Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with Chris Welles Feder



 Daughter of the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles, Christopher Welles Feder talks with TV STORE ONLINE about her portrait of her father in her 2009 book In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles...

 TV STORE ONLINE:   You worked on your book In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles [Algonquin Books] for quite a few years before it was published...I was wondering if you ever experienced any disconnect as the writer of the book even though Orson was your father?

WELLES FEDER:   Well, I think I had to step back in a sense.  I couldn't have written this book when I was younger because I needed that time to gain some perspective on our relationship as well as his death.   It took me six years to write the book.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What is your first memory of Orson from when you were a kid?

WELLES FEDER:   I talk a bit about it in the very beginning of the book, and it's when my father put on a magic show in Hollywood for the troops.  At his own expense he put on a magic show to entertain some troops who were on their way over to the Pacific during World War II.  I was mesmerized by all of his magic tricks as a kid.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In your book you talk about the strong connection you felt between yourself and your father, yet there are a couple insinuations that are made by your mother and I think one of your childhood schoolteachers that your relationship with him was similar to that shared between two lovers...

WELLES FEDER:  (Laughing)  Before I talk about that, I was want to remind people that my book is about how I came out from my father's shadow and about the journey I took to come to terms with having such a famous parent and how I made a life and name for myself in my own right.  When I was a teenager, I just had this tremendous crush on my dad.  It wasn't like I actually grew up with him.  I only got to see him on  school vacations.   At that point, he was a very glamorous figure to me and I saw him for that through very romantic glasses.  He was just a romantic figure that dropped in and out of my life as I was growing up.  He wasn't around to take me to the dentist or to help me with my homework.  That was what people were picking up on about that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of the things that I like about the book is the inner dialogue you present the reader with...It's heartbreaking to read about the situation where you wanted desperately to be invited to live with your father full-time, yet you never spoke up to ask him if you could live with him...I was wondering if you never spoke up because of the possibility of being disappointed in his answer?

WELLES FEDER:   Yes, you're absolutely right.  Of course I wanted to ask him if I could, but it would have been impossible because he was living hand-to-mouth by then and he was living in hotels traveling around Europe trying to get his films made.  It would have been impossible for him to support me or anyone else at that time in his life.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can you imagine living that way?

WELLES FEDER:  Well, his whole life was making movies.   That was his passion, that was what he lived for. I think he liked living in hotels.  He didn't have attachments to one place or to any people.   That's the way may creative people are.  They are focused only on their art.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The most heartbreaking and moving moment in the book is in the chapter where you reconnect with Orson for the first time after many years of not seeing him in Hong Kong...

WELLES FEDER:  I think that he had become even in private-Orson Welles by then.  There was Orson Welles-the man you saw on television-and then there was my father, the man in private.  We stopped talking to each other because there was a point where that Orson Welles, who you would see talking to a journalist on television, became the man who you saw in private.   I  think that period in his life was a very difficult time for him to maintain personal relationships.   It was difficult for me at the time to understand, but I've since come to terms with it all.

Actress Rita Hayworth (L) Chris Welles (C) Orson Welles (R)
TV STORE ONLINE:   The way your Mother acts...You try to explain it throughout the book,  but I was curious to see what aspects of your personality today do you think stem from her or from your father?

WELLES FEDER:  Well, I think I've modeled myself on my father much more. I've been told that I share some of his personality traits.  He was always upbeat.  He was always optimistic.  I've chosen to be a writer and to live a creative life.  He was my model and my inspiration.

TV STORE ONLINE:  If your parents were alive today....How do you think that they would've responded to your book?

WELLES FEDER:  I don't think either of them would be very pleased.  I was honest about who my mother was in the book.  She wasn't very kind to me.  I think she would have been offended by my honesty.  My father loved to re-invent himself, and how Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the Wizard in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), I think he would have been disconcerted because I show him the way he really was, when he liked to present himself as if he was his own invention.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In the book you mention how you discovered certain aspects of father through his work...I was wondering if you could talk a bit about that?

WELLES FEDER:  I think that when I began to discover his films, and discover the artistry in them...It helped me to make my peace with it all.    A kid, when they're growing up doesn't want a genius.  They want a father, and by discovering his films it really gave me peace, in that, while he couldn't be the father that I wanted him to be-he left these amazing treasures for the world.  It's very consoling.   I am very proud to be his daughter for that reason.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
In My Father's Shadow can be purchased via Amazon HERE.