Mark Cousins, director of Cannes Classics hit The Eyes Of Orson Welles, would be a distinctive character even if he wasn’t a respected filmmaker, writer and historian—his body is emblazoned with tattooed tributes to the artists and thinkers who have shaped his outlook on life: Paul Cézanne, Marie Curie, Albrecht Dürer, Le Corbusier and Virginia Woolf, to name but a few. Two years ago, he had another added—an homage to Citizen Kane director Orson Welles, on his arm—and after a chance meeting he began to wonder if he might regret it.
“I was in Traverse City [Michigan] for the film festival,” Cousins told me at the Deadline studio in Cannes, “which is Michael Moore’s film festival. Beatrice Welles, Orson Welles’ daughter was there, and I asked if I could meet her.” As soon as he’d asked, Cousins remembered the tattoo. “I was a bit embarrassed,” he admitted. “I thought it was a bit childish so I covered it up.” Nevertheless, the meeting went surprisingly well. “It turned out she had seen some of my films, and after a Martini or two she said, ‘Would you consider making a film about my father?’ I said, ‘Well, he’s not only your dad, he’s all of our dads, in a way.’ It was scary, but I thought ‘Yeah, I probably can give it a go.’”
Initially, he revealed, Cousins wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. “I thought, ‘We don’t need another Orson Welles film. The world doesn’t need [another] Orson Welles film. But then I saw some of his drawings and paintings. He drew constantly. He drew when he wasn’t making his films and I thought, ‘Wow! This is another way into the imagination of Orson Welles.’ [And that was what made me think], ‘Actually, there is more to say about Orson Welles.’”
Inevitably, our talk soon turned to the subject of the restoration of Welles’s final film, The Other Side Of The Wind, which was denied the Cannes film festival in the fallout from the disagreement with Netflix, who own the rights. Cousins said that he hadn’t seen it yet. “I’m hearing rumors that it’s good, but they’re just rumors,” he noted. “I would have loved to have been in that edit suite, with all those people, those aficionados of Welles, and those colleagues of Welles, in there, trying to work out, ‘What would he have done with this scene? How would he have scored this film? How fast would it have been cut? [But] on the fact the The Other Side of the Wind is not in Cannes, I think that’s a disappointment, and I think that, looking back, once the dust settles, both sides will realize that The Other Side of the Wind really should have been in Cannes.”
To view our conversation with The Eyes of Orson Welles director Mark Cousins at Cannes, click above.