What Orson Welles' On-Set Behavior Was Really Like

Orson Welles was one of Hollywood's most momentous and acclaimed personalities. His debut cinematic masterpiece "Citizen Kane" is often distinguished by critics and viewers as the greatest film ever made (via Screen Rant).

Some recall his infamous 1938 dramatization of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" over radio broadcasts that sent listeners into a cyclonic panic, many of whom believed that the harrowing description of an alien invasion was actually happening (per Biography). His history is peppered with little anecdotes of the sort that shaped him as the unique and quirky entity that Hollywood and movie fans revere.

Following the notorious radio broadcast, Hollywood developed a fascination with Welles and commissioned him for a movie project. Long story short, "Kane" hit screens and the actor/director was skyrocketed into stardom. He'd go on to direct and star in numerous projects, most of which paled in comparison to "Citizen Kane" (via Biography). Everyone has a story, and Welles' is often recalled through a prism of scrutinous controversy.

Welles on set

As a director and an actor, Welles was more often than not very difficult to work with. Welles biographer Simon Callow explains: "He was deeply insecure about his own acting. He wanted to send the actors away and then he would shoot his own scenes. No one would be there except the camera crew" (via Variety). In short, he was stubborn and particular. Some might equate it with being a "tortured artist," but it wasn't uncharacteristic of Welles to extend those torturous tendencies to others.

While shooting a commercial for frozen peas on behalf of the Swedish food brand Fidus, Welles was hired as the narrator. The audio engineer requested that he do a second take on one of the lines, which apparently was enough to send the actor into an unpleasant tizzy. He shot back with, "Look, I'm not used to having more than one person in there. One more word out of you and you go! Is that clear? I take directions from one person, under protest. Who the hell are you, anyway?" (per Mashed). Despite a predisposition for short-temperedness and unforecastable outbursts, Welles remains one of the most celebrated individuals in Hollywood history.