it until last week, and, once I calmed myself down from the searing panic that resulted from the mention of the teen idol Efron and Welles in the same sentence, I decided to educate myself - first, by reading the original novel.

I'm only partially done with it as this point, but I can say this much - it's a fun story, and perfectly suited to the screen. In fact, the author writes in such a cinematic fashion that he should have skipped the book and just wrote it as a screenplay. Based on the story alone, it should make a great movie. (Bonus - you can read some of it online.)

As unimpressed as I am with Efron, however, I am incredibly impressed with the choice to play the man himself (Welles, of course) - Christian McKay. (Link goes to his IMDB page, because while he does have a website, it only seems to work in Internet Explorer, which means, to us design/standard/OS freaks, it doesn't exist. Sorry, little website. Get some Firefox support, and then we'll talk.) Anyway, McKay, as I learned from this interview, starred in his company's production of Rosebud, a one-man performance chronicling the life of Orson Welles. Not only, by all accounts I found online, did he give a tremendous performance, but he did quite a bit of research on Welles. He seems to have a deep understanding of the director, and a desire to wrest the American image of the director away from the apparent despair of his later years - all of which means I'm already a fan, and already convinced he's going to do a great job with the movie role.

I have to agree with some other critics, though, that the choice of Richard Linklater to direct seems an odd one. Don't get me wrong - I love Linklater, and I'll even defend School of Rock against the most vicious of "selling-out" claims. But he is the last director I would have chosen for this particular project. On the other hand, one of things I admire about his work is his willingness to take chances on material, and, in that light, I think he'll surprise me and everyone else.

As for teen idol? Maybe the fact that I haven't exactly seen High School Musical should stop me from making snide comments about his acting. Unfortunately for him, it takes a hell of lot more than that to stop me from making snide comments. That's why I have a blog in the first place. And I'm irritated that the news about this film is getting passed around as nothing but "Zac Efron's Next Role." Whatever. Just don't mess anything up and we'll be fine, okay, Efron?

Ed Wood

Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Cinematical's current "Retro Cinema" edition is the Halloween-appropriate Ed Wood.

I love Ed Wood. Not only it is Tim Burton's sad, quirky sweetness at its best, it folds in classic B horror movies, filmmaking, and Orson Welles references - all three areas of particular interest to me.

Other notes:

  • This was also one of the first of latter-day Bill Murray's smaller, stranger roles (as the transvestite Bunny Breckenridge) which would later become de rigeur for him via directors like Wes Anderson. I think he's priceless in that mode.
  • Although the film purports to be the "true story of Ed Wood," it does take more than a few liberties. This is worth mentioning because the sparse attendance of Bela Lugosi's funeral in the film has little in common with the crowd that actually showed up for Lugosi's funeral - including other horror stars Peter Lorre and Vincent Price. Legend has it that Lorre asked Price if they should stick a stake in Lugosi's heart, just to be sure.
  • In an entirely fictionalized but delightfully cheesy key moment, Ed meets an aging Orson Welles in a bar. Welles is played by Vincent D'Onofrio and voiced by Pinky and the Brain actor Maurice LaMarche, which combined is about the most awesome Welles impression ever. D'Onofrio, however, was apparently dissatisfied with his work and took another stab at Welles by playing him in another short film that he also directed, Five Minutes, Mr. Welles. This short has long been at the top my list of films to get a hold of, but since it only ran the festival circuit and isn't on DVD, I'm probably out of luck.