Synopses & Reviews
Based on long-lost recordings, a set of riveting and revealing conversations with Americas great cultural provocateur.
There have long been rumors of a lost cache of tapes containing private conversations between Orson Welles and his friend the director Henry Jaglom, recorded over regular lunches in the years before Welles died. The tapes, gathering dust in a garage, did indeed exist, and this book reveals for the first time what they contain.
Here is Welles as he has never been seen before: talking intimately, disclosing personal secrets, reflecting on the highs and lows of his astonishing career, the people he knew — FDR, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Laurence Olivier, David Selznick, Rita Hayworth, and more — and the many disappointments of his last years. This is the great director unplugged, free to be irreverent and worse — sexist, homophobic, racist, or none of the above — because he was nothing if not a fabulator and provocateur. Ranging from politics to literature to the shortcomings of his friends and the many films he was still eager to launch, Welles is at once cynical and romantic, sentimental and raunchy, but never boring and always wickedly funny.
Edited by Peter Biskind, America's foremost film historian, My Lunches with Orson reveals one of the giants of the twentieth century, a man struggling with reversals, bitter and angry, desperate for one last triumph, but crackling with wit and a restless intelligence. This is as close as we will get to the real Welles — if such a creature ever existed.
“Welles was obviously uninhibited by the invisible tape recorder. The book is a trove of classic-era Hollywood gossip, but if it were only that, it would be, at best, candy. Instead, its a treasure, both as a portrait of the artist and as a copious record of his ideas — it is, in fact, a key source for understanding Welles, the director and the man.” The New Yorker
“If it wasn't bad enough that I — and every other director — have to compete historically with Orson as a filmmaker, now we have to compete with him as a pure storyteller and a true raconteur, a man whose breadth of knowledge and experience may never be equaled again in this industry. The good news is that his declamations on every subject are alternatively penetrating, illuminating, shocking, rude, funny, true, or all of the above. I read this in one sitting; I cant imagine anyone doing otherwise.” Steven Soderbergh, director of Side Effects
“It's time to add another line of adjectives to our descriptions of Orson Welles. In this remarkable collection of conversations, we come upon Welles the conversationalist provocateur who cant open his mouth without saying something outrageously funny, fiercely opinionated, and always off-center about the men and women he claims to have known, played with, worked for, slept with, been courted and betrayed by, and admired or detested (often simultaneously) during his half century in show business. I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack.” David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch
About the Author
Peter Biskind is the acclaimed author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Down and Dirty Pictures, and Star, among other books. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, and Rolling Stone. He is the former executive editor of Premiere and the former editor in chief of American Film, and is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. He lives in upstate New York.