Q. What was Welles like to work with?
Carol Reed: Wonderful! Marvelous!
Q. He didn’t try to direct himself?
Reed: He was difficult only about the starting date, telling me how busy he was with this & that. So I said, “Look, we’re going on location five weeks. Any week - give us two days notice, we’ll be ready for you. And give me one week out of seven in the studio.” He kept to it. He came straight off the train in Vienna one morning, and we did his first shot by nine o’clock. “Jeez,” he said, “this is the way to make pictures!” He walked across the Prater, said two lines to [co-star Joseph] Cotten, and then I said, “Go back to the hotel, have breakfast; we’re going into the sewers, and we’ll send for you.” “Great! Wonderful!”
He comes down into the sewers and says, “Carol, I can’t play this part!” “What’s the matter?” “I can’t do it. I can’t work in a sewer. I come from California! My throat! I’m so cold!” I said, “Look. Orson, in the time it’s taking us to talk about this, you can do the shot. All you do is stand there, look off and see some police after you, turn, and run away.” “Carol,” he said, “Look, get someone else to play this. I cannot work under such conditions. “Orson, Orson, we’re lit for you. Just stand there.” “All right, but do it quick!” Then he looks off, turns away, and runs off into the sewers. Then all of a sudden I hear a voice shouting. “Don’t cut the cameras! Don’t cut the cameras! I’m coming back!”
He runs back, through the whole river, stands underneath a cascade over his head - this out of camera range, mind you! - and does all sorts of things, so that he came away absolutely dripping. “How was that?” he asks. “Wonderful Marvelous!” I said. “Okay. I’ll be back at the hotel. Call me when you need me.”
With Orson you know, everything has to be a drama. But there were no arguments of any sort at all.
-1972, excerpted from Charles Thomas Samuel’s Encountering Directors