Oja Kodar Biography

(Croatian Actress and Partner of Director Orson Welles)

Born: 1941

Born In: Zagreb, Croatia

Oja Kodar is a Croatian actor, screenwriter, and producer, best known for her relationship with American film director Orson Welles. She was quite young when she had met Welles for the first time. Back then, he was already married. Their affair blossomed during the later years of his life. She has worked in many of Welles's unfinished projects. She has also collaborated with Welles in projects such as 'The Deep,' 'F for Fake,' 'The Dreamers,' and 'Don Quixote.' However, she came under the spotlight for the unfinished project 'The Other Side of the Wind.' The project was delayed for years for many reasons. Her association with the project has also been highly criticized. Kodar has a couple of independent credits, too. Kodar and Welles did not get married to each other, but she has inherited a substantial portion of his estate.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Olga Palinkaš

Age: 82 Years, 82 Year Old Females

Born Country: Croatia/hrvatska

Actresses Screenwriters

Ancestry: Hungarian Croatian

Early Life & Career
Oja Kodar was born Olga Palinkaš, in 1941, in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, to a Hungarian father and a Croatian mother.
In 1966, Kodar and her lover, American filmmaker Orson Welles, began shooting 'The Deep' on the Yugoslav coast. He had cast her in one of the lead roles in the project. It was an adaption of Charles Williams's novel 'Dead Calm.'
Welles wanted the film to be a commercially viable project. He worked on the film from 1966 to 1969, but the film got shelved due to financial and technical difficulties.
Decades later, Kodar blamed co-star Jeanne Moreau for the fate of the project. She said that Moreau had never wanted the film to be completed and had thus not dubbed her lines. On the other hand, film editor Mauro Bonanni claimed that it was Welles who had to abandon the project, as he had found Kodar ill-suited for her role.
Since the original negative of 'The Deep' was lost forever, one color and one black-and-white print, the only available versions, were later used by the 'Munich Film Museum' to create another version.
In 1970, Welles began shooting his experimental feature 'The Other Side of the Wind' (TOSOTW). Kodar claimed that she had co-written the screenplay of the project with Welles. However, the project first surfaced in the 1960s, when Welles planned to cast Keith Baxter and Anthony Perkins in the lead roles.
Welles had used elements such as the unconventional mockumentary style, a film-within-a-film narrative, with color and black-and-white footages that would have made the project "the Holy Grail of cinema," if it were released in its original form. The original cut included an intimate scene between Kodar and Bob Random in a station wagon.
Welles intermittently worked on the project throughout the 1970s, but it eventually got shelved due to legal, financial, and political issues. However, even after he died in 1985, several attempts were made to restart the unfinished project.
After a failed deal with producers Filip Jan Rymsza and Frank Marshall, 'Royal Road' received the rights of the film in 2014. The movie was completed under the direction of Bogdanovich and was produced by Marshall. The film premiered at the 75th 'Venice International Film Festival' on August 31, 2018. It was also released on 'Netflix' in November that year. Along with Kodar, the film starred John Huston, Bob Random, Peter Bogdanovich, and Susan Strasberg. The film received critical acclaim.
Kodar also co-wrote the 1973 free-form documentary 'F for Fake,' with Welles, though she remained uncredited as a writer. They also starred in the film (as themselves), alongside François Reichenbach, Elmyr de Hory, and Gary Graver. Initially released in 1974, the film included documented stories on Welles and Kodar's life as a couple. The film initially received negative reviews but eventually became a classic because of its exceptionally unique editing techniques.
In 1980, Kodar and Welles wrote the feature 'The Dreamers,' based on two of Karen Blixen's stories, 'The Dreamers’ and ‘Echoes.' She was cast in the lead role and had shot the test scenes in 1982. Unfortunately, the producers, 'Northstar Productions,' declined the project after reading the script.
The 'Munich Film Museum' later edited the footage and made it into a short film. The first segment of the footage portrayed Welles as a 19th-century Dutch Jewish merchant recounting the story of the Italian opera diva 'Pellegrina Leoni.' Kodar played 'Leoni' in the second segment, which was shot in color. Many of her sequences were shot outdoors, in the garden of Welles's home.
Kodar later recalled that Welles had contemplated casting Timothy Dalton, Peter Ustinov, Oliver Reed, Bud Cort, and Jeanne Moreau in the key roles. However, he primarily wanted younger and lesser-known British actors.
Three months after Welles's death, Australian producer George Miller bought the book rights of 'Dead Calm' from Kodar, for his 1989 film of the same name. Unfortunately, the contract was later canceled due to her issues with the producer.
Kodar's first film as a director, ‘Jaded,’ was released in 1989. She co-produced the film with cameramen Gary Graver (one of the cameramen of 'F for Fake'), who also worked as the director of photography. She also starred in the film alongside Randall Brady, Elizabeth Brooks, Scott Kaske, Jillian Kesner, and Kelli Maroney.
Under Kodar's supervision, Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco assembled unedited footage of Welles's film 'Don Quixote' and decided to release the film in 1992. The film received poor reviews. The project was initially supposed to be a TV movie for ‘CBS,’ titled 'Don Quixote Passes By,' a literal adaptation of the Miguel de Cervantes novel.
Kodar's second directorial venture was the 1993 war drama 'Vrijeme za...,' set against the backdrop of the 1991–1995 Croatian War. She is credited as the co-director and co-writer of the 1995 German–French documentary 'Orson Welles: The One-Man Band,' featuring a compilation of Welles's unused footage shot over the final 20 years of his career. The compilation also includes her interview in Orvilliers, France, where she and Welles shared a house.
Included on 'The Criterion Collection' DVD of 'F for Fake,' the documentary talked about Kodar and Welles's three unfinished films. It also presented the media reports that claimed that ‘TOSOTW’ was scheduled to release in 2008.
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In the Media
In April 2015, Josh Karp's book 'Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind' was released. The book used statements of the people involved in the unfinished project and portrayed Kodar in a bad light. It claimed that she had made attempts, such as making false commitments, leading investors to fight among themselves, looking for better deals in secret, and turning her back to the film at critical junctures, to hamper the progress of the film.
The Boushehri family, a co-owner of the film, later issued a legal notice against Kodar for purposely delaying the deal.
However, editor Bob Murawski had different things to say about Kodar. He had apparently found her supportive and stated that Kodar had even suggested valuable changes after watching a rough cut of the film in early 2018. Unfortunately, due to her health issues, she could not attend the film's premiere at the ‘Venice Film Festival’ in 1991. She acknowledged and appreciated the makers of the film through a letter.
Welles's family first learned that Kodar's actions had led to ‘TOSOTW’ getting shelved through Joseph McBride's book titled 'What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career.' Reportedly, she and Peter Bogdanovich had sacked McBride, who had mediated a deal with 'Showtime' to finish the project in 1999.
On April 21, 2015, Welles's 'Last Movie' was released. It detailed the film's troubled past and Kodar's role as an obstacle.
She kept herself away from a crowd-funding campaign to get the film finished. Kodar also did not participate in the May 2015 interviews to support ‘TOSOTW.’
On May 9, 2015, she deliberately missed to mention the project while delivering a speech in Woodstock, Illinois.
On June 8 that year, Kodar avoided mentioning anything regarding ‘TOSOTW’ at an event at the 'University of Michigan' symposium. The participants told the “Wellesnetters” that neither did she want to discuss the movie nor did she want the producers to participate in any public event to discuss the same.
In July 2015, some sources suggested that she had refused to honor a previously agreed-upon deal, to accept payment, and to offer a green signal to the release of the negative.

Her Relationship with Welles
Kodar met Welles in 1961, on the sets of his film 'The Trial.' Back then, he was 46 and still married to his third wife, Paola Mori. Despite that, Welles was immediately drawn toward the much-younger Kodar. According to reports, when they met again in 1966, he gave her a letter that he had written after their first meet but had never posted.
The two soon began a relationship, and Welles gave Kodar her stage name, ''Oja Kodar,'' a combination of her nickname, ''Oja'' (given by her sister Nina), and the Croatian phrase "k' o dar" (meaning ''as a present").
Their relationship was made public in March 1970 and was immediately all over the Italian media. However, interestingly, Welles's third wife, Mori, had no idea about the affair until 1984. Welles, who was then working on 'Don Quixote,' was infuriated with the news and thus left Italy for good, returning to America.
In his final years, Welles spent time with Kodar at his Hollywood house. He also gave adequate time to Mori, who lived in Las Vegas.
Welles died on October 10, 1985, and Mori died 10 months later, in an accident while she was on her way to a meeting for the distribution of his property. His estate was distributed between Kodar, and his daughter with Mori, Beatrice Welles, on November 7, 1986.

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