How would you make a game about Orson Welles? I had never thought about this until I read, these past few weeks, One Man Band, the third part of Simon Callow’s ongoing biography of the director and writer and actor and occasional seller of Paul Masson wine, this volume covering the period from 1947 to 1964 – from Othello to Chimes at Midnight.
Now I can’t think about anything else. In a way I’ve been growing up with Callow’s books on Welles; I read the first instalment when it came out in 1995 when I was 18. And in a way that means I’ve been growing up with Welles too. He was 24 by the end of that first book. With One Man Band, Welles and I are both in our forties and a bit knackered. I’m a bit knackered anyway. Welles is actually still a bit knackering.
The man loved chaos. His life, his lies, his imagination, his failings, his appetites: everything about him is exhausting. And it must have been exhilarating and terrifying to be there with him, pulling films together as he hopped across Europe, staging plays that only came into focus – if at all – on the night of first performance. I want to get a bit of this world for myself, but from a safe distance: no broken bones, no unpaid debts. After the biography, games, inevitably, seem like the best way to do it. But how? How would you do Welles in a game? How would you capture someone – above six foot and pretty heavy by his forties, the cliche is made for him – larger than life?