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Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2014)

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A look at the life and work of the great theatre, radio and film artist.


Chuck Workman
2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Orson Welles ... Himself (archive footage)
Simon Callow ... Himself
Christopher Welles Christopher Welles ... Herself (as Christopher Welles Feder)
Joanne Hill Styles Joanne Hill Styles ... Herself
Norman Lloyd ... Himself
Micheál MacLiammóir ... Himself (archive footage)
Ruth Ford ... Herself (archive footage)
Julie Taymor ... Herself
Paolo Cherchi Usai Paolo Cherchi Usai ... Himself
Norman Corwin ... Himself (archive footage)
Peter Bogdanovich ... Himself
James Naremore James Naremore ... Himself
William Alland William Alland ... Himself (archive footage)
Reggie Armour Reggie Armour ... Himself (archive footage)
Steven Spielberg ... Himself


Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles looks at the remarkable genius of Orson Welles on the eve of his centenary - the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director (for some a Hollywood failure), and a crucially important independent filmmaker. Orson Welles's life was magical: a musical prodigy at age 10, a director of Shakespeare at 14, a painter at 16, a star of stage and radio at 20, romances with some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Rita Hayworth. His work was similarly extraordinary, most notably Citizen Kane, (considered by many to be the most important movie ever made), created by Welles when he was only 25. In the years following Citizen Kane, Welles's career continued to change as he made film after film (some never finished, many dismissed) and acted in other projects often to earn money in order to keep making his own films. Magician features scenes from almost every existing Welles film, from Hearts of Age, (which he ... Written by Anonymous

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief language, some suggestive images/nudity and smoking | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 November 2015 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Il mago - L'incredibile vita di Orson Welles See more »


Box Office


$813,505 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,130, 12 December 2014, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$15,528, 19 December 2014
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (theatrical)


Color (Black & White and Color)
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Did You Know?


When the paternity of Welles's alleged son is mentioned, one of the photographs which is shown and purported to be of Welles is actually a photograph of Vincent D'Onofrio, who played Welles in Ed Wood. See more »


Features Journey Into Fear (1943) See more »

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User Reviews

Fascinating insight into one of the most original artists in history.
8 October 2017 | by alexanderdavies-99382See all my reviews

In spite of what another reviewer thinks, I found "Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles" to be an engrossing and fascinating documentary on one of cinema's most original artists. It is the ideal tribute in celebrating 100 years after Orson Welles was born. The interviews offer some insight into the man as well as the director and actor and the contribution from Welles biographer and actor Simon Callow is especially valuable. From the time Orson Welles decided on a career in showbusiness, he was destined to do things his way by being an individualist. Part of this may have been down to his being a Democrat and that his mother was politically very active in helping to establish women's rights. Welles was the kind of artist who would sacrifice his principles for no one, certainly not with his directing career. All this is shown via Welles' infamous clashes with "R.K.O" over his first two movies, "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons" and how Hollywood deemed the director to be virtually unemployable by the end of the 1940s. I enjoyed the section about Welles' career in radio where he created "The Mercury Theatre" which was dedicated to producing dramas of the highest quality (which they did). The discussion over the production of "War of the Worlds" is probably the career highlight for Welles as far as the medium of radio is concerned. It was a pity that Orson Welles couldn't make his version of the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. Such a film would have been the equal of "Citizen Kane" in terms of sheer cinematic value and influence. The documentary reveals that "R.K.O" insisted to Welles that he reduce the budget for his forthcoming movie "Heart of Darkness" by so much. After the director told the studio that this couldn't be done, the project was shelved indefinitely. I shalln't talk about "Citizen Kane" very much as a lot has been said about the film many a time. For myself, I have come to appreciate and to enjoy the film a good deal. The documentary shows how Orson Welles struggled to secure any financial support for his later films after his reputation throughout Hollywood proceeded him. Welles took on some acting jobs in England, so as to raise money for his film adaptations based on the work of William Shakespeare. There is discussion about Welles' work on the masterpiece, "The Third Man." It is interesting to note that even though Orson Welles is the one people remember the most from that film, his time on screen is not much and he didn't work for long on "The Third Man." I had a chuckle when the documentary revealed how Welles refused to be filmed inside the real sewers in Vienna and that an elaborate reconstruction was built at one of the British film studios - just to please him! Something that wasn't mentioned to the best of my knowledge, was the fact that Orson Welles worked on the radio shows "The Lives of Harry Lime" and "The Black Museum." Both shows are hugely entertaining and should be better known. Peter Bogdanovich talks extensively about his interviews and discussions he had with Welles and this was fascinating. To read all about their discussions, the volume "This is Orson Welles" comes highly recommended. There is interview footage with the man himself and this is essential in gaining an idea as to what made the man tick. I think the documentary offers insight into the man as well the director. Orson Welles was the kind of person who carried with him an aura of mystery and seemed to encourage people to think of him in that way. A thoroughly enjoyable documentary all round. Fans of Orson Welles should like this.

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