Orson Welles On Hollywood, 8 Days Before He Died

Orson Welles was considered a genius a child—and went on to write, direct, and star in one of the greatest movies of all time, Citizen Kane. But by the end of his life he was considered a “joke” by many…forced to work in B-movies and commercials in order to fund his movies.

In this 1985 interview, Welles talks about Hollywood—which he referred to as a “snake pit”—and his regrets. He would die 8 days later at the age of 70.

Welles: My first picture would never have been made—never in a million years—if the producer had lived in Hollywood, and had any knowledge about Hollywood. It was a total accident, a total piece of luck; like winning the lottery, $600,000 from a quarter in a jackpot. And it couldn’t go on and I knew that.

Interviewer: Well you’ve been quoted as saying, “we live here in Hollywood in a snake-pit.

Welles: Oh yes. Well I’ve always hated Hollywood—but I hate almost everything in the modern world. And Hollywood is simply the most pleasant place to live in left.

Interviewer: You’ve been quoted as saying, “I never should have stayed in this business, because it’s ridiculous.”

Welles: I shouldn’t have.

Interviewer: What else would you have done?

Welles: I had a lot of options open; everybody does. Anybody who has enough sense to make a movie, can make a lot of other things. And I should have finished right away, because I saw right at the beginning, that the odds…you know, it’s like the two zeroes in the wheel in Vegas. The odds are against the player here, and are by the nature of movie-making. What’s wrong with this place is that it’s a marketplace; and the marketplace is always the enemy of the artist.

Interviewer: As an artist, do you feel you have no place here in Hollywood?

Welles: Not no place, but if they don’t like what you do really…I was going to show them that they were wrong. And I’ve spent the rest of my life “showing” people, trying to “prove” that what they said was wrong—and that’s been an enormous waste of spirit, and of energy.