Before his sudden death in 1985, Orson Welles and fellow director Henry Jaglom recorded their conversations over regular lunches, intending to use the material for an autobiography. But after the legendary director's death, the tapes were put into storage in a friend’s garage for years, until they were rediscovered and edited by Peter Biskind for the upcoming My Lunches With Orson. The book features transcripts of conversations ranging from Welles musing on career highs and lows to discussing political friends to gossiping extensively about Hollywood.
Some of that last bit has been excerpted in a new Guardian article where you'll find out that, according to Welles, Laurence Olivier was “stupid,” Spencer Tracy was “hateful,” Charlie Chaplin was “arrogant” (perhaps best to let the irony of that sink in a bit), James Stewart was a “bad actor,” and Norma Shearer was “one of the most minimally talented ladies to appear on the silver screen.” The tapes capture “the great director unplugged, free to be irreverent and worse—sexist, homophobic, racist, or none of the above.”
The virulent criticism didn’t extend to everyone Welles knew. He reserves praise for his Third Man costar Joseph Cotten—whom he called “brilliant”—and praised the polite manners of John Wayne. And he wasn’t above being completely contradictory, lambasting Richard Burton by saying he “had great talent [but] ruined his great gifts. He’s become a joke with a celebrity wife. Now he just works for money, does the worst shit.” (You know, as opposed to having the integrity to get wasted on the set of a commercial for cheap California wine.) My Lunches With Orson hits shelves on July 16th.