An Orson Welles Wannabe Responds
May 15, 2008 Leave a comment
I got some cool comments on my post A Birthday Tribute To Orson Welles With 10 Welles Wannabes (May 5, 2008) but the one that really takes the cake is from one of the Orsons – #10. Jean Guérin to be exact. I had written that I could find very little info about Guérin’s 2 performances of Welles in HEAVENLY CREATURES and LA VENGEANCE DE LA FEMME EN NOIR so it is great to get it right from the source. Here’s what he wrote along with a few great photos he sent along as well:
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jean Guérin. I am a film teacher/writer/actor residing in Montreal, Canada.
Recently, I was alerted to your blog’s posting regarding fake Orsons where I made #10.
Thank you for giving me credit. A recently published book states that Peter Jackson used computer technology to bring Orson back to life. Seems I don’t exist but am some sort of virtual construct.
Coincidentally, this pic was taken on OW’s birthday 15 years ago.
Creatures was a silent part in a fantasy sequence. Jackson & Walsh recruited me at a film festival in Montreal, where I had volunteered to drive them around. I wasn’t an actor at the time. I got teased a lot in film school about my resemblance to OW but hadn’t heard it in a few years until Fran Walsh brought it up. Originally, the plan was to pull OW out of footage of The Third Man but PJ found himself limited in his action choices.Our chance meeting not only saved the scene but enabled Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh to play with it and expand on it.
The scene involves notorious teenage lesbian schoolgirl murderers Parker and Hulme, played by Kate Winslet and Melanie Linskey going to see The Third Man and pretending Orson is stalking them outside the theatre. They run home where Mel morphs into Orson and seduces Kate (technically making me the first guy to kiss Kate Winslet in a movie).
In order to further the illusion, PJ made OW “monochrome” and shot close-ups of me to substitute for those of OW in the Third Man footage. As a film buff, this was totally cool. Especially when I got to shoot “M” (Bernard Lee).
The subterfuge worked. At the 1994 Venice film festival , Robert Zemeckis approached PJ to ask him how he managed to do the reverse of what he had done in Forest Gump. It was an ice breaker which led to RZ producing PJ’s next feature, The Frighteners.
The best part of working on the film is that no one believes it. On occasion, I do get a student inquiring if it’s me and I tend to brush it off by saying “I get that a lot”.
I do get a great kick out of mentioning the movie in a context where people think I’m joking and/or won’t believe me. “The director of Lord of the Rings flew me to New-Zealand to play Orson Welles in a lesbian love scene with Kate Winslet”. When you phrase it like that- who would?
As a lifelong Orson buff, this remains one of the best experiences of my life.
The same cannot be said of my other Orson portrayal.
Again, Orson is used as a figment of the character’s imagination. In the film,the main character Marleau (Germain Houde), imagines his conscience (himself) talking to him. In the climax, his conscience abandons him, leaving “Harry Lime” in his place. It was supposed to explain the character’s change of heart in the unfilmed sequel. Only a few people got the reference , and even then, it’s because the director explained it to them personally. The film is full of visual references to classic film noirs which are wasted in this broad humour farce.
The film is in French. Despite doing a really good Orson voice (deviated septum and all), I was re-dubbed over because Welles’ real voice is not familiar to French speaking audiences. The result is awful, with Orson sounding Haitian. The director has since apologized for the choice but the damage is done and the scene is a cringer- especially to Orson buffs.
Fortunately, the film played less than a week theatrically and was never released on DVD. It does show up on late-night cable in Quebec from time to time to haunt me.
On the practical side, it allowed me to break into the local actor’s union.
However, it does give me the distinction of having played OW twice and in two languages.
I actually played OW a third time on a segment of a local magazine show where I finally got to do the voice.
Hope this was informative or at least entertaining.
Wow, that indeed was incredibly informative and extremely entertaining! I emailed Mr. Guérin to thank him for writing and ask for his permission to post it here which he nicely allowed. He also added that in the color photo above he had “prosthetic makeup on this film which made me look more like Karl Malden as the day progressed. The New Zealand make-up artist did way better with stage makeup than all that rubber.”
Man, what it takes to recreate Welles!